So thrilled to introduce to you a local author, Lori Goldstein. Lori grew up on the Jersey Shore (complete with a grandmother nicknamed Snookie—no relation to the same on the MTV show!). It is no surprise that she ended up living in Scituate as she says, “the beach and ocean are in my bones”. Goldstein says, “even while attending college in Pennsylvania and living in Cambridge for many years, weekends and vacations would always find me heading to the water. It’s the place where I feel most at home, most relaxed, and I actually think that helped lead to my career as an author. There’s no better way to spend an afternoon than having my feet in the sand and a book in hand!”
◇ Lori, tell us, how did you decide to become an author?
I didn’t—my husband did for me! 😉
I’ve always been in the world of the written word. I was a journalism major in college, and my early jobs had me doing a bit of everything: writing, design, and copyediting, but all in the nonfiction world. While I’ve been an avid reader since I was a kid, I never thought of myself as a creative writer. I was a newspaper girl. I could interview someone and write a story, but I couldn’t come up with a story and a character and a world all on my own.
Then one day, my husband suggested I write something about being short (note: I’m under 5 feet tall). What’s frustrating to me is pretty funny to everyone else: like climbing a step stool to reach the clothes in my stackable washer/dryer; wedging my toes in between cans of beans on the bottom shelf in the grocery store so I can lay a finger on the olive oil at the very top (quite the dangerous balancing act); shopping for a pair of heels to fit my tiny feet and only finding ones with sparkly hearts because all I fit into is kids’ shoes). That might turn out to be the best idea my husband ever had because in writing that “memoir” of sorts, my creative side was coaxed out. I went from that to writing my first fiction manuscript, which, over three long, hard years, taught me how to actually use those creative juices to write a novel, and then came my first published novel, Becoming Jinn and the rest is history.
◇ What do you love most about writing?
Having not been one of those people who wanted to write since they could hold a crayon, I’m a bit surprised to say that the ability to express my creative side is what I love most. I didn’t think I had a creative side! I can’t sing a single on-key note; will injure those around me when dancing; and can barely draw a stick figure! Thank goodness the words come to me! I have found the more story ideas I have and the more books I write, that I can’t shut off my creative brain. I have more ideas than time, and that’s a very good spot to be in as a writer. Especially now, during a pandemic, when the world physically has narrowed, mentally it doesn’t have to. My brain lives in the worlds I create for my characters and it makes me a happier and healthier person.
◇ What is the toughest part about being a writer?
At one point I would have said the loneliness of the process, but I’m very fortunate to have found a few really good writer friends who are now just “friends”. We are in constant contact via text and Google hangout. We have writing dates twice a week. It’s not just camaraderie either as we get so involved in one another’s stories that we become plotting partners and sounding boards. Now the hardest part is the waiting—it can take up to two years for a book to hit the shelves after a sale. Patience is a huge part of the writing experience, and a skill I’ve definitely learned!
◇ Share the journey, your experience becoming a successful writer and then of course experiencing your book’s success.
I was always in the publishing world in some way but never on the fiction side, as I’ve mentioned. As an avid reader and someone trained in writing, I figured writing fiction would come somewhat easily. It didn’t! How naïve I was! Writing that first manuscript over the course of three long, hard years was how I learned that! While I eventually ended up with a manuscript I was proud of that received some agent requests (one must query to get an agent in order to be able to sell to a traditional publisher), I wanted to start my next project (which was Becoming Jinn) in a much more organized way. And so I took a novel planning course at the Grub Street writing center in Boston. It was during this class that I had my AHA! moment. The instructor was talking about inside story and outside story and referred to what he called “the wound and the want” and how it informs both. That was my eureka moment. While much of what he was saying I’d heard or read in some way before, it was the context and the way he described this particular element that made everything fall into place in a way that I knew from that moment on would change my writing—all my writing—for the better. And it did. I went on to employ those concepts in the manuscript that was Becoming Jinn, sell that novel and its sequel, Circle of Jinn, as well as Screen Queens, and my latest, Sources Say. And things have come full circle as I’m now an instructor, teaching that same concept, at Grub Street.
◇ Tell us about your new book.
Sources Say from Penguin Random House is about sisters Cat and Angeline who are entering their senior year of high school in two very different places. Cat’s an old-school journalist determined to elevate her struggling newspaper so much that she impresses the admissions board at Northwestern. Angeline’s an up and coming YouTube star who’s invited to a boot camp run by a mega influencer. But Angeline’s mom will only let her attend if she gets more serious about school. And that’s how Angeline winds up running for student council president, and how her sister, Cat, is forced into covering her sister’s campaign. Since their dad left, Cat and Angeline have grown apart. But as they each combat rivals—Cat’s in the form of a digital Onion-like newspaper that pops up spreading fake news about the candidates—and Angeline’s in the form of her very recent ex deciding to run against her—they realize that their path to success might depend on figuring out what kind of sisters they are and hope to be. There’s sisterhood and friendship and a bit of romance, and a lot of humor—or so I hope!
