Interview with Sofía Lapuente & Jarrod Shusterman


About the Authors: “Sofía Lapuente is an author, screenwriter, and avid world traveler who immigrated from Spain to the United States to realize her dream of storytelling. Since then, she has received a master’s degree in fine arts at UCLA, worked as a producer and casting director on an Emmy nominated show, and received coauthor credits in Gleanings, the fourth installment of the bestselling Arc of a Scythe trilogy, with her partner, Jarrod. Their upcoming novel is a fun thriller called RETRO.

Jarrod Shusterman is the New York Times bestselling coauthor of DRY, ROXY & RETRO. He writes screenplays and YA fiction with his partner Sofía. They have a passion for storytelling across many mediums, with love and multiculturalism as an ethos, and enjoy traveling the world and learning new languages. Together, the couple writes and produces film and television under their production company Dos Lobos Entertainment, and they both teach a course on Creative Writing at UCLA.”  (Bio from Authors’ website.)

Find Sofía Lapuente & Jarrod Shusterman on the following platforms:

A huge thank you to Sofía Lapuente & Jarrod Shusterman for taking the time to do an interview with us at Pine Reads! Their debut co-authored YA novel Retro is out now from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Be sure to check out our review of Retro here!

Erika Brittain: First of all, I want to thank you both so much for taking the time to do an interview with Pine Reads! And congratulations on your debut co-authored book Retro, which is out now from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. To kick off the interview, we have some retro This or That!  
Listen to music on… a Walkman or Spotify? 

Jarrod Shusterman: Firstly, I’m so happy to do this interview with you! I was a walkman kid but now I am so into vinyls, and Spotify for the car.

Sofía Lapuente: I still keep a cassette collection and an old walkman. It’s an amazing nostalgic moment that keeps me inspired to write. It’s true that I’m also a music video kind of girl so you can find me lost on youtube or spotify. Plus the Retro playlist is all over Spotify, Youtube and itunes, so I have to go with the digital version for that.

EB: Read… Physical books or E-Books?

JS: Physical books for sure for me, I am the kind of guy who likes to smell his books, and I know this might be controversial but if it gets dirty or the pages get frothed or something I kind of take pride in the fact that it has been lived in. Not proud of the one time I was reading 1984 in the bath for high school and fell asleep and totally fell in the water, book and all haha.

SL: Physical books for everything. Always. Though I do like to travel light, so on those occasions I use my E-book!

EB: Take pictures with… a Polaroid or Phone?

JS: So hard to choose. My brain says phone, but my heart says polaroid.

SL: I would go Retro on this one, definitely. We have a polaroid camera and we fill a new photo album every year. Printed photos don’t depend on battery life, and I can check the memories anytime I want.

EB: Play… Board games or Video games?

JS:  Board games on Christmas, Video games the other 364 days of the year. We’re secret video game junkies.

SL: Yes! Video games! We play Assassin’s Creed and we’re about to start Cyberpunk! Sometimes FIFA too. But I will say that I once had to play 8 hours straight of Monopoly when I got locked in a cabin on a rainy day… and I loved it! It makes me really happy to see a Jenga at a bar. Oh and news alert: margaritas make me competitive.

EB: See a movie… At the theater or At home streaming? 

JS: I would choose going to a theater. Movies were actually my original inspiration for becoming a storyteller. I actually have a movie theater in LA that I hang out in and write books and screenplays. Something about the scent of radioactive popcorn just really inspires me.

SL: I would choose STREAMING at home. Nothing better than being cozy and warm in my casita, with all the snacks I can dream of.

EB: Onto the book! Like I mentioned before, Retro is a co-authored novel. I can imagine writing with your real-life partner would be both exciting and tough at times. What was the writing process like for you two? 

