I hope you're having a great day. Today we will be getting to know American young adult author Lillian Clark. So, let's meet her!
PB: Hi Lillian! Welcome to pjbermanbooks.com. Tell us a bit about your background.
LC: Hi! Thank you so much for having me! Well, long story short, I’ve built my life around books. From studying English in college to managing an independent bookstore for most of my twenties, to pursuing a career as an author, I’ve become a little one-note, haha.
Bigger picture, I grew up in the mountain West (Wyoming, USA) and live by the Tetons now, so that’s a big part of who I am as well. I’ve worked as a lifeguard, a camp counsellor, at an ice skating, then as a bookseller, and now alongside writing fiction, I do freelance business writing as well. I love to snowboard and paint (when there’s time, which is rarely, haha), and I spend most of my time entertaining my 5 year-old kiddo!
Books-wise, I’m the author of Immoral Code, a heist novel that’s “The Breakfast Club meets Ocean’s 8.” In it, five best friends conspire to steal college tuition for one of them after her estranged father’s wealth costs her funding and her dream of studying astrophysics at MIT. It’s a bit of a Robin Hood, do the wrong thing for the right reasons (plus consequences) tale.
My next book, out June 9th, is Half Life. Pitched as “Black Mirror meets Becky Albertalli” it follows “over-achiever” Lucille who signs up to be the final beta tester for a secretive company aiming to sell made-to-order human clones. Of course, when Lucy, Lucille’s clone, comes home and ends up being better at Lucille’s life than Lucille is herself, things get a bit complicated.
PB: I can certainly understand what's like being an author with a young child. My daughter is two. It's a rewarding challenge. Let's put it like that. Look at me digressing after just one question! What made you decide to become an author?
LC: I’ve always liked writing. Even as a kid when I had no clue that I wanted to become a published author, I filled notebooks with stories and wrote (likely terrible) poetry on my family’s old desktop. Then, when I was 20, I had an idea that really stuck with me. I worked for years on that book, teaching myself to write fiction. Eventually, I signed with my agent, subbed that first book to editors, then when it didn’t sell, kept working on what would become my debut, Immoral Code.
Mostly, I write because I adore stories. I love getting that inkling of an idea and building it into something full and layered and whole. Plus, this way I get to live in my imagination half the time, which isn’t so bad, haha.
PB: When did you first start writing?
LC: Probably when I was 9 or 10? But I didn’t start focusing on a complete idea until I was 20.
PB: What was the first story that you can remember writing?
LC: Haha, it’s terribly embarrassing. I was maybe 13 and in love with Britney Spears’ “Hit Me One More Time” music video. So I wrote some silly romance story, but the only thing I remember is including the blue convertible Mustang from the video. I wish I still had the story somewhere. It’d be a good laugh.
PB: That's hilarious. I still do have my first proper story saved on a memory stick - locked away where nobody can find it! On a more serious note, when you begin writing a new story, do you always know the ending?
LC: Almost always. I have a few ideas where I haven’t figured out the ending yet, but whenever I start seriously plotting out an idea, I figure out the beginning, ending, and general aesthetic first. That basic framework helps give me a practical starting point and narrows down the possibilities for filling in the gaps. Otherwise, it all feels too unwieldy.
PB: If you could meet any of your characters, who would you meet, and what would you say to them?
LC: Oh my gosh, I LOVE this question. Let’s see. I’d love to hang out with Reese from Immoral Code and all of my characters, really. But I’d especially love to meet Lucille from Half Life. While she’s not based on me by any means, she and I share a lot of the same insecurities and anxieties. So, I’d like to meet her, give her a hug, and tell her it’s okay to give herself a break sometimes.
PB: Tell us more about Half Life.
LC: Happy to! To expand on the first answer, here’s the copy:
“There aren’t enough hours in the day for Lucille—perfectionist, overachiever—to do everything she has to do, and there certainly aren’t enough hours to hang out with friends, fall in love, get in trouble—all the teenage things she knows she should want to be doing instead of preparing for a flawless future. So when she sees an ad for Life2: Do more. Be more, she’s intrigued.
The company is looking for beta testers to enroll in an experimental clone program, and in the aftermath of a series of disappointments, Lucille is feeling reckless enough to jump in. At first, it’s perfect: her clone, Lucy, is exactly what she needed to make her life manageable and have time for a social life. But it doesn’t take long for Lucy to become more Lucy and less Lucille, and Lucille is forced to stop looking at Lucy as a reflection and start seeing her as a window—a glimpse at someone else living her own life, but better. Lucy does what she really wants to, not what she thinks she should want to, and Lucille is left wondering how much she was even a part of the perfect life she’d constructed for herself. Lucille wanted Lucy to help her relationships with everyone else, but how can she do that without first rectifying her relationship with herself?”
PB: Where did the idea come from?
LC: Originally, I was inspired to write a YA retelling of the 1990s film Multiplicity. I loved the idea of taking the rapid human-cloning concept within that comedic realm and twisting it for a modern teen audience. I’m also inspired by real-life science, which is doing so much within this area right now (3D bio-printing! Digitization of the connectome!). But once I started writing the book, it became much more than that slip of an idea. I kept a bit of the humor, but started asking bigger questions about self-worth and the subjectivity or truth and memory. Once I did that, the core and purpose of the story clicked for me.
PB: Of all your achievements, which are you most proud of?
LC: Hmmm… This is a tough one! When you start writing to hopefully publish, you think, okay, I’ll get an agent and that’ll be the big thing. Then, sell a book. Then, sell another book. Then, get a starred review or epic sales or a translation, and so on forever. The goal posts keep moving. Now, I focus smaller. Truly, my biggest achievement is writing a pair of books that I am deeply proud of and I hope will resonate with at least one reader.
PB: That's a wonderful way to view things. What is your favourite book series to read and why?
LC: Okay, I am notoriously terrible at picking favorites, haha. But I recently re-read The Daughter of Smoke and Bone series for the third or fourth time, and I still adore those books. They’re so lush and epic and involved. Also, I will love His Dark Materials forever. Those books are the reason I fell in love with reading, and I still remember pestering my local bookseller for months waiting for The Amber Spyglass to come out.
PB: What are your long term ambitions with regards to writing?
LC: I really want to challenge myself. I think that’s my continual goal, to always be learning and pushing my own boundaries. With Immoral Code I challenged myself to write 5 different points of view. With Half Life I asked myself what it would be like to write two versions of the same character, ones who share a life and body and memories, yet end up being very different people. Next up, I want to try writing something in a different voice and maybe for an adult audience. I really just love that with writing, there’s always something new to learn and try.
PB: If you weren’t an author, what career would you be in?
LC: Haha, I have no clue. I’ve asked myself this a lot, and I’m really not sure. I like to think I’ll always be writing no matter what happens with the publishing side. But maybe teaching? Every so often I think about going back to college and getting a graduate degree to teach at the college level. That, and I’d love to open my own bookstore someday.
PB: What’s the next target for you?
LC: Selling another book! Publishing is pretty up and down, and there are no guarantees, so right now I’m working to fall in love with a new idea that will hopefully end up on shelves someday.
PB: Tell us a random fact about yourself.
LC: Hmm… I love horses. I started riding when I was six, taking lessons with my neighbour who was a true cowboy (grew up in a sod house and all). Then when I was a bit older, I adopted an old, retired barrel-racing horse named Dexter. He’d been sold many times over his life because, while very fast, he had terrible stage fright. But he found a lovely retirement home with me and his best bud, a three-legged rescue kitten.
Thank you so much to Lillian Clark for speaking to us today. If you'd like to try her books, you can do so here:
Until next time, happy reading!