Welcome to the Not Now, Not Ever Blog Tour!
Lily Anderson’s new book is a retelling of The Importance of Being Earnest featuring an MC who loves science fiction so much that she’s willing to go against her parents’ wishes to do what she wants to do during summer vacation. *fist pump*
THE OFFICIAL WORD
Elliot Gabaroche is very clear on what she isn't going to do this summer.
1. She isn't going to stay home in Sacramento, where she'd have to sit through her stepmother's sixth community theater production of The Importance of Being Earnest.
2. She isn't going to mock trial camp at UCLA.
3. And she certainly isn't going to the Air Force summer program on her mother's base in Colorado Springs. As cool as it would be to live-action-role-play Ender's Game, Ellie's seen three generations of her family go through USAF boot camp up close, and she knows that it's much less Luke/Yoda/"feel the force," and much more one hundred push-ups on three days of no sleep. And that just isn't appealing, no matter how many Xenomorphs from Alien she'd be able to defeat afterwards.
What she is going to do is pack up her attitude, her favorite Octavia Butler novels, and her Jordans, and go to summer camp. Specifically, a cutthroat academic-decathlon-like competition for a full scholarship to Rayevich College, the only college with a Science Fiction Literature program. And she's going to start over as Ever Lawrence, on her own terms, without the shadow of all her family’s expectations. Because why do what’s expected of you when you can fight other genius nerds to the death for a shot at the dream you’re sure your family will consider a complete waste of time?
This summer's going to be great.
The book comes out tomorrow (I’ll be reviewing the book later this week) but hopefully this Q&A with Anderson herself tides you over until you can get thee to a bookstore!
What about The Importance of Being Earnest inspired you to write a retelling?
I love farce. Farce gets used on stage (Noises Off, The Man Who Came To Dinner, Comedy Of Errors) and movies (Clue, The Birdcage, Soapdish) and sitcoms (hello, all of Arrested Development!), but rarely in literature. So, when my editor asked me to write a companion book to The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You, I wanted to try writing a farcical YA. The Only Thing was already pretty packed with hijinks, so I turned to the silliest text I could think of, The Importance Of Being Earnest. Earnest, while being a play about mistaken identities and babies being left in handbags, is also really about a group of characters who don’t yet know who they want to be. And what’s more YA than that?
Did you include any personal experiences in Not Now, Not Ever (i.e., did you ever go to summer camp)?
I never went to summer camp but I did grow up doing youth theater, which is the most competitive, blood-thirsty hobby and totally shaped me as a person. The long nights and high stakes of Camp Onward are definitely informed by my theater days. (Fun fact, Rayevich College in Not Now, Not Ever is named after one of my youth theater directors, LeRoy Rayevich, who tragically passed away in his early thirties. Without LeRoy’s tutelage, I would never have learned the rules of comedy and certainly couldn’t have started writing comedic novels.)
One of the things I loved about The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You was all of the nerdy elements. Not Now, Not Ever looks to include them as well. Why do you include nerdy elements in your books?
Well, I’m a nerd. I’m fluent in nerd. And when I was in high school, fandom was how my friends and I communicated. We role played Harry Potter characters and hung out in comic book stores and dressed up for midnight releases. As an adult, I still love fandom and there’s way more stuff to be passionate about! In my day job as a school librarian, my students wanted to talk about geeky things, too. Knowing that kids from kindergarten to eighth grade were as into Star Wars, Marvel, Potter, and Doctor Who as I was felt like permission to put references into my books because I knew these kids would grow up and get the jokes! So in both The Only Thing and Not Now, the characters are into things that I know teens like and also some deep cut references to things that they would like if they tried them.
Who's your favorite character in Not Now, Not Ever?
Definitely Elliot. She’s so different than me—she’s sporty where I’m slothy and brave where I’m scared and into Sci-Fi where I’m into romance novels and musicals. I loved being in her head for the year I was writing the book.
What is your writing process? Are you a pantser? (That would be especially interesting given the literary conversation with the plays). Outliner?
I’m an outliner and my outlines get more serious with every book. With Not Now, I outlined a three act structure which was basically “Elliot runs away. Elliot is at camp. Camp is really hard.” If I were outlining the same story now, it would have a chapter by chapter breakdown with character beats.
Please give the elevator pitch for Not Now, Not Ever.
Using The Importance Of Being Earnest as a guide, Elliot Gabaroche runs away from home to compete for a college scholarship.
Without spoilers, what was your favorite scene to write?
Any scene that happens in the Mo-Lo library. As a librarian, I took particular joy in creating a giant fantastical library of my dreams (and putting some swoon inside).
What do you most hope that readers take away from your novels (either or both)?
I want all my readers to take away a sense of happiness. Not Now, Not Ever and its predecessor, The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You, are fluff. Hopefully well crafted, artisanal and organic fluff but fluff nonetheless. Not Now is very much a story about choosing a path, but also realizing that the paths don’t close behind you. I want my readers to have hope for Elliot’s path and their own.
What is next?
My next book, Undead Girl Gang, comes out from Penguin Razorbill on May 8, 2018! It’s Veronica Mars meets The Craft in the fat Wiccan Latina book I’ve always wanted to write.
Do you have a dream cast for if there was ever a movie version of Not Now, Not Ever?
In four or five years, I think that Marsai Martin (Diane from Blackish) and Finn Wolfhard (Mike from Stranger Things) would be a perfect Elliot and Brandon. Wendell Cheeseman, the professor in charge of Camp Onward, was written with Paul Scheer (from my all-time favorite podcast, How Did This Get Made, and TV shows like Fresh Off The Boat and The League) in mind.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Photo by Chris Duffey
Lily Anderson is an elementary school librarian and Melvil Dewey fangirl with an ever-growing collection of musical theater tattoos and Harry Potter ephemera. She lives in Northern California.