Welcome to March, where the debuts are plentiful and the books are awesome!
If You're Out There
by Katy Loutzenhiser
After Zan’s best friend moves to California, she is baffled and crushed when Priya suddenly ghosts. Worse, Priya’s social media has turned into a stream of ungrammatical posts chronicling a sunny, vapid new life that doesn’t sound like her at all.
Everyone tells Zan not to be an idiot: Let Priya do her reinvention thing and move on. But until Zan hears Priya say it, she won’t be able to admit that their friendship is finished.
It’s only when she meets Logan, the compelling new guy in Spanish class, that Zan begins to open up about her sadness, her insecurity, her sense of total betrayal. And he’s just as willing as she is to throw himself into the investigation when everyone else thinks her suspicions are crazy.
Then a clue hidden in Priya’s latest selfie introduces a new, deeply disturbing possibility:
Maybe Priya isn’t just not answering Zan’s emails.
Maybe she can’t.
March 5th, 2019
Introduce yourself and your debut novel!
Hi! Thanks so much for having me, Sofiya! I’m Katy Loutzenhiser, and I’m the debut author of If You’re Out There, a YA novel that follows a newly heartbroken girl named Zan who’s been ghosted by her best friend, Priya. Priya recently moved to California, and while she hasn’t spoken to Zan in ages, her Instagram account has become very #bestlife.
What’s the most surprising part about your debut journey so far?
There have certainly been lots of surprises so far! But, I think the biggest (and best) has been the writing community I’ve found. I’ve been so blown away by the kindness of other writers, especially those going into this debut year alongside me. Their generosity is completely infectious, and I’ve found so much joy watching dreams—big and small—come true for different people as the year unfolds.
Give a shout-out to a fellow debut!
Happily! Big shout out to Nicole Panteleakos, my longtime CP, who I met on a playground when I first moved to New York. (I have to go into this for a second, because talk about a meet-cute!) Both of us were standing around, keeping an eye on the kids we were babysitting, when we got to talking and discovered that we were both aspiring authors. Somehow—pretty much on the basis of that single, semi-distracted conversation—we became friends. In coffee shops across Brooklyn, Nicole and I scrapped old projects, started new ones, sent out queries, and got agents within a few months of each other. Then, in a delightful twist of fate, we both got offers from our dream publishers… on the same day. (Can you tell how much I love that story?) Anyway, Nicole’s incredible MG debut, Planet Earth Is Blue comes out this May. It’s absurdly good. Like really. I’m not just saying that because she’s my friend.
What inspired you to write this book?
Okay! Awkward confession time: a friend really did ghost me. It was completely bizarre, and for a while, it made me really sad. But eventually, I had to let go and accept not knowing why. Then a question started popping up: What if this had happened with a friendship I was more secure in? What if it had been a soul mate friend? The kind of person I considered a rock? I thought, I could write about that. I thought, I want to know the answer!
Describe your main character in three words.
(Though she doesn’t like to admit that last one).
What advice would you give to a new writer?
When I first set my sights on becoming an author, I scoured Twitter, read blogs, and tried to soak up every detail I could find about publishing. There came a time when all of that served me well. But none of it really mattered until I had a manuscript I loved.
I know it’s easier said than done, but as a new writer, your job is to write something awesome. To me, that means more specifically, the thing YOU want to read (not what you think other people want, or what’s on trend or whatever other noise might be filling your head). Write the book that makes you feel something in your bones.
The first book I queried wasn’t that. And I don’t regret writing it! I really think it was the only way to learn. If you’re compelled to work on something that you’re not sure about, it doesn’t mean the project is doomed (all writers have doubts). But listen to your gut when it comes to letting go and moving on to the next thing.
If I’d clung to that first manuscript, knowing deep down that it wasn’t “the one,” I wouldn’t have had the space to write this one. And that would have been a shame. Because the second time around, I felt something totally different as I was writing. Even when the book was completely stumping me—when the ending was a big jumbled mess, and I wasn’t sure if an agent would ever see what I was trying to do (a comedy/mystery/thriller/romance/friendship story sort of felt like a tough sell in some of my lower moments), some part of me knew that the heart of this book was good enough that the rest would figure itself out. And it did (largely because of the amazing Jennifer Mattson and Donna Bray! Thank you thank you thank you!).
Also, while we’re on the subject, let me slip in one more piece of advice: If you do find yourself getting offers from agents or editors, listen carefully to what they have to say. What’s their vision for you? Do they “get” your book? Do they “get” you? Mind-melding with super-smart publishing people is one of the greatest writing highs I’ve ever experienced. Remember, at the end of the day, it’s about the writing! Find the people who want to make your work feel even more you.
Describe your writing space.
My writing space is a lovely white desk tucked into the bay windows of my Brooklyn apartment. I face big trees and pretty yards, and the backs of row houses covered in vines. I’m actually amazed by how often colorful birds land on the fire escape right in front of me. All of this would all be pretty idyllic were our apartment not so small that the back of my chair touches the edge of our bed! I have started banning my also-self-employed husband from sleeping late in the mornings because it’s quite difficult to concentrate with a snoring man two feet behind you.
What book or author has most influenced your own writing?
Is it terrible to admit that movies and TV were a bigger influence on my writing than novels? (At least when I was younger. Now I live buried under a humungous pile of books.) Still, I’d say my formative writer heroes were Nora Ephron and Tina Fey. Later on, I discovered Nick Hornby. (Among others, his book Funny Girl just spoke to me!)
What are two of your favorite covers of all time?
Questions with the words “all time” kind of scare me. (Have I adequately considered all the covers???) But I really love the art for Dumplin’ and Emergency Contact. …And yeah, I’m just gonna say it: mine! (Thank you, Philip Pascuzzo! He’s pretty amazing.)
Share a favorite recipe!
Mmmmmm. The New Englander in me is saying littleneck clams cooked in white wine, hot pepper flakes and garlic, tossed with linguini. Maybe a sprinkle of parsley or a squeeze of lemon. And some really good bread to soak up the sauce. (Dammit, now I’m hungry.)
Show a picture of your favorite place.
I think my favorite place I’ve been is still Ireland. Granted, I was there during a heat wave, so it remains in my mind a tropical island filled with lively beach towns and people everywhere crying out, “It’s the first summer we’ve had in seven years!” The food was local and delicious, the women running the B&Bs always felt like your grandma only Irish, the live fiddle pub music was consistently rockin, and there were several sheep-related traffic jams. In sum: the best!
Thanks for talking to us, Katy! Everyone, go grab Katy's novel on 3/5/19!