Lauren, what was your inspiration for writing THOSE GIRLS?
Life! I wrote Those Girls, because I constantly think about the nuances and destructiveness of much of what went on between me and my friends during middle and high school, and I wanted to explore it. I am also (and always have been) a sucker for high school drama; it has always been my favorite genre—and in particular, I love bad girls. I never had much interest in the virgin goody-two-shoes; I wanted to hang out with Rizzo not Sandy, Veronica not Betty, and I found myself sort of sick of reading the misunderstood wallflowers that seems to dominate so much of YA fiction. I snuck out, I got detentions, I made out with boys, and did drugs; I had an inner monologue too. No one ever hears from that girl, and I want to hear from that girl. From Sweet Valley High to 90210 to Jawbreaker to Gossip Girl, I love high school bad girls, and so I wrote the book I knew I’d love to read.
What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?
This is a hard question. I suppose Gossip Girl is the easy answer, but I like to think of my book as slightly more emotional than those. The Group by Mary McCarthy was one of my biggest inspirations. I like to think of it as a 1930s version of Those Girls. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer is a great one. Dark comedies like Lolita or Election--even movies like “Heathers,” “Jawbreaker,” and “Mean Girls.” Anything about the dynamics of tight friend groups, for both kids and adults. Works that are honest about insecurity and jealousy and competition among friends or people who are geographically and socially tied together for various reasons.
How long did you work on THOSE GIRLS?
I started it in 2009 in my MFA program and finished the first draft in early 2011. I then revised it within the MFA program, then alone, then with my agent, then with my editor, and after draft 412, probably locked copy around late 2013/early 2014, so... 5 years? Give or take.
What do you hope readers will take away from THOSE GIRLS?
Fun! A 336 page life break! I hope they take away laughs and head shakes and knee slaps. Some have criticized this book for not having a lesson or moral compass, but my intention was never to write an Aesop’s fable or slut shaming diatribe. I wanted to tell a fun and relatable story. I'm not trying to shock anybody or teach anything, I wanted girls who have who have had horrible, insecure, jealous thoughts, or been the victim of the horrible, insecure, jealous wraths of other girls to feel not alone and see the fun poked at the absurdity of it all.
What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?
I write the first draft at home, on the couch, with my legs on the coffee table, and laptop on a pillow. I hate sitting at desks and I need total silence to generate new material. I can revise in coffee shops, but it’s hard for me, because I’m very easily distracted – who just walked in? what are they talking about? do I know that guy? what song is this? mmmm muffins... So I do most of my best work at home, alone, in silence. Sometimes I put Food Network on mute in the background.
What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
JUST WRITE. Don’t get bogged down in revisions before you’ve finished your first draft. Get to the end and then go back and fix everything. Once you have a full draft, it’s much easier to see what needs to go in and come out to achieve the full picture in your mind. I know writers who spends years writing and re-writing chapter one – don’t do that – you’ll change it again anyway once you get to the end, I promise.
What are you working on now?
My second book! This book has been much harder for me to write than the first one for multiple reasons, so that advice I gave earlier about not writing and re-writing chapter one over and over? Yeah. Hello pot, this is kettle. You are black. That’s what I’m doing now, and I need to stop. Unlike “Those Girls,” I haven’t been writing this book in my mind for years; I started exactly when I put the first word on the blinding white computer screen and it’s been much slower to pour out of me. It’s much further away from my personal experience than the first one was, and it requires slightly more research than the first one did, as I stupidly decided to give my main character an obsession, which now of course requires me actually undertaking the obsession as my own, but... it’s coming along! I’m hoping to have a first draft by the end of the summer.
ABOUT THE BOOKThose Girls by Lauren Saft
Junior year, the suburbs of Philadelphia. Alex, Mollie and Veronica are those girls: they're the best of friends and the party girls of the school. But how well does everybody know them--and really, how well do they know one another? Alex is secretly in love with the boy next door and has joined a band--without telling anyone. Mollie suffers from a popular (and possibly sociopathic) boyfriend, as well as a serious mean streak. And Veronica just wants to be loved--literally, figuratively, physically....she's not particular. Will this be the year that bonds them forever....or tears them apart for good?
Lauren Saft masterfully conveys what goes on in the mind of a teenage girl, and her debut novel is raw, honest, hilarious, and thought-provoking, with a healthy dose of heart.
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ABOUT THE AUTHORLauren Saft holds an MFA from the University of San Francisco and a Bachelor's degree from Tufts University. She's worked in publishing, tv, education, child care, retail, journalism, and food service, all the while closely studying the habits and compulsions of teenage girls. She currently works as a tv producer in Philadelphia where she lives with her cat and creative inspiration, Desi. Her work has been published in Five Quarterly, Rap Up Magazine, and clubplanet.com. One time, she met the Olsen twins. Those Girls is her debut novel.
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