Book slumps are real, amiright? Well, I'm here to say that FALLOUT GIRL by Katie Rose Guest Pryal got me out of a recent one. Even better, I have Katie here to chat about her newest novel in the Hollywood Lights series, out May 7. That's a week from today, people!
Katie is impressive; she's a novelist, an essayist and a lawyerperson. She also has a wry sense of humor and plays a mean game of tennis--my kind of person. She's one of my Tall Poppy Writer sisters, too, which means I love her even when her Thanksgiving turkey is dry and the stuffing is bland.
Back to FALLOUT GIRL. First, look at this stunning cover.
Personally, I think that dress should come with the book. Sigh. Here's a quote about the book from me, plus what it's about.
“Fallout Girl is a love story wrapped inside a heart-rending struggle for personal freedom.” —Sonja Yoerg
Fractured family, deadly secrets, and a woman on the run in L.A.
The day she buries her mother, Miranda George jumps on a plane from North Carolina, telling no one where she’s heading. She wants to disappear and start over. She arrives on the Los Angeles doorstep of college friend Daphne Saito, and even though Miranda hasn’t seen Daphne in years, Daphne welcomes Miranda into her home and her makeshift L.A. family.
The problem is, Miranda is on the run from family. All family. Family, in Miranda’s experience, can get you killed.
Miranda takes off again, but this time her plan is much more sinister. She certainly doesn’t expect her friends to track her down. When they bring her back from the edge, the question remains: will Miranda be able to save herself and her newfound friendships? Or will she remain strangled by the past?
If it sounds great, that's because it is. Let's chat with Katie, okay?
Sonja: I found it so refreshing to read about young people—well, younger than me, anyway. What attracts you to characters in their 20s? Do you see it as a particularly rich developmental period, or do you simply enjoy revisiting a time when you didn't have a long to-do list and could take off across the desert on your motorcycle?
Katie: It’s true—the main characters of my Hollywood Lights novels are in their mid-to-late twenties. They’re just on the cusp of figuring things out: who they are, what they believe in, what kind of people they want to be. And I think those questions right there are what draws me to this time period in a person’s life. Even though I’m in my forties now, I remember my thirtieth birthday so clearly, and the first year after. Everything suddenly felt so easy. I met the man who became my husband then, and it was so obvious that he was the right person for me. We married when I was thirty-one. Simple. But before that, in my twenties? My head was full of question marks.
Those question marks make for great stories. In many ways, yes, a young person is free. But in other ways, a young person is a captive to those uncertainties. Well, unless a person doesn’t have any self-awareness, but people without self-awareness are kind of boring, so I don’t write about them.
Sonja: "My head was full of question marks." SO TRUE. Katie, FALLOUT GIRL takes place in a short period of time—only two weeks or so. Do you tend to tell your stories in short time-frames?
Katie: I see this question as related to the age question, actually. I’ve read a couple of books recently that were “big” stories, crossing entire lifetimes. I just finished FIREFLY LANE by Kristin Hannah, for example, that begins when the protagonists are young teens and follows them into adulthood. The books I write are far more compressed in time. My first novel, ENTANGLEMENT, took place across precisely one year. My second novel, CHASING CHAOS, took place across four days. Compared to CHASING CHAOS, this book, which covers fourteen days or so, really takes its time.
I think I’m attracted to stories with compressed timelines because it gives me the opportunity to really examine my characters closely—their motivations, their weaknesses, their flaws, and their beauty. Compressed timelines put characters under a microscope. Of course, you have to pick a very particular time in the characters’ lives—an intense time—or else the story will be boring. (See above for how I feel about boring!)
Sonja: I like compressed timelines for the same reason. So, tell me, even though you live in North Carolina, you've chosen LA as the setting for the Hollywood Lights series. What's up with that? What is it about LA that makes it the right setting?
Katie: I lived in Los Angeles after college for a very brief period, but the city stuck with me long after I left. I wrote the first book in the Hollywood Lights series, ENTANGLEMENT, a long time ago, back when my time in L.A. didn’t seem like a distant memory, but rather something more recent. My publisher thought that ENTANGLEMENT would make a good start to a series, so I wrote a second book, and then a third, and and now, years later, I’m finishing up the series (Book 6, in progress, will be the last). The stories all feature different main characters, and they all stand alone. I call them “linked novels,” a more accurate descriptor than the word “series,” which implies that you have to read them in order to understand what is going on.
I never intended to spend so many pages in L.A., but now that I have, I’m glad I did. Los Angeles, and the various neighborhoods and landmarks, the way people live there, the geography and architecture—the city is a character itself. One of my early readers is a long-time Los Angeles resident, so she helps me make sure that I get all of the details right.
Also, my next series is set in North Carolina. So for all of my North Carolina readers: I’m coming home.
Sonja: Yay, for coming home! My next book is my first set in Virginia where I now live, so can relate. Thanks for spending some time with us, Katie, and for providing a copy of FALLOUT GIRL for me to give away on my Facebook page. For more about Katie and her book, keep reading!
Katie is a novelist, essayist, and erstwhile law professor in Chapel Hill, NC. She is the author of the Hollywood Lights Series, which includes ENTANGLEMENT, LOVE AND ENTROPY, CHASING CHAOS, HOW TO STAY, and FALLOUT GIRL (2018). She also writes nonfiction, including LIFE OF THE MIND INTERRUPTED: MENTAL HEALTH AND DISABILITY IN HIGHER EDUCATION.
As a journalist, Katie has contributed to QUARTZ, THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION, THE (late, great) TOAST, DAME MAGAZINE, PASTE MAGAZINE, and more. She earned her master's degree in creative writing from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins, where she attended on a fellowship. She lives in Chapel Hill where she works as an editor and teaches creative writing. She is a member of the Tall Poppy Writers (tallpoppies.org). You can connect with Katie on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter at @krgpryal, on her blog at katieroseguestpryal.com, and through her e-letter at pryalnews.com.
“A dangerous, sexy, motorcycle ride of a story, which pulls off the feat of being both humorous and heartbreaking at the same time.” —Sandra Block, author of the Zoe Goldman series
That's a wrap. Head over to my Facebook page and see if you might win a copy. Good luck!