Apr 16, 2014

Author Spotlight: Emmy Laybourne

Welcome to the Author Spotlight, everyone! We're celebrating the month of April showers with Emmy Laybourne; author of Monument 14 [2012], Sky on Fire [2013] and Savage Drift [2014].

I met Emmy randomly at the Fierce Reads tour in NYC this past October and we got to talking and I asked her if she'd be interested in being hosted here and she was really excited about it. I know it's a little later than when we normally have these go live but alas, it's still April!

Emmy Laybourne is a novelist, screenwriter and former character actress.

Emmy began her writing career as a playwright. The first play she wrote and performed was called, “The Miss Alphabet City Beauty Pageant and Spelling Bee.” The New York Post said it, “restores faith in our country’s comedic future.” The Daily News called it, “hilariously clever.” Her next play, “Smorgas-Bourne,” landed Emmy a starring role in the Paramount feature film, “Superstar,” opposite Molly Shannon.

imgres-6As an actress, Emmy went on to have featured roles in the films “Nancy Drew,” “The In-Laws,” and “Lucky Numbers.” She was a season regular on the NBC sitcom “DAG,” and performed original comedy on Comedy Central, MTV, and VH1, including the song she sang with her brother, Sam: “We Can’t Make Love Because We’re Related.” She has improvised with the Upright Citizens Brigade, Chicago City Limits and (her always favorites) the Heartless Floozies.

Emmy graduated from UCLA with an MFA in screenwriting in June of 2006. While at UCLA, Emmy won the Eleanor Perry Award for Excellence in Screenwriting from Women in Film for her screenplay, “Tulum.” Screenwriting and television writing credits include: “Kung Fu Magoo,” “Bubble Guppies,” “The Assistants,” and “Running With Scissors.”

After Emmy graduated from UCLA, she and her family moved from LA to New York. Emmy decided to try to fulfill her life-long dream of writing a novel. That book, which started out titled, WE ARE VAL-U-MART became MONUMENT 14. Emmy is profoundly thankful to her agent, Susanna Einstein, for all her guidance and support over the years and also to Jean Feiwel, Holly West, Molly Brouillette and everyone in the Macmillan Children’s Publishing group. Emmy now lives outside New York City with her husband, two kids and a flock of 5 nifty chickens.

Website - Twitter - Goodreads

In most YA books, you have the main focus on a small handful of characters with minor characters making random appearances but in Monument 14 you have 14 characters to focus on with a few other characters that come and go, how easy or difficult was that to make sure each character, no matter the age, had their own personality?

In creating and working with such a large cast of characters, I put a lot of thought into making the characters different from each other, so the reader would be able to keep straight who was who! I hoped that I could bring the reader on a journey - that at first, they might put labels onto the kids, to keep them distinct, but that as the novel unravelled, each character would come to live and breathe in the reader's mind. In the beginning, the reader might stereotype them as: jock, bully, mother, love interest, bookworm, boy scout- but that by the end each character would be seen as a living, breathing person.

Giving the little kids character turned out to be easier, in a way, because I based many of them on real little kids that I know. It helped me to be able to listen to real 5 year-olds, to get their language straight. I collected cute malaprops left and right!

This is also one of the only YA books where the ages of the main group of characters varied so drastically – how was the experience of writing kids aging from kindergarten to seniors in high school?

Truthfully, having such a wide age range in the characters made writing the book easier. If the fourteen kids had all been teenagers - there would have been a lot more fistfights and power struggles! Having such young kids in the cast made for some lighter, more comedic moments. It also gave me a chance to see how the teen characters would relate to the young ones. Would they take care of them? Tease them? Ignore them? We learn so much about characters from how they treat others.

What’s the greatest compliment you’ve received from a fan of your books?

I've received letters from the mothers of reluctant readers, telling me that MONUMENT 14 is the first book their kids stayed up all night reading. There's no better compliment than that! (I also like it when people say it's better than THE HUNGER GAMES. That NEVER stings!)

If you could go on a tour to five cities with four other authors, where would you go and who would you take with you?

Great question! Oh my God, I love this question so much.

