on January 5th, 2016
Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres has an open-door policy when it comes to her bedroom, but only if the guy fulfills a specific criteria: he has to be a virgin. Mercedes lets the boys get their awkward, fumbling first times over with, and all she asks in return is that they give their girlfriends the perfect first time- the kind Mercedes never had herself.
Keeping what goes on in her bedroom a secret has been easy- so far. Her absentee mother isn’t home nearly enough to know about Mercedes’ extracurricular activities, and her uber-religious best friend, Angela, won’t even say the word “sex” until she gets married. But Mercedes doesn’t bank on Angela’s boyfriend finding out about her services and wanting a turn- or on Zach, who likes her for who she is instead of what she can do in bed.
When Mercedes’ perfect system falls apart, she has to find a way to salvage her reputation and figure out where her heart really belongs in the process. Funny, smart, and true-to-life, FIRSTS is a one-of-a-kind young adult novel about growing up.
Hi guys and welcome to the blog! Today we have an interview with debut author, Laurie Elizabeth Flynn who wrote the edgy, sex positive book, Firsts.
1. What inspired you to write Firsts?
I had been working on a different project, a New Adult contemporary, when the idea for Firsts burrowed itself in my brain, along with the name “Mercedes.” I knew I had to tell her story, even though I didn’t know at the time what it would fully look like!
2. Are you more of a planner when you write or do you just wing it?
I’m pretty much 100% pantser. With Firsts, I didn’t have a shred of plot before I started writing the story. Generally, I like to have a hook and know the main character’s name before I start writing something, and I find that it unfurls from there. Of course, each project is different—some require more plotting, and I always keep a separate Word document open for making notes as I write about ideas for later in the book or plot points I want to revisit.
3. When did you know that you wanted to be an author?
I always loved writing, and words were how I best expressed myself—I remember writing stories in fourth grade and continually asking my teacher for more paper because I had so much to say! But I started writing more seriously with the goal of publication about four years ago. It took awhile for me to admit to myself that writing was something I wanted to pursue—and even longer to admit that to other people!
4. What has the debut author experience been like?
It has been wonderful and amazing and surprising and fun! Getting to know the other debut authors and their books was arguably the best part of my debut experience. There is so much talent, and I’m honored to be debuting with these writers. Working with my editor and the team at Griffin Teen was truly incredible, and hearing from people who read the book and related to something about it is a really amazing feeling.
5. When writing Firsts, how did you handle the fact that there’s essentially a lot of cheating in the book?
That’s a great question! Mercedes is doing something that’s morally wrong—she’s sleeping with guys who have girlfriends, and she knows about the girlfriends. In fact, the virgins she lets into her bedroom must have girlfriends for her to want to see them at all. But the reasons for her actions aren’t what people would expect—she thinks she is helping the guys. I wanted to explore how she is treated versus how the boys are treated, because they’re the ones cheating, but she takes the brunt of the blame.
6. What have been some of your favorite books in the last five years?
Oh, too many to name! I’ll stick with some of my favorite contemporary YA books. I love anything by Courtney Summers and Amy Reed, The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu, Tease by Amanda Maciel, Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian, Fault Line by Christa Desir, and Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt, to name just a few!
7. I loved that Firsts tackled the double standard surrounding sex and how sexually active boys are treated in comparison to how sexually active girls are treated. Was tackling that double standard a part of the book from the beginning?
Since I’m such a pantser, I didn’t set out with a plan to expose the double standard, but the more I wrote, the angrier I got about it. I wanted to write a book for every girl who has been unfairly shamed for something that a boy would have been patted on the back for. I wanted to show that girl that she is worth so much more than that and shouldn’t have to endure being judged or ridiculed. Through Mercedes, I wanted to create a female character who enjoys sex and owns her sexuality.
8. Do you write better in the daytime or nighttime?
I try to get my writing done before work in the morning. It’s when I’m the most productive (after a few cups of coffee)! I also fit in some writing time on my lunch at work. During the evenings, I generally try to unplug and relax.
9. What advice do you have for writers who hope to eventually get published?
Trust your instincts and write the story you want and need to write. Do it for yourself, not for anybody else. And don’t let fear stop you from putting words down on a page. Don’t be afraid it’s not good enough and not give yourself permission to write what’s in your head and heart. First drafts don’t need to be perfect—they just need to exist!
10. Are you working on anything now?
I have a few different projects on the go right now, all YA contemporaries. Sometimes I need to write several pages of each one before deciding which is pulling me in its direction stronger. I’m also revising something that I’m really excited about!
Laurie Elizabeth Flynn writes contemporary fiction for young adults. Her debut, FIRSTS, was published by Thomas Dunne Books/St Martin’s Press in early 2016.
Laurie went to school for Journalism, where the most important thing she learned was that she would rather write made-up stories than report the news. She also worked as a model, a job that took her overseas to Tokyo, Athens, and Paris.
Laurie now lives in London, Ontario with her husband Steve, who is very understanding when