Meg, what scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?
I think my favorite scene is the one when Penelope finds the red cowboy boots at the thrift shop. I love it because my own first kiss was awkward and pretty terrible—not at all the stuff of romance I had been programmed to expect from growing up. I wanted to give Pen that experience (minus the terribleness), so that she could start to learn that not everything is a fairy tale—that real love is often awkward and inconvenient and scary, but it can also be really good.
How long did you work on THE MUSEUM OF HEARTBREAK?
I worked on the book for about 6 years. Writing fast is not my strong suit! During the day, I work as a nonfiction editor for Penguin Books, so I have to do what I can to squeeze in writing during lunch breaks or bursts after work, as then as much as possible on the weekend.
That I do not have a thick skin! Despite my experience as an editor, I’ve found being on the other side of things to be an extremely vulnerable, raw experience. I feel each review so keenly, which is exhausting and not at all productive. So I’ve really had to dig down and remind myself that not every book is for everyone, and to try to focus on why I’m doing this: because I love to write and read books. I’m hoping it will get easier over time.
What do you hope readers will take away from THE MUSEUM OF HEARTBREAK?
For me, one of the hardest parts of growing up was letting go of the idea that things could be as romantic and amazing as they are in books and movies, that no one was going to fall in love with me the way Gilbert Blythe falls in love with Anne Shirley, that some friendships don’t last forever, and that parents are people too. But even with letting go of all those preconceived notions, as I grew up, I discovered that there are other things that are just as great—I learned what I was made of as I went through breakups, I found my tribe of people who know and love the grown-up me, I’ve gotten to know my parents as flawed and amazing people in their own right. I was hoping to show a little bit of that in the book—that there are all types of heartbreak, but there are also new and good things on the other side of it.
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 best in coffee shops! I have my favorite spot in a nearby coffee shop (sitting there now!), and I like to order toast and a skim hot chocolate. For me, coffee shops are the perfect mix of noise and quiet—I like the anonymous buzz of people around me. I also spend a lot of time thinking about my work in progress as I’m falling asleep at night. I like to think about what’s coming next for my characters, and have found that weird space right between awakeness and sleep can be really good for discovering new things about my writing—assuming I have the presence of mind to jot down a note or remember it when I get up the next morning!
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a young adult novel that explores the roles we find ourselves occupying when we’re growing up, and how much courage it can take to step outside of those. And it’s set in Ohio, where I grew up. I love New York City, but was ready to spend some time in humid, hazy Ohio summer.
ABOUT THE BOOK
The Museum of Heartbreak
by Meg Leder
In this ode to all the things we gain and lose and gain again, seventeen-year-old Penelope Marx curates her own mini-museum to deal with all the heartbreaks of love, friendship, and growing up.
Welcome to the Museum of Heartbreak.
Well, actually, to Penelope Marx’s personal museum. The one she creates after coming face to face with the devastating, lonely-making butt-kicking phenomenon known as heartbreak.
Heartbreak comes in all forms: There’s Keats, the charmingly handsome new guy who couldn’t be more perfect for her. There’s possibly the worst person in the world, Cherisse, whose mission in life is to make Penelope miserable. There’s Penelope’s increasingly distant best friend Audrey. And then there’s Penelope’s other best friend, the equal-parts-infuriating-and-yet-somehow-amazing Eph, who has been all kinds of confusing lately.
But sometimes the biggest heartbreak of all is learning to let go of that wondrous time before you ever knew things could be broken.
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ABOUT THE AUTHORA former bookseller and teacher, Meg Leder currently works as a book editor in New York City. Her role models are Harriet the Spy and Anne Shirley. She is the coauthor of The Happy Book, and spends her free time reading, looking for street art, and people watching. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. You can visit her on Twitter at @MegLeder.
Have you had a chance to read THE MUSEUM OF HEARTBREAK yet? Do you have a thick skin? Do you plot your novel while falling asleep? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!
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