Could you tell us a little bit about your publication process?
I am very lucky to be represented by an amazing agency, where I submitted my MFA Creative Writing Thesis Love, Aubrey on the referral of a friend. We sold the book at auction in the US and again the UK a few months later. I landed at great publishing houses in both countries. I did a couple rounds of content revisions for my US publisher and copy edits for both houses. It was only about fourteen months between selling the book to the release date, which is not a very long time in terms of getting a book ready.
I don't really know where Love, Aubrey came from! I was looking through my imagination for an engaging piece to write, and, of the ideas in my head, Aubrey's voice and story seemed the strongest. I was curious about why she was living by herself and finding out who Savannah was, as I imagine my readers are at the beginning of the book, so I followed the story from there myself, letting Aubrey's narration guide me.
Is the story based on any real events, or is it purely fictional?
The story is purely fiction, but incorporates a lot of real emotions. My family and I have been traveling on mountain roads in Virginia for years, and, I'm a bit of a scaredy-cat, but I always feared what could happen on those roads; indeed, on some of our breaks from college in that area, students didn't make it back to school. The Christmas before I started writing the book, my grandmother lost her sister. While she died of an illness after living a long life, I couldn't help feeling for my grandmother; I have two sisters myself, and it suddenly struck me as how incredibly empty it must feel to be suddenly sisterless. I was thinking about that a lot when Aubrey and Savannah showed up in my imaginiation.
I absolutely loved Aubrey's character, and was amazed at her self-sufficient nature. Did you base her, or any of her personality, on a real person?
I didn't have a model for Aubrey, but I will admit some bits of myself ended up in her. In particular, I think the way Aubrey connects the food she's eating to the experience she's having is a very "me" characteristic.
I definitely didn't write with the intention of having a message, so I have been surprised by what children tell me they took away from the book as lessons--to be brave, to have hope, that you can be whole again even if people you love are gone, that you can find other people who will love you outside of your family--I think those are all wonderful things to take away from the book.
Have you been at all surprised by the positive response to Love, Aubrey?
I really have. Because it's my first book, I have been surprised that so many people have been in touch with me just to talk about it, even though they have never heard of me before. I love Aubrey as a character myself, so it's quite comforting that she is being so gently received by readers.
What's next for you? Do you have another book in the works?
I am working on another manuscript right now for the same age group. I'm not going to spill the beans on it yet, simply because of how a book might change during the editing process.
Can you tell us about some of your favourite books and authors?
Growing up, I used to proclaim four favorite books--The Giver, by Lois Lowry; The NeverEnding Story, by Michael Ende; and The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt and Cassie Binegar by Patricia MacLachlan. Now I also really like J. K. Rowling, Lemony Snicket, Philip Pullman, and Sharon Creech.
Suzanne's site: Suzanne LaFleur.com
UK publisher's site: Puffin
My review: Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur