I’m excited for this week’s interview with Laura Brooke Robson as we share an agent, the incredible Danielle Burby who has such a good eye for interesting and mind-expanding content that I just know Laura’s debut is going to be amazing. GIRLS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD will be out on June 8th and has been described as a heart-stoppingly romantic fantasy debut set in a world on the edge of an apocryphal flood. Read below about her advice for her younger self, her bucket list, her interests outside of writing and more. Enjoy!
Laura Brooke Robson writes books about snarky girls and climate peril. She grew up in Bend, Oregon, and she studied English at Stanford University.
If you could tell your younger writer self anything, what would it be?
I’d tell myself to read widely. I used to read voraciously but narrowly. My YA fantasy bookshelf was impressive, but I so rarely ventured outside the genre. That had such an impact on my writing. I was regurgitating storylines I’d already read by other authors. Toward the latter half of college, I finally started interspersing my YA with other things. It was so inspiring. Poetry books that encouraged me to write better sentences; nonfiction that reminded me to tie fantastical struggles back to real world consequences; mystery thrillers that taught me tension. I still love YA fantasy, of course (it’s what I write, after all), but balancing my reading diet keeps me creative.
Publishing a book is a bucket list dream for many people—are there any other accomplishments on your bucket list right now?
I’d love to find other writing mediums. I don’t know whether that’s nonfiction or humor or screenwriting or graphic novels or something else entirely. But if reading widely helped me be more creative, I have to figure that writing widely would do the same thing. I illustrate absolutely atrocious stick figure comics on my website (my artistic talent probably won’t get me a picture book deal any time soon), but I find the process of switching medium and voice incredibly refreshing.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
I love swimming. I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone who reads my books, but I adore the ocean. The lore, the magic, the mystery–I’m both terrified of and obsessed with bodies of water. I grew up on swim teams, and those endless, boring laps were formative in my creative process. When I’m brainstorming ideas, I love doing long freestyle sets until everything shakes loose. If I’m on land, I’m liable to reach for my phone, turn on a podcast, get distracted by a screen. But if I’m in the water, it’s just me and the story. I find it very meditative. This is also probably why so many of my books are set in or on the water–it was the only thing I had to look at while I was dreaming up the idea.
How long did it take you to write this book and what kind of research did you do for it?
The original writing took about a month and a half, but I rewrote it five or six times over the course of editing. The journey from starting the draft to signing with my agent was about four months; from agent to sale was another four-ish months; and from sale to publication will be over three years. As for research, two big pieces of my debut are the aerial silks, where the girls perform, and the queer love story. A lot of the publishing people I talked to asked what research I did. For whatever reason, I got it in my head that they were all really suspicious I wasn’t very good at aerial silks, and that this would be a terrible thing.I love taking aerial silk classes and doing circus-y things, but I’m nowhere near as talented as my characters. So I always got flustered when they asked. After about five of these conversations, I finally figured out they wanted to know if I’d done research about the love story, not the silks–why did I want to write about these queer girls finding each other? And I could finally say, “Oh! Yeah. All that’s based on personal angst.” Writing this story was how I came out to myself–I was figuring out I was bi, and my characters were figuring out the same thing, so we grew together. It was a very personal sort of research. And also, yes, I spent a lot of time watching aerial silk videos.
Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?
I get writer’s block when something is wrong with the story. If I’m just not feeling like writing–that’s a different kind of feeling, and one I try to quash. But usually, writer’s block shows up when I have a disconnect between the emotional and physical sides of the story. This seems to happen a lot when I’m writing fantasy–the characters have love stories or personal turmoil to be conquered, but unfortunately, I also wrote in some sort of corrupt king or evil monster that needs to be slain, and while the characters deal with that, the emotional half of things stagnates. And if that climactic episode doesn’t also challenge the characters’ personal stakes, things feel flat. I’m in awe of authors who can blend external and internal plots seamlessly. I tend to plan something vaguely workable for my plot, but once I get there in the draft–instant writer’s block. If I push through, I never end up keeping what I wrote. So to anyone struggling with writer’s block, I’d suggest you try to figure out why the writing just got hard. If it’s a passing feeling, you’re probably fine to push through. But if it seems like something is wrong with the way you’re telling the story, maybe it’s time to do a bit of restructuring.
ABOUT THE BOOK
In a world bound for an epic flood, only a chosen few are guaranteed safe passage into the new world once the waters recede. The Kostrovian royal court will be saved, of course, along with their guards. But the fate of the court’s Royal Flyers, a lauded fleet of aerial silk performers, is less certain. Hell-bent on survival, Principal Flyer, Natasha Koskinen, will do anything to save the Flyers, who are the only family she’s ever known. Even if “anything” means molding herself into the type of girl who could be courted by Prince Nikolai. But unbeknownst to Natasha, her newest recruit, Ella Neves, is driven less by her desire to survive the floods than her thirst for revenge. And Ella’s mission could put everything Natasha has worked for in peril.
As the oceans rise, so too does an undeniable spark between the two flyers. With the end of the world looming, and dark secrets about the Kostrovian court coming to light, Ella and Natasha can either give in to despair . . . or find a new reason to live.