Sunday, May 22, 2016

0 Laurent Linn, author of DRAW THE LINE, on writing a novel being like sculpting

We're thrilled to have Laurent Linn stop by to tell us more about his debut novel DRAW THE LINE.

Laurent, 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?

Many scenes were hard to write, either craft-wise or emotionally. But by far the most difficult was writing the hate crime scene. Without giving too much away, a horrible hate crime occurs that puts my main character, Adrian, unwillingly in the middle of the situation.

In order to be true to the emotions of all the characters, as well as make the reader feel like they are in Adrian's shoes, I had to completely “go there” emotionally. I'm not a violent person and don't understand what would make someone truly hurt another person in real life. But, to write a truthful scene on all levels, I had to put myself in the bully’s head as well, to understand his motivations, which impact the rest of the book in big ways. I can’t say I “love” that scene, simply because it’s necessarily brutal, but I am proud I was able to go out of my comfort zone to craft that part of the story.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

Based on the overall themes of my book, certainly Becky Albertalli's Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda comes to mind, as does John Corey Whaley's Highly Illogical Behavior. Both of those books certainly resonated with me. Also, Draw the Line is an unusual YA novel in that it is mainly text but is also quite illustrated – there are 90 pages of art. The illustrations show us Adrian's sketches and comics and appear between groups of chapters throughout the book. So, related to that aspect, Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian would resonate with readers of my book as well I think, since that magnificent novel also incorporates drawings meant to be by the main character.

How long did you work on DRAW THE LINE?

It took about six years to write and illustrate. For my day job, which is also a big part of my life that I love, I'm an art director at Simon & Schuster and I am very involved in the world of children's book illustration. So my writing time is at night and on weekends— I try to squeak out every moment I can!

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

Wow, it taught me so much! Having to craft the story, create the dialogue, and bring these characters to life taught me so very much about writing that I had not known before. And among the things it taught me about myself, one of the big ones is that I learned I can focus on a project for many years and get it done! As anyone who writes would agree, there are many moments along the way when you doubt yourself.

What do you hope readers will take away from DRAW THE LINE?

Everyone has something about them that is special and unique—something they are passionate about. For Adrian it is his love of superheroes and his talents as an artist, which he uses to change the world. So I'd love for readers to think about what their real life superpower is and what they can do uniquely to potentially make the world a better place.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

Draw the Line is my first novel, but it feels like I've written many books before this only because this manuscript has been through countless revisions! My writing critique group is fabulous and very astute, which means that they keep me on my toes. And my magnificent editor, David Gale, helped my refine the manuscript on important levels. Weaving the many threads of the story together in a way to complete the final fabric was quite challenging, but doing all that revision and hard work certainly made it the story it is today.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

Yes! It came early on but after I had written some pretty bad first chapters, which one often must do to begin. The main character I started with, in retrospect, was actually more of a "problem" than an actual character. My AHA! moment came when I gave him a best friend and I didn't overthink that character. As I went along that best friend character pretty much took over the story and told me that the book was actually about him—he became Adrian and I started over with a much more solid and deep character.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I have to have complete silence when I'm writing, mainly for concentration but also because I read everything I write out loud to myself. For me, that's the key to getting believable dialogue when, if I read it out loud, it sounds natural. Also, my book is in first person so reading it all out loud to myself helps the writing feel like a conversation more then narration. I wrote the entire book at home at night and on weekends, much the frustration of my friends who went through periods of time where they didn't see me much!

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Be patient with yourself and don't rush things. For me, writing a novel is like sculpting— you have to roughly shape the clay, take some away, add more, and keep sculpting until you have something you love. It takes the time it takes and there is no one way to do it.

What are you working on now?

I have pages and pages and pages of notes for my next YA novel, which will have new characters and be a new story, and I'm about to jump into writing. I can't wait!


Draw the Line
by Laurent Linn
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Released 5/17/2016

Adrian Piper is used to blending into the background at his Texas high school. He may be a talented artist, a sci-fi geek, and gay, but those traits only bring him the worst kind of attention.

In fact, the only place he feels free to express himself is at his drawing table, crafting a secret world through his own Renaissance art-inspired superhero, Graphite.

But in real life, when a shocking hate crime flips his world upside-down, Adrian must decide what kind of person he wants to be. Maybe it’s time to not be so invisible after all—no matter how dangerous the risk.

In Draw the Line, Laurent Linn’s debut novel, he writes a charged story—illustrated with his own extraordinary drawings—about discovering your own superpowers, deciding how to use them, and where to draw the line.

Purchase Draw the Line at Amazon
Purchase Draw the Line at IndieBound
View Draw the Line on Goodreads


Laurent Linn began his career at the Jim Henson Company as a puppet designer and builder in the legendary Muppet Workshop, creating characters for various productions, including the Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island films. With Henson for over a decade, he worked primarily on the beloved series Sesame Street, winning an Emmy Award. He soon became the Creative Director for the Sesame Street Muppets.

Currently, when not writing or illustrating, Laurent is an Art Director for Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers where he art directs and designs picture books, middle-grade, and teen novels. He is on the Board of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and is Artistic Advisor for the annual Original Art exhibit at the Society of Illustrators in New York.

While Laurent has illustrated a number of picture books, DRAW THE LINE is his first young adult novel.


Have you had a chance to read DRAW THE LINE yet? Do you read your writing out loud to yourself? Are you patient with yourself? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Shelly, Martina, Anisaa, Sam, Erin, Susan, Michelle, Laura, and Kristin

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