Okay, I have to eliminate ALL my Fierce Reads sisters and ALL the cities we've visited, because those tours were (and are) pure magic. I could never choose any one over the other.

That said…

Here goes:


Rainbow Rowell - brilliant and totally down-to-earth and lovely.

Kristin Cashore - never met her but I love her work SO MUCH.

Stephen Chbosky - also never met him but oh my goodness, he seems like he'd be a heck of a lot of fun.

Alexander Gordon Smith - who writes such terrifying books he should not at all be so delightfully funny and charming, but somehow is.

And a very lucky me.


I'm going to keep this US and Canada, as that's where I do my giveaways!

First, Vancouver, B.C. - Always wanted to go there and never have been. Also love Canadians. LOVE them. And they show up.

Telluride, CO - I've been visiting Telluride for oh, around 20 years. Would be so much fun to talk books with the locals at the Steaming Bean.

Fargo, ND - This is where my Great-Aunt Geraldine Wheeler lives. I love her and miss her. Also - she's well known in North Dakota State politics and I think she'd get together a real nice crowd for us.

Petawawa, ON - I am sorry to use this tour as an excuse to visit my relatives, but my Aunt Cindy has a little cottage on an island on the Ottawa and she's also a fantastic chef and I just really think Stephen Chbosky would like it up there, okay?!

Kihei, HI - After all that hard work, we gotta wrap up the tour somewhere very relaxing. Mahalo, everyone!

The final book in the trilogy is coming out this May; what kind of emotions was it not only writing and completing this series but to know that the end is so close for the fans, as well?

It's funny, when I finished the copyedit of SAVAGE DRIFT in August, I was glad to put it down. I was really excited about writing my next book (SWEET, which will come out May of 2015!) and ready for a break from the gritty, harsh world of the MONUMENT 14 series.

It's only now, as I prepare for the release of SAVAGE DRIFT, that it's really hitting me - I won't write these characters again. It's over. I feel really sad about saying goodbye to them. MAcmillan is throwing me a bunch of really nice events during the week the book releases and I'm kind of scared I'm going to, like, cry at them and look really dorky. (WOuldn't be the first time I've looked dorky, though.)

What’s the greatest experience in publishing your books with Macmillan?

You're going to say I'm pandering - but in all honesty - it's meeting fans. I remember the night I did my very first book event - on the inaugural event of the first ever Fierce Reads tour. It was at Mrs. Nelson's bookshop in LaVerne, California. I sat up there in front of the audience and I felt like I'd come home. Readers (readers!) are my people.

eBook or Physical book? Physical, baby!

Writing in the morning or evening? Morning - when I have the most juice.

Hardcover or Paperback? Paperback. More books for the money.

Series or Standalone (to read)? BOTH.

Coffee or Tea? Tea.

Summer or Winter? Summer!

Fall or Spring? Oh, don't make me choose. Okay, spring. But it's close!

Music while writing or no music? Music! I have complicated "scene-tone" playlists for all my projects.

What a joy to be here on Step Into Fiction! Thanks again to Jessica for having me. I'm running a pre-order contest right now on my website - please come over to emmylaybourne.com. I have all kinds of news and book trailers and jazz like that!

Thank YOU Emmy for allowing us to feature you! I really enjoyed Monument 14 (so much so that I've been struggling to put my feelings in to words for a review) and I am really looking forward to Sky on Fire and then Savage Drift!

We are giving away one copy of Monument 14 (paperback). This giveaway is open internationally. I am going to try and get this book signed for the winner but that means it probably won't be going out until June. This giveaway ends on April 29, 2014 at 11:59 PM EST. Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I would ask them what inspired them to write this book!

    and I would really love to see Jillian Dodd featured at this blog

  2. I'd ask them their best piece of writing advice. :)
    Umm I'm actually not sure!! Debra Driza? :)

  3. How to publish a book?
    I've been wanting to have my own book published and an advice from author would be great
    I'd love to see Jonathan Tropper on your blog

  4. What/who inspires you when you decide to write a book?

  5. Eriele loves Newt ❤April 22, 2014 at 6:36 AM

    Do you regret anything or any event in any of the books you`ve written?


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