◇ What inspired Sources Say?
The idea for SOURCES SAY came about during a somewhat lively discussion (argument?!) with my nephews. We were talking about the pros and cons of things like Reddit and using social media as a way to get your news. With myself, his uncle, and his mother all having journalism degrees, we clearly had a strong viewpoint on this issue! But as we talked further, I became fascinated by the notion of how we now get our news—adults, but especially teens. How do we know what sources are “trust-worthy”? In this age where the president tweets about #fakenews and the line between fact and fiction seems to blur, what message are teens getting? This very issue has been making its way into school curriculums, and I wanted to add to the conversation by exploring it in fiction.
◇ In Sources Say, the female characters are unapologetically ambitious and passionate. Cat is editor-in-chief of the school newspaper and dreams of working as a serious journalist at a publication like The New York Times or The Washington Post, Angeline is a hard-working influencer with a successful and beloved YouTube channel, and Emmie takes concrete steps to realize her goal of a future in political leadership. Did you do any research to accurately capture their respective passions and professions and what did you dream of doing when you were their age? Is there a dream you worked to achieve?
The strength of Cat, Angeline, and Emmie is something I do hope readers see and internalize—along with their flaws. Ambition can be a tricky thing. When you want something so much, it can be tempting to inch over the line that you cannot and should not cross. I want readers to see that in these young women and see how each one grows as a result of their choices and experiences. Fortunately, as a former journalist, including in high school, I was able to draw on my own life for my inspiration for Cat. For Angeline and Emmie, I did do a lot of research into female influencers and politicians to absorb where those passions come from and how to best represent them in those characters.
After spending much time as a kid wanting to be an actress on the soap operas my grandpa watched and loved (!), I transitioned in high school to wanting to write. Then I thought it would be in journalism, and that’s what I pursued in college and in the years after. However, I truly didn’t find my writing passion until I entered the world of fiction books. Writing, becoming an author, is the dream I’m still working on, even now with my fourth book having released and a fifth this year. There’s always more to achieve, more readers to find, more books to write, which you have no guarantee will be bought, published, and find their readers (and unfortunately sales are the only way publishers will often buy your next book). I’ve worked extremely hard to learn the craft of novel writing (an education that fortunately never ends), but also the business of publishing, which includes hats of marketing, publicity, and even public speaker at events and festivals. There are highs and lows, but it’s the dream I’m fortunate to have seen become a reality. And I have many more goals in this space to pursue.
◇ Do you have a favorite passage or quote from one of your books? Favorite character?
A favorite is too hard to pick! I will always love Azra from Becoming Jinn—her humor, her tenacity, her flaws, her capacity to change. But picking from the type A Lucy, the shy but loyal Maddie, and the insecure but brilliant Delia in Screen Queens or the smart but socially awkward Cat and the ambitious to a fault Angeline in Sources Say is impossible!
One of my favorite lines from Screen Queens sums up one of the most important themes of nearly all my books: “Family wasn’t just the one you were born to. It was the one you made for yourself. And remade.”
In the end, this idea of found family is core to all the stories I write.
◇ Do you have a favorite book?
My favorite books will constantly change, and I think that’s a good thing. I’m always looking to expand my world of reading and read in all genres, from middle grade and young adult to contemporary adult to thrillers to historical. One of my most recent favorite reads that I will rave about to anyone and everyone is Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones and the Six. Simply masterful. I love books that play with structure, and this is one of the absolute best.
◇ Who inspires you?
I’m inspired less by a who and more by everything around me. As I’ve said, story ideas pop up for me nearly everywhere. Other books, TV shows, movies, news stories, podcasts, I’m constantly hearing or seeing something and thinking “What would a spin on that be like? What if I did this or took that another way?” And while I never use people from my personal life in my books, I do use bits and pieces of personalities. People’s traits or experiences. It’s not only fun for those around me to find these things in my novels but it also grounds them in things important to me.
◇ Why do you love living in Scituate? How does the coastal town inspire your writing?
Having lived in the city of Cambridge for many years, the biggest thing I noticed upon moving to Scituate was the way people smile and wave when they don’t even know you. Shocker! The friendliness, the sense that people know each other, the generosity of neighbors make being here as a newcomer all the more inviting. Of course I love having so many great beaches to choose from and being able to hit them all within a twenty-minute drive. But I also love that it’s a coastal town with a great downtown area—the harbor truly defines what’s special about Scituate. From the stores and restaurants to the people to the views and fresh seafood. It’s an idyllic place that I am grateful every day to call home. And those sunsets!
◇ Tell us about the classes you teach and the book clubs you have created to complement your writing and encourage young readers to discuss and connect over your writing.
I’ve been teaching at Grub Street (now remotely) for the past five years. I love sharing what I’ve learned in this authoring process with my students and love learning from them. That’s one of the best things about being a writer—one never “knows it all.” It’s a constant learning process to improve upon craft and to try new techniques. I teach courses on everything from the middle grade and young adult novel to novel planning and outlining to scene structure, character development, and more. I try to teach at least two multi-week classes a semester as well as one- or two-day seminars.