JS: Overall, it’s a joy! As a couple it’s just such a fun passion that we share together. We both have very high standards for ourselves and we really appreciate each other’s strengths. Obviously there are moments where we don’t see eye to eye, but we have a rule where we both must say YES to any idea. That way nothing gets thrown into the book begrudgingly. Everything in our books is something we love. We work on google docs together and do every step together. We don’t break up portions of the book because we prefer to have one solid unified voice!

EB: The premise of Retro immediately caught my attention from the moment I heard your pitch at the Tucson Festival of Books earlier this year. Can you share where the idea of a “Retro Challenge” came from, and how you used that to drive the mystery in the book? 

JS:: Yes! The idea for RETRO came from a question we’ve been asking ourselves for a long time: Can we survive without our smart technology? And if so? What is that like? So we wrote the book we always wanted to read about the topic. And we had to do it in the form of a fun thriller with twists and turns, romance and a playlist! 

SL:: Also during the pandemic we found ourselves gravitating toward fun media, a la Schitt’s creek and Friends, so we had to make this book fun, because we thought the world needed some good vibes. Also I had some inside information working for Google, so I had to share what I knew about social media companies.

EB: Something that stood out to me is the large cast of characters. We have Luna, her close circle of friends, and the other students in Luna’s high school. We also see Luna’s family throughout the story. Did either of you have a favorite character to write or a character that was particularly challenging to write? 

JS: My favorite character is Luna, because she is most like Sofi. Smart, admirable and the hero of her story <3 And I would say my second favorite character is Axel, because he is the book boyfriend, so Sofi and I can’t help but put a little bit of our own relationship into the characters. We both agree that the most challenging character to write was Jade, because it’s not easy making your antagonists three dimensional and believable–as they think they are the heroes of their own stories.

SL: My favorite character has to be Luna, because I’ve poured a lot of my own experience as a Hispanic immigrant into her story, and I also really enjoyed writing Mimi who is just a fun character that is the friend we all wished we had, that brings a lightness to any situation. So much of her reminds me of many of my friends. Not to mention Darnell’s rebel side as well!

EB: Another fun part of the book is the Spotify playlist! I had so much fun seeing the songs throughout the chapters, and I love that y’all have made an actual playlist for readers to stream. Was the plan always to incorporate music in the story, or did that inspiration come while writing? 

JS: We started writing the book and then based the playlist around the story we had constructed. Sofi came up with the idea first and I loved it!

SL: But it was Jarrod who came up with the idea of putting a QR in the index and making the whole thing interactive. It was really important to us that readers could get immersed in the Retro spirit while enjoying the story.

EB: Now, I can’t end the interview without talking about your careers in the film and television industry. You both write and produce on-screen stories with your production company, Dos Lobos Entertainment. Can you share some insights from screenwriting and producing that helped you while writing Retro

JS:: Absolutely, so most recently we’ve been working on a few screenplays together. And I’ve got DRY produced by Temple Hill (who did Maze Runner and Twilight) We’ve learned that there is a high-concept element to screenwriting that is now an essential part of YA. Stories that feel like they can be movies really resonate.

SL: My background in television production has been a huge help. Jarrod and I sit down and think about story ideas not just as books or movies, but projects that can share space in every medium. What is the audiobook like? As we wrote we thought about locations, cast for the characters, even the potential budget if this was shot as a show–affecting our scenes. Coming from another industry allows us to think wide and expansive! 

EB: Finally, I want to know what’s next for you both. Any fun projects to share– bookish and otherwise?

SL: We have so many books we’re working on, from a YA horror (games)/thriller novel, to an Adult horror short story, to a YA Romance, to an Adult Dramedy. We are moving 100 miles per hour ahead, firing on all cylinders! Expect to see a lot more of us in the bookstore 🙂

JS: A great way to stay up to date on what is next is checking out our IG & TikTok which is @sofiandjarrod, where you’ll find updates, story advice, fun behind the scenes author content and all types of giveaways and contests!

SL: Thank you so much for this interview, it has been a blast! We hope all of you out there enjoy RETRO 🙂

 PRR Assitant Director, Erika Brittain