Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik is definitely one of my new favorite YA contemporaries! It’s released tomorrow, so definitely check it out (see my review here). Thank you so much to Claire for stopping by my blog to do this fun Q&A!

Book Description:

From the author of Epic Fail comes the story of Chloe Mitchell, a Los Angeles girl on a quest to find love for her autistic sister, Ivy. Ethan, from Ivy’s class, seems like the perfect match. It’s unfortunate that his older brother, David, is one of Chloe’s least favorite people, but Chloe can deal, especially when she realizes that David is just as devoted to Ethan as she is to Ivy.

Uncommonly honest and refreshingly funny, this is a story about sisterhood, autism, and first love. Chloe, Ivy, David, and Ethan, who form a quirky and lovable circle, will steal readers’ hearts and remind us all that it’s okay to be a different kind of normal.

About the Author:

Claire LaZebnik has written many adult and YA novels, has coauthored two books on autism, and has contributed to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. She lives with her TV writer husband and four children, one of whom has autism. She resides in Los Angeles, California.


Author Q&A:

1) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Knit, walk, and cook! I walk everywhere I can because I hate driving—it’s one of the biggest stresses in my life, whereas walking always calms me down and makes me feel better. So I walk to Starbucks, to doctors’ appointments, to see friends, to run errands . . . . If I’m not with a friend, I listen to podcasts. There are so many good, interesting ones out there, like Lore and The Memory Palace and RadioLab. And I love to bake and to cook, but not when I have to, only when I want to. So half the time, I’ll make something interesting and new for dinner with some kind of delicious dessert, and then half the time I’m like, “Let’s just scrounge. Who wants nachos?” As for knitting . . .  it’s just so pleasurable. I crawl into bed after dinner and knit and watch TV and movies—right now I’m binge-watching The Good Wife, which is perfect knitting-entertainment. Not only is knitting good therapy—so soothing and relaxing—but you end up with something tangible that you made. It’s incredibly satisfying on the most basic “look at what I did!” level.

2) What was the most challenging part of writing Things I Should Have Known?
Creating three characters with autism who feel real and accessible and non-stereotypical. It was so important to me to get Ivy, Ethan and Diana right and also keep their voices and personalities distinct. I hope I succeeded.

3) Did any parts of this book come from real life experiences?
I co-wrote two books on autism with Dr. Lynn Kern Koegel and a lot of what I learned from working with her helped with details in this book—not in the storylines particularly, but in stuff like how to help someone with sensory issues acclimate to loud noises. I have a son on the spectrum and even though he’s very different from the autistic characters in this book, I think it did give me some insight that I might not have had otherwise. Similarly,  I have a teenage daughter and that helped me with Chloe—just the ways she and her friends talk to each other or dish about their teacher—little details like that. And I grew up with three sisters (and one brother) so I have a pretty good sense both of sibling loyalty and of sibling frustration!

4) What were some of your favorite books when you were a teen?
I went to college when I was sixteen, so after that, I mostly read whatever was assigned in my English lit classes. But before that, I loved Colette’s Claudine series—no one reads her these days but those books are so much fun and so brilliantly written. I loved Bronte of course—both Jane Eyre and Villette. And Austen, always Austen. I reread every one of her novels over and over again. Interestingly, Pride and Prejudice was my favorite when I was a teenager but as an adult I prefer Emma. I read a ton of DH Lawrence and a lot of Virginia Woolf—two authors I haven’t returned to as an adult for some reason.

Back in my day, we didn’t have YA fiction—we had kids’ books and regular literature—except for Judy Blume, who was really the first dedicated YA author and who blazed the way for the rest of us. I wasn’t that interested in modern literature as a teen, so I read the old classics, which I truly loved. I read so much old British literature that teachers were always correcting my spelling of words like “gray/grey” or “glamor/glamour.”

5) What’s your top book recommendation right now?
I think A Visit from the Goon Squad is crazy brilliant, as is the graphic novel Asterios Polyp. (I love graphic novels—I think some of the best literature is coming out of them these days.) I just read and loved The Glass Castle (I know, it came out ages ago, but I’m behind). Junot Diaz and George Saunders are both phenomenal.

6) Any advice to beginning authors looking to be published?
Yes! First of all, read as many good authors as you can. No one can teach you to write the way a well-written book can. Secondly, keep writing and learning and writing more. Rejections are part of this business. I’ve gotten a dozen books published, and I STILL get plenty of rejections. But I always have a new project to work on, which both keeps up my spirits (very important, since rejections suck) and means I will soon have more material to submit.

Thanks for sharing and congratulations on your new book!


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