When we could travel about, I would also attend book festivals geared to young readers and at many I would teach a writing lesson to young writers as well. I’ve visited schools and libraries to lead writing sessions for young students, and that’s a highlight that’s now on hold due to the pandemic. But something that can take its place is book clubs. I love sharing discussion questions with teachers and book clubs. I’ve had mother-daughter book clubs where both read the novels and discuss. And for some books, I have “behind the scenes” content about some of those hidden Easter eggs I talked about or how a character changed or a plot point was added or taken away during the editing process. It’s a great insight into just how much thinking, writing, and revising, revising, revising, a novel takes. A finished book goes through so many rounds of editing to get where it is, and I think that’s something many readers (and young writers) don’t realize.
◇ Any exciting news you’d like to share with our readers?
While it’s not announced yet, I have a new book coming in November 2021. It’s my first adult historical and it was inspired by my love of the musical Hamilton! You can find out more about it by following me on Instagram and signing up for my newsletter over on my website. You can find out more about my classes (just search my name as instructor) and all the classes offered by Grub Street at www.grubstreet.org.
Lori’s books can be found online at all major retailers and locally at Buttonwood Books Signed bookplates are available through the store; simply request one upon ordering.
Two exes. One election. All the drama.
For fans of Becky Albertalli and Morgan Matson comes a funny, heartfelt novel about feuding exes running for class president and the scandal that makes the previously boring school election the newest trending hashtag.
At Acedia High, student council has always been a joke. Nobody pays attention. Nobody cares.
But that changes when someone plasters the halls with Photoshopped images of three “perfect tens”–composites of scantily clad girls made from real photos of female students at the school.
Quickly dubbed the “Frankengirls,” the scandal rocks the student body. And the two presidential candidates, budding influencer Angeline Quinn and charming jock Leo Torres, jump on the opportunity to propose their solutions and secure votes. Fresh from a messy public breakup, Angeline and Leo fight to win, and their battle both mesmerizes and divides the school.
The election fills the pages of The Red and Blue, the school newspaper run by Angeline’s sister, Cat. The Quinn sisters share a room and a grade but little else, and unlike her more sensationalist sister, Cat prides herself on reporting the facts. So when a rival newspaper pops up–written by an anonymous source and the epitome of “fake news”–Cat’s journalistic buttons are pushed. Rumors fly, secrets are leaked, and the previously mundane student election becomes anything but boring.
The Bold Type meets The Social Network when three girls participate in a startup incubator competition and uncover the truth about what it means to succeed in the male-dominated world of tech.
This summer Silicon Valley is a girls’ club.
Three thousand applicants. An acceptance rate of two percent. A dream internship for the winning team. ValleyStart is the most prestigious high school tech incubator competition in the country. Lucy Katz, Maddie Li, and Delia Meyer have secured their spots. And they’ve come to win.
Meet the Screen Queens.
Lucy Katz was born and raised in Palo Alto, so tech, well, it runs in her blood. A social butterfly and CEO in-the-making, Lucy is ready to win and party.
East Coast designer, Maddie Li left her home and small business behind for a summer at ValleyStart. Maddie thinks she’s only there to bolster her graphic design portfolio, not to make friends.
Delia Meyer taught herself how to code on a hand-me-down computer in her tiny Midwestern town. Now, it’s time for the big leagues–ValleyStart–but super shy Delia isn’t sure if she can hack it (pun intended).
When the competition kicks off, Lucy, Maddie, and Delia realize just how challenging the next five weeks will be. As if there wasn’t enough pressure already, the girls learn that they would be the only all-female team to win ever. Add in one first love, a two-faced mentor, and an ex-boyfriend turned nemesis and things get…complicated.
Filled with humor, heart, and a whole lot of girl power, Screen Queens is perfect for fans of Morgan Matson, Jenny Han, and The Bold Type.
Azra has just turned sixteen, and overnight her body lengthens, her olive skin deepens, and her eyes glisten gold thanks to the brand-new silver bangle that locks around her wrist. As she always knew it would, her Jinn ancestry brings not just magical powers but the reality of a life of servitude, as her wish granting is controlled by a remote ruling class of Jinn known as the Afrit.
To the humans she lives among, she’s just the girl working at the snack bar at the beach, navigating the fryer and her first crush. But behind closed doors, she’s learning how to harness her powers and fulfill the obligations of her destiny. Mentored by her mother and her Zar “sisters,” Azra discovers she may not be quite like the rest of her circle of female Jinn . . . and that her powers could endanger them all.
Becoming Jinn is an enchanting debut novel from Lori Goldstein, and the first book in a fresh and vibrant new YA duet. Don’t miss Azra’s continuing adventures in book two, Circle of Jinn!
Thanks, Lori! We look forward to your next big hit!