Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Aspiring in 2018 with Laura Steven

Dreams are often portrayed as things that’ll only happen in the distant future. Aspirations a longing to get there. But what if we defined them in another way? What if our aspirations weren’t an endless longing? What if we blocked off the deafening noise in our heads that say “one day, one year, I will achieve this NEW BIG SHINY THING and I will struggle every inch of the way to get there.”? (In the case of writers this is often: get an agent, sell a book, wow readers, get good reviews, great sales, rinse, repeat.)

Instead, what if we break that aspiration down and think to ourselves “what dream can I achieve TODAY?” We can work toward the larger goal, but not just focus on the larger goal. I believe we should turn our attention to something much more important: the day-to-day. You wake up in the morning: what is your dream for this one day? What do you want to achieve? Reach out and connect with a reader? Market a book? Put your feelings on the page? Choose that goal and aspire to meet it and relish in the power of achieving it.

I’ve started to adjust my perspective on my aspirations. Yes, I aspire greatly to publish my book. That’s a given. But how do my daily dreams build up to that?

Today, my dream is to create a blog post that connects to someone. Even if it’s just one, single person. Someone who finds connection with me. Maybe I connect to more people. Maybe I don’t. Maybe this person will be a future reader. Maybe they won’t. Maybe they tell someone else about what I do and think they’ll get value in it. But whichever way you cut it, if I can connect with someone, then I’ll be honored they have read my post and find something worthwhile there.

Tomorrow’s goal? To make a reader happy. To recommend them a great book I think they’ll like. Or perhaps help a writer get a boost on Twitter, or Facebook, or by word of mouth. Or work on a marketing idea, or on my website.

I don’t want to call these steps toward success. I want to call them daily dreams that I can achieve. Today, I dreamed of one person connecting to my blog post. Let’s see if that happens. How will I make it happen? Talk to people, invest in them, find out what they want, what they aspire to. Because other people’s aspirations count just as much as yours do. And on that note, I’m honored to have Laura Steven as my blog guest. She’s a wonderful, heartwarming, genuine person. And yes, she’s a writer. But she’s just incredibly lovely. And, of course, it goes without saying that you need to watch out for her book THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF OKAY, debuting in March 2018 from Egmont.

Damn, look at how awesome that cover is!!!

So, Laura, first of all, thank you for being so kind to come onto the blog. So, why don’t you tell us about THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF OKAY, and importantly, why this story is in your heart and who you aspire to connect with through your words?

Hey! Thank you so much for having me! The Exact Opposite of Okay is about a teenage girl who finds herself at the heart of a national scandal when a photo of her having sex with a politician’s son is leaked online. No, it’s not autobiographical. How dare you.

The book deals with slut shaming, victim blaming, toxic masculinity and a bunch of other issues teen girls struggle with. Through this series, I really want to inspire young women to speak up and fight back against the never-ending stream of misogyny diarrhea they have to face on a daily basis. Sometimes this sexism may seem innocuous, like the Friend Zone phenomenon I explore in The Exact Opposite of Okay, but I wanted to highlight how problematic this stuff really is in the bigger picture. It's not just teenage melodrama. It matters. How the world treats teenage girls matters. 

At the start of the year, I felt the need to bring happiness into my life. Through the small things in particular. Tell me, what were the small things that happened (or that you felt) when working on THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF OKAY, and why did they mean so much to you?

The best thing this book gave me was the realization that I could make people laugh with my words – but also make myself laugh. Izzy’s voice arrived fully formed in my head, and immediately brought me back to life after two years of publishing hell (more on that painful time here). So there Izzy was, waiting for me to give her an outlet. She was sarcastic, witty, bright but not conventionally so, and something really shitty had happened to her. So shitty that she wanted to write a blog about it. That’s all I had, but I knew. I knew. This voice was gold. Still in bed on a dreary Saturday morning, I wrote the short introduction to the book on my iPhone notes, laughing merrily as I did so. I will always look back on that moment as pure alchemy.

As authors, ideas always sneak in. Do you have a W.I.P? Any hints about what it might be or what you aspire for it to become? And, just as importantly, why did this book burrow into your heart, too?

Absolutely! Having just turned in the sequel to The Exact Opposite of Okay, for the last few weeks I’ve been working on a YA thriller about death row, complex brains and a viral true crime podcast started by a vulnerable teenage girl. The plot bunny came to me first, but the thing that’s kept me going for the first 30,000 words is my love for the characters I’ve created. They’re complicated, morally compromised, but deep down good people. It makes putting them through hell hard, but it’s worth it.

I want you to imagine a reader holding your book in their hands and they’ve just read it. What would you like to say to them once they close the final page?

Go and raise hell. For me, for Izzy, for yourself.

If you could give someone advice on their aspirations – writerly or otherwise – what would it be?

Persevere. It will take longer than you think it will, but it will be worth it. There is no such thing as overnight success, so don’t cut corners. Pride yourself on doing the work, on showing up even when it gets tough, on holding onto hope even when it feels like there is none. You truly never know when your breakthrough moment will strike.

Is there an interview question you’ve never been asked but would like to be?

Yes! “What are your favourite Pokemon (from the original 150)?” Well, dearest interviewer, Eevee is my ride or die, and I have a particular fondness for the legendary birds – specifically Articuno. I’m also into aesthetically pleasing fire-types, such as Vulpix, Growlithe and Ponyta.

Lastly, I know you’re not just an author. I know you wrote a TV pilot, and you work for Mslexia, and you’re a wonderful person. So, tell me things we don’t know. Anything goes….

I have done many ridiculous things in the name of journalism – anything for a good feature. I’ve flown to Serbia to cover a musical festival in a fortress, thrown myself out of a plane at 15,000ft, played zorb football, interviewed Olympians and stand-up comedians, walked on the roof of a football stadium without a harness, learned professional blackjack strategy, and eaten a burger made with glazed donuts instead of bread buns.


Thank you again for coming to the blog, Laura. We talked about aspirations and what they are and mean. I aspire to get great books into the hands of readers, but more than that, I aspire to connect readers with authors. Not just one book. Not just one series. I aspire for readers to get to know that author through their thoughts, emotions, and experiences that they spill into their work, onto their blogs, and through their websites and social media. I aspire to help people find their reading and writing tribe. YATopia readers, I sincerely hope you join Laura’s reading tribe, as you’ll grow your reading and writing in a way that will give back for years to come. And you can start with THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF OKAY.



Laura Steven is an author, journalist and screenwriter from the northernmost town in England. The Exact Opposite of Okay, her YA debut, will be published by Egmont in March 2018. As well as mentoring aspiring authors through schemes like Writing In The Margins and Pitch Wars, Laura works for Mslexia, a non-profit organisation supporting women writers. She has an MA in Creative Writing, and her TV pilot Clickbait – a mockumentary about journalists at a viral news agency – reached the final eight in British Comedy's 2016 Sitcom Mission. Laura is represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary and Media Inc.

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