Southern California-based author Britta Lundin’s YA novel, Like Other Girls (2021, Hyperion) has been on several “Best of 2021” lists. Her debut YA was the popular Ship It. She’s also a TV writer for Riverdale, Betty, and The Big Leap.
CHRISTINE VAN ZANDT: Welcome to Kite Tales! In Like Other Girls, Mara’s angry outburst gets her kicked off the high school basketball team. When she’s (briefly) on the girls’ volleyball team, it’s not a good fit so she joins the football team. At first, being the only girl isn’t really a big deal, but it turns into a larger movement when four other girls join too. In your first YA book, Ship It, (about fandom) you said you wrote what you knew; because of your experiences, you’ve been on the inside “seeing how the sausage is made.” (Love that quote!) Your bio says you were a multi-sport athlete so is Girls another “sausage” story?
BRITTA LUNDIN: When I was a kid, I was always the only girl hanging out with the boys. I played flag football on an all-boy team. I really liked football, but it was clear that none of the other boys on the team particularly wanted me there. On top of that, none of my friends who were girls understood what I was doing. Even the coach didn’t seem to like me. The only person who wanted me to keep playing football was me, which is a very lonely feeling. So when it came time to graduate to tackle football, I didn’t try out. I never stopped thinking about it, because here we are twenty years later, and I’ve written a book about what it might have been like.
CVZ: Mara wants to wait until she’s in college to come out because of fear of closed-mindedness in her small Oregon town and her own family. Since you’re also from a small town in Oregon, did you worry about this story seeming like a memoir or that people from your past may see themselves in the book?
BL: I’m always very careful selecting names for my characters because I’m afraid if I accidentally choose the same name as someone I went to high school with, they’ll assume that character is based off of them. And, sure, some of them are, but I always change the names! This book is not autobiographical, but this is a very personal book and there’s certainly a lot of my own experience and feelings in it. My mom said it best when she finished reading it. She texted me: “I saw you on every page.”
CVZ: On your website, you call yourself a “TV writer and author” indicating there’s a distinction between those two jobs, yet there must be some intersection as well. How does creating teen and adult content as a screenwriter differ from writing YA books and how is it similar?
BL: The best part of TV writing is that it’s collaborative. Most TV shows are written by a staff of writers in a writers’ room, all throwing around ideas and saying, “what if …” and telling humiliating personal stories. Every episode, even if it only has one writer’s name on it, is a group project. On the other hand, the best part about writing books is you’re in charge! While I can sometimes find it a bit lonely working all alone on a manuscript, I appreciate the opportunity to get weird, to get personal, to write about things that I’m honestly not sure anyone else will relate to. There’s something very satisfying about that kind of creative endeavor as well. I love both and hope I can continue to do both.
CVZ: Girls has imperfect, but relatable characters in a range of relationships. For example, Mara and her (male) best friend, Quinn’s, friendship really runs the gamut. Your characters felt realistic to me because, sometimes, there are no simple resolutions to problems. Overall, this book has a lot going on. When writing it, were you a plotter or a pantser?
BL: As a TV writer, we are trained to outline extensively so that we can write solid first drafts extremely quickly. If we didn’t, we’d never be able to put out a new episode every week. So outlining is something that’s been baked into my process from the beginning. I like to start by ideating, then writing up what in TV we call a “beat sheet,” which is just a list of everything I want to happen in the story, and then graduating to an outline, then notecards taped up on my office wall. I return to the notecards after every round of edits, revising those first before revising the draft. It helps me keep the roadmap clear in my head.
CVZ: Thank you for sharing this insight into your process. I look forward to reading more of your books.
You can connect with Britta Lundin on Twitter @brittashipsit and Instagram @britta_lundin.
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Images courtesy of author.