Lily Anderson is a school librarian and Melvil Dewey fangirl with an ever-growing collection of musical theater tattoos and Harry Potter ephemera. She lives in Northern California, far from her mortal enemy: the snow.
Trixie Watson has two very important goals for senior year: to finally save enough to buy the set of Doctor Who figurines at the local comic books store, and to place third in her class and knock Ben West--and his horrendous new mustache that he spent all summer growing--down to number four.
Trixie will do anything to get her name ranked over Ben's, including give up sleep and comic books--well, maybe not comic books--but definitely sleep. After all, the war of Watson v. West is as vicious as the Doctor v. Daleks and Browncoats v. Alliance combined, and it goes all the way back to the infamous monkey bars incident in the first grade. Over a decade later, it's time to declare a champion once and for all.
The war is Trixie's for the winning, until her best friend starts dating Ben's best friend and the two are unceremoniously dumped together and told to play nice. Finding common ground is odious and tooth-pullingly-painful, but Trixie and Ben's cautious truce slowly transforms into a fandom-based tentative friendship. When Trixie's best friend gets expelled for cheating and Trixie cries foul play, however, they have to choose who to believe and which side they're on--and they might not pick the same side.
Emma: Did you always plan for The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You (TOTWTMIY) to be a Much Ado About Nothing retelling?
Lily: Yes! Much Ado About Nothing is my favorite play and I kept scouring bookstores and libraries for retellings of it. When I couldn't find anything, I started whining to Twitter (like you do) and then the idea for a YA retelling started percolating in my head. First, I thought of the scene in act three where Benedick shaves off his beard to impress Beatrice and I thought, "Huh. What if he had a hipster mustache?" Then I opened up a word document and wrote the first sentence, exactly as it appears in the book: Ben West spent summer vacation growing a handlebar mustache. Seriously.
E: Which of the TOTWTMIY characters was your favorite to write?
L: Probably Ben. His jokes and insults always had a tinge of bizarre to them that was too much fun to write. Although I do miss spending time in Trixie's brain. Writing in first person, I get used to having a character's voice around and miss them when they're gone.
E: I love all the comic book references and that Trixie loves Veronica Mars. Were there any fan culture references you had to cut from the final draft that you would've loved to keep?
L: Actually, you'd be surprised to read the first draft of the book where there were far fewer references! There were certain references that I was afraid were too niche when I was first writing that, later, my agent and editor encouraged me to use. So, all the mentions to Red Dwarf, Douglas Adams, Deathlok, and Shan-Yu were all added in my last draft as I let my nerd flag fly a little higher.
E: What's your secret to writing such a bantery, swoonworthy romance?
L: Oh my goodness. Thank you. My secret is twofold. First, in real life, I have basically no idea how to flirt. Can't do it. Never have. I basically just banter men into submission (this is also my method for befriending people). So, my characters tend to do the same thing. They talk until someone loves them.
Secondly, I make my characters listen to each other as much as possible. I think that's where true swoon is born, in that moment where someone looks and truly sees. With Ben and Trixie, they've known each other for most of their lives but never stopped to get to know one another. The second they do, they both swoon hard and can't stop learning more about each other, absorbing all the new information as though it's precious material.
E: Do you plan to write more Shakespeare retellings?
L: I don't currently have any plans to do more Shakespeare retellings. That doesn't mean I won't! But every now and then I think through the Shakespeare canon, waiting for something to leap out at me. So far, nothing has. But I might have something related to Oscar Wilde in the works...
E: If you could have dinner with three TV show characters, who would you choose?
L: Can I choose Logan Echolls from Veronica Mars three times? No? Okay. Um.
1. Miss Patty from Gilmore Girls because she'd never let the conversation drop.
2. The 10th Doctor from Doctor Who because it's always good to have someone smarter than you at dinner.
3. Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation because she'd definitely plan some kind of awesome surprise.
E: I saw on your website that you have musical theater tattoos. What are your favorite musicals and/or songs from musicals?
L: My tattoos are from pretty obscure musicals. My right hip says "Make a joyful noise my soul" which is from Bat Boy and my left shoulder says "Why we tell the story" which is the finale of Once On This Island. Both are songs that helped me get through dark times, both are from composers that went on to much more mainstream successes.
My favorite show of all time is Sondheim's Into The Woods (no, I didn't see the movie; I'm wayyyy to obsessed with the original cast). I love kid focused musicals (like A Year With Frog and Toad and You're A Good Man Charlie Brown) and movies turned into musicals (like The Wedding Singer and Shrek) and classic blockbusters (like Annie and Fiddler on the Roof) and quirky off-Broadway successes (like Little Shop of Horrors and Evil Dead) and big spectacle shows that no one else cared about (like Ragtime and Aida). I've never found a jukebox musical that works for me and I really, really dislike everything touched by Stephen Schwartz (except for Prince Of Egypt).
Aren't you sorry you asked?
E: I like to ask authors what recent YA releases they'd recommend. Care to share a few?
L: Yes! I'd love to. Books that recently blew me away, alphabetical by author because you can't stop librarians from alphabetizing:
OUTRUN THE MOON by Stacey Lee (San Francisco before, during, and after the 1906 earthquake! No one does female friendships like Stacey Lee!)
WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS by Anna-Marie McLemore (Magical realism with a transgender lead! Prose so lush you can taste it!)
AS I DESCENDED by Robin Talley (Macbeth retelling! Gave me nightmares!)
Lily has generously offered a finished copy of The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You for one reader. Usual rules apply: No cheating; U.S. readers only; you must respond to my email within 24 hours, or I will choose another winner.