Lauren Myracle has written about everything from a clique of teen witches to a girl whose life changes after a fashion disaster involving her mother's underwear. Her middle-grade novel Twelve, a sequel to Eleven, is about a girl growing up in Atlanta—just like Myracle did. Also out is l8r, g8r, the third installment of her popular series written entirely in instant messages (and emoticons) exchanged between friends. Myracle admits that she's "a little busy" these days, but says she's still passionate about telling teen girls' stories.
You've got two books coming out this spring. Which emoticon sums up that experience for you?
I would choose a bouncing multi-colored smiley ecstatic emoticon.
Do you want to start by talking about where your ideas come from?
I get ideas from my own adolescence, and I have journals that I've poured over and stolen from. But also, I get so many letters and emails from girls. They tell me these stories that are astonishing, and heartbreaking, and shocking. So I get a lot of ideas from them as well.
Do you find it easy to to write in instant messaging?
This answer has two parts. The first part, yes. Scarily easy. Part two, no, it's not easy because you don't have the tools of conventional narrative at your disposal. In order for these girls to be talking, they need to be in front of a computer, or they need to be typing into their phones. That is not exciting. The excitement has to come from the content of these messages, and the way that you relay information
It's been an interesting phenomenon to me that so many of my fans write and say things like, "I always hated reading, until I found these books." In some ways I think it would be harder for them to read these books because they have to do a pretty sophisticated patching together of the story. I think their ability to do this reinforces the fact that teen readers are sophisticated and they can handle a lot.
Speaking of girls finding you online, I see that you have a personal Web site as well as a MySpace page. Do you feel it's an author's responsibility to enter her audience's world?
For me, it is my desire to enter my readers' world and it is also my privilege. It takes a ton of time. I get about 50 emails a day. My goal is to be a positive role model to these girls and to empower them. It's awesome to be the adult who writes back to them and says, "You are going to be OK. These problems seem horrible, but you get to make the choice in terms of how you handle it."
Here's a story that I've never told anyone: I had one girl who wrote me a farewell email to let me know that she was going to kill herself. When I got it, it was scary and horrifying. I felt like I had to do something. I got on MySpace and went to her friends list, and contacted them. Finally through a long chain of events, I got her phone number. I talked to her and said, "You've got to let me talk to your mom." It was uncomfortable for everyone, but I did get to communicate with another adult and make sure that she was being taken care of.
You've written books in instant messages, but you also wrote Kissing Kate, which explores ambiguous sexuality. Did you worry about the sort of reaction it would get?
That was my first book that got published. I never thought of reaction at all. I didn't think, "Ooh, issues," I just thought, "Oh, characters." There has been, of course, both positive and negative reaction to it, as there has been to all of my YA books. I figure you just have to shrug off the criticism and realize that it comes with the territory.
What's next for you?
I am working on a fabulous book called How to Be Bad (HarperCollins, spring '08) with two other young adult authors: E. Lockhart and and Sarah Mlynowski. It-s a road-trip story about three girls who are trying to escape their mundane existences. It's not any easier to write a book with two other people—in fact, it's harder. But it's so rewarding. In that first stage of drafting we are nothing but supportive, and we just tell each other how fabulous we are. We have a revision process that's similar: we tell each other we're still fabulous, but… .
There's going to be a Thirteen, which I am finishing right now, so it will also come out next spring. There'll probably be a third, too: Inside Out (Abrams), which is about a toxic friendship. It's been written but it needs tons of work, and a more exciting title.
And will you be continuing either of your series after that?
There seems to be the thought that both of those series will end, but my brain has not accepted that yet. So I can't help but play around with ideas for letting those girls go on. When it comes to the Eleven books, it would be interesting to have a series that went on and on, but 11-year-olds are very different from 13-year-olds and even more different than 14, 15, 16. You're almost deliberately luring your audience into these older issues, which might not be a fair thing to do.
Because readers may not be aging as quickly as the characters…
So I just learned that your last name is pronounced My-racle, not Miracle.
I like Miracle better, but it is My-racle. I don't want to correct anybody, but if they find out, they feel silly and embarrassed. I wouldn't mind if it just changed to Miracle, but I feel like I need to be true to its actual origins.