We asked Lauryn Peña, the author of Love & Mari Gras, about her journey with literature, the writing world, and tips for fellow authors. See what she says below!
- If you could have dinner with another author (alive or dead), who would it be?
LP: F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby is my favorite book. I have hundreds of questions for him regarding partying in Paris in the 1920s. I would also love to know what he thinks about social media and influencer culture.
- What is the first book that you really remember? The one that left an impression.
LP: I remember loving Dr. Suess’s books and Curious George as a child. But in terms of bonding with a book and author, throughout middle school and some of high school, I gravitated toward the works of Joan Lowry Nixon. It was through her books that I really understood what it means to enjoy a specific writer’s style and storytelling. I have read all of her books.
- Ideas for books can come from just about anywhere. How did you come up with the idea for your book?
LP: I came up with the idea for Love and Mardi Gras while walking around the French Quarter of New Orleans during Mardi Gras 2012. I remember thinking that I had never read a story or seen a movie about everything I had experienced and I decided to be the one to tell it.
- Do you use music to help with your writing? Are there playlists for your books?
LP: Yes, I love listening to all types of music when I write. Classical, jazz and certain types of electronic music have always been what helps me study and write. Music plays an important role in Love and Mardi Gras as well. Various songs are referenced and do play a role in the story. I had a DJ create a Spotify playlist with all of the songs referenced in the book so that readers can get even more immersed in the Love and Mardi Gras world.
- Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
LP: Mike was difficult to write. He was hard because he isn’t a bad guy, he’s just immature. I didn’t want to give him too much of a story since the story is about Lisa learning how to love herself. Mike is not the goal he was just a bridge to it. I didn’t want to have too much of her journey tied to him. But I also wanted him to have depth and have the readers bond with him. Also, Love and Mardi Gras isn’t for everyone and it was never supposed to be. It’s supposed to be fun and take you away to a fun experience that I hope readers are able to go and enjoy themselves when they visit New Orleans.
- What is something about your hero/ine that only you know?
LP: I want readers to know that the heroine Lisa is meant to be a bit of a blank slate because I want readers to be able to find themselves in the story.
- Were there scenes you ended up cutting you wish you could’ve kept? Describe them and the decision-making process.
LP: I had originally intended to put both Mike’s and Lisa’s thoughts and perspectives in the book. But it took away from the goal of the story. My beta reader recommended to just take away his entire perspective to achieve the goal. I don’t regret taking it out since my beta reader was right.
- What is the most difficult part of your writing process?
LP: The most difficult part of my process is/ was finding the conflict. Love and Mardi Gras is a hero’s journey without supernatural or thriller-type elements. I wanted it to have a realistic conflict that doesn’t seem outlandish. I’m also encountering the same issue while trying to write the sequel.
- Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
LP: Nope. My PR manager does that for me.
- Is there anything else you wish to tell our audience?
LP: Don’t be afraid to tell your story. Publishing a book is cooler than you think it is. There is also no moment of pleasure or accomplishment that I have had in my life than when I saw my book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble. I wish that everyone who has the dream of writing a book can experience the same feeling.
Keep an eye out on Lauryn’s Instagram (@laurynep and @loveandmardigras) for Evette’s answers to Lauryn’s Q&A about writing fiction and more!