About the Author: “Emma Lord is a digital media editor and writer living in New York City, where she spends whatever time she isn’t writing either running or belting show tunes in community theater. She graduated from the University of Virginia with a major in psychology and a minor in how to tilt your computer screen so nobody will notice you updating your fan fiction from the back row. She was raised on glitter, grilled cheese, and a whole lot of love. Her sun sign is Hufflepuff, but she is a Gryffindor rising.” (Bio and headshot taken from the author’s website.)
Wendy Waltrip: First of all, congratulations on a fantastic debut! How does it feel to have Tweet Cute out in the world?
Emma Lord: OMG, thank you! It feels great, but still very strange! I wonder if you ever get used to people talking about characters you made up in your head. I’m so used to talking to people about characters *other* people made up in their heads. But mostly it’s been great because it means that now whenever I eat cake I can call it “book research.”
WW: How did you find your way into the literary world? Have you always wanted to be an author, or is that something that you found out later in life?
EL: When I was a kid it never really occurred to me, which I look back and laugh a lot about now, because I wrote millions — and I mean millions — of words worth of fan fiction, from pretty much age 11 through today (I love it too much to stop!). When I was about 21, some friends on fan fiction started encouraging me to try and get published, so I started trying to write my own stuff and think pretty seriously about it around then. There were probably a bajillion times I thought it would never happen, but that’s why it’s lucky to grow up writing fan fiction — I always just wrote because I loved it. I have a bunch of manuscripts that’ll never see the light of day, but I never really had as much frustration as other writers do about it, because I was just going to write whether they ever sold or not!
WW: How do you find time to write in your busy life? What does your writing process look like because of this?
EL: I work best in the mornings and best on a deadline, so even if a book isn’t due for a while, I’ll plan on finishing it in a month and a half no matter what. This means I get up around 5am or 6am before work (I’m a market editor during the day) to hit a certain word count when I’m drafting, and finish whatever is leftover when I get home at night. It’s bonkers, but I bribe myself in the morning with different flavors of tea, and so far it’s (mostly) worked!!
WW: What is your relationship to grilled cheese and Twitter? What exactly made you want to write a book about them?
EL: Weirdly, I had no interest at all in Twitter until I was trying to make it in digital media, and once I had to get acquainted with it so I could do my job (I used to work specifically on viral news as a writer and editor), I just started being on it WAYYYY too often looking for memes and fun stories to write up. Tweet Cute happened, though, because I wrote a tweet about how I thought it’d be funny if two fast food social media managers fell in love without knowing their restaurants were fighting on Twitter. So many people said it should be a book that I was like “WHOOPS, DIBS.” Grilled cheese became the natural source of the war because I was basically raised on it (ask my parents, seriously — they’d ask for cheese on a bun for me at McDonald’s because I was such a grilled cheese hound!!). I couldn’t imagine fighting over a food that wasn’t mostly bread and cheese, as those are my two greatest passions in life.
WW: Family is very important to both Jack and Pepper, yet they both struggle with their parents’ expectations for them as well. What do you want readers to take away from the portrayal of family in this novel?
EL: I’d like readers — especially teen readers, who are in the thick of making big life decisions for themselves — to have the tools to navigate that balance between what your family wants for you and what you want for yourself. There’s really no blanket advice you can give for those decisions, because finding that balance is going to be unique to every single person. Our relationships with our family and our life circumstances and our goals for ourselves are all across the board. But no matter what choices you make for yourself, your family is at the foundation of them. I think a lot of growing up is finding the balance between appreciating that foundation, and also finding ground on your own. It’s always going to be a little messy, I think. But you love each other through it, and eventually that balance doesn’t feel so tricky anymore.
WW: Twitter, the Weazel app, and the internet overall play a pretty big role in Jack and Pepper’s lives. What do you think your novel says about the impact of social media in our society?
EL: What I hope that it says is that while social media certainly has its pitfalls, there’s also so, so much good we can do with it, and so much good that does happen on it that often gets overlooked. I think no matter what the circumstances are, whether it’s real life or behind a screen, it’s human nature to connect and try to help each other. Social media is a really powerful tool to amplify the people you can connect and relate with — particularly in high school, when experiences that are so isolating can feel so shared if you’re given the opportunity to talk to people your age about it. Like, Gen Z’s sense of humor is super morbid, but you know what?? Good for them! I feel like it’s so much healthier to make jokes about bad feelings and circumstances, because then you understand that whatever it is you’re feeling, other people are feeling it too. There is so much relief in even seeing that reflection of your own feelings online, whether or not you even choose to reach out — to know that it’s normal, and shared, and not a source of shame. And I also think social media has empowered teens today in a way that we were only just starting to figure out when I was in high school. Just the amount of information they can spread, and the way they can organize and educate themselves. I only scratched a tiny surface of that with the Weazel app in Tweet Cute, but I feel like I could go on for AGES about how impressed I am with the way teenagers use social media to band together and offer each other support.
WW: What were your favorite moments in Tweet Cute to write? Were there any you found more difficult to write?
EL: I loved writing any of the scenes in the pool, because swim team was such a huge factor in my life growing up! It was nice to revisit, because oddly I don’t much like it as an adult, but I do love the memories of it. The more difficult scenes were probably whenever something bad happened to anybody. When I was a little kid and something bad happened in a book, I’d get so anxious for the characters, I’d have to put it down! So writing situations like that of my own, I’m always like “oh no oh no oh no.” (At least I know I’ll fix ‘em!!)
WW: I’ve read that you enjoy doing community theatre (me too!). Out of curiosity, what’s your favorite show that you’ve ever been involved with?
EL: YAY community theater!! Oh, wow. My favorite I think would have to be Mamma Mia. There is something about wearing a pair of overalls and dancing to ABBA that truly cannot be beat in this or any lifetime.
WW: Having now gone through the entire publishing process, if you could give any advice to the version of yourself writing the first draft of Tweet Cute (or to any aspiring authors out there), what would it be?
EL: If you’re going to make up a wildly ridiculous dessert at five in the morning during a writing sprint and put it in a manuscript, make sure you can actually bake it first. (Thankfully, Tweet Cute’s “Monster Cake” ended up just fine in the end.) Really, though, I think my best advice for aspiring authors is just to set rules for yourself and do your best to honor them — whether it’s a certain word count you want to hit, or a certain time you want to devote to just writing. It doesn’t have to be super aggressive or anything. Maybe the goal is just to write something every day. But it’s making writing a habit that gets you there.
WW: Finally, I understand your next book, You Have a Match, is coming out in early January of 2021 from Wednesday Books (and I can’t wait to read it!). What can you tell us about this book?
EL: EEP I HOPE YOU ENJOY IT. It’s about Abby, who takes a DNA test and finds out she has a full-blooded older sister named Savvy who is only a year and a half older than she is, and was adopted by another family that only lives a half hour away. The two of them meet up at summer camp to try to figure out why the parents gave Savvy up, but they *extremely* do not get along, since Abby is pretty impulsive and Savvy is a rigid rules follower. On top of all this, they’re both dealing with big messes in their romantic lives that followed them to camp! It’s basically Parent Trap with a DNA test twist, and lots of family themes and first love and s’mores. (Like Tweet Cute, there’s a whooooole lot of food in this one, too!)
PRR Writer, Wendy Waltrip
Pick up your own copy of Tweet Cute and pre-order You Have a Match today!