Today I’m excited to be celebrating Laura Sibson and her debut novel, The Art of Breaking Things, slated to be released June 18. The Art of Breaking Things tells the story of Skye, whose party-first-ask-questions-later lifestyle starts to crumble when her mom rekindles a romance with the man who betrayed Skye’s trust and boundaries when she was twelve. Now seventeen, Skye is torn between escaping as fast as possible to college or giving up her dream school to save her little sister from the same experiences she suffered.
Like Laurie Halse Anderson and Sara Zarr, Laura Sibson has crafted a story about overcoming the past, learning to trust and finding one’s voice. There are so many things to love about this novel—its dialogue, its honesty, its focus on art—but one of my favorites is that Laura hasn’t sugar-coated Skye. A little like Gossip Girl’s Serena van der Woodsen without the money, Skye is a party girl and constantly making wrong choices for the right reasons. I was furiously turning pages, guarding hope against hope that she would start making the right choices and find a way to put her world back together again.
Laura, who holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, wrote much of The Art of Breaking Things in her 130-year-old stone Victorian house, coffee shops in and around Philadelphia, and in her mind during her morning walks and runs. She joins us today from outside of Philadelphia to tell us about her writing life and What Was on Laura Sibson’s . . .
Desk: My desk is spotless and empty and that’s because I don’t write at the desk in my so-called writing room. I prefer to write at my kitchen table which looks out over my back yard. At the moment, on my kitchen table are a cup of coffee, two books by fellow 2019 debut authors that I’m currently reading, a notebook quickly filling with thoughts for my newest project, my Concept planner and the business card for a local independent bookstore at which I’d like to plan an event.
Running Path: Right now, my favorite running trail is bordered by countless tiny white flowers foreshadowing the spring to come. Gurgling alongside those flowers is a creek, which I crossed last week by way of a fallen tree. My runs on the trail are not fast, but they are always interesting. Being in the woods always provides needed peace and inspiration to me – either for my writing or for life.
Coffee Shop Table: Always my laptop and either a large latte or a large coffee. Often, my headphones, which help me sink into drafting in a way that I can’t explain. Sometimes, depending on what stage of the writing process I’m in, I’ll also have a notebook related to the current project and a folder of scene pages where I can look at pacing and where characters pop up (or note where they disappear).
Calendar: At the moment, I’m keeping my days open in order to draft my new novel as fast as possible. But every week, I volunteer at a local middle school teaching creative writing. We are currently writing a short play and I’m so impressed by the story that the girls have conceived. I also host writers at my house for writing dates once a week, which offers me some needed company. In return, I provide good coffee and a healthy lunch. Lately, my calendar is getting filled with fellow authors’ book launches, which I love attending! In the fall, my husband and I traveled to New York several times to see our younger son who is a freshman at NYU – and to catch shows on Broadway. (Hamilton, anyone?) But this semester we haven’t made it up there yet. Soon, I’ll be at the Highlights Foundation for my third year as teaching assistant to Sarah Aronson’s wonderful “Get to Know Your Novel Workshop.” I can’t wait to meet this year’s participants and to revel in the peace and inspiration of that place.
Dream Guest List: As you noted, my book references Speak and last week I had the opportunity to attend a Laurie Halse Anderson event in support of her newest book Shout. During her talk, she was passionate, genuine and inspirational and when I spoke to her during the book signing, she was incredibly gracious. It would be a dream to see Laurie pop in at my book launch. (She’s local to me, so why not dream it?)
Top Favorites about Writing: I love conceiving of characters and watching them interact with one another. I relish those days when you’re drafting and sink into the story so deeply that when you come up for air, you’re surprised to exist in your real life. I also love the people I’ve met through writing. I don’t think that there is a more compassionate, fun, supportive group of people than those who write for children.
Top Surprises about the Publishing Industry: I’m not surprised by how passionate each person is about the work they do. One thing common to all people I’ve met in the industry is an absolute adoration of books. But I have been surprised by how overloaded publishing professionals are with their workloads. It can be frustrating to wait long periods of time between hearing from an editor or publicist, but it’s important to remember that they care about the book and they want it to succeed just as much as the author wants it to succeed. And they are busy!
Playlist: A lot of alternative music. I listen to music when I am in the drafting phase of a new novel and my alt-rock songs range from 80’s Cure to current Billie Eilish and pretty much everything in between. But I have a special place in my heart for Alt-J and Weezer. Music is also an important part of The Art of Breakings Things. Skye’s best friend Ben is a musician and they bond over their shared love of music. I queried my younger son on musicians to ensure that my references were relevant, which in turn inspired me to listen to Tame Impala, Snail Mail, Kendrick Lamar and Chance.
Sketch Pad: Though I am not an artist, I did take all of the art classes available at my high school and I gave Skye my love of working with charcoal. But Skye also uses pastels and colored pencils, so in the final phases of editing The Art of Breaking Things, I spent every morning for a month sketching with colored pencils so that I could get a feel for using them – how they took to the page, vibrancy of color. An unexpected side benefit was realizing how meditative sketching can be.
List of Hopes for The Art of Breaking Things:
- My story will connect with young women
- Readers will root for Skye – even when she makes questionable decisions
- People will get that we aren’t bad girls or good girls, we’re all just girls
- Girls will wonder about how silence can breed shame
- Teens will think about consent
- Readers will swoon over Skye and Ben
- Someone will be inspired to make art, talk to a trusted friend, pick up the guitar, be a witness, know that they matter.
Thank you so much, Laura!
If you would like to order The Art of Breaking Things simply click on the image below. Or, for a chance to win a copy, enter the Goodreads Giveaway until May 17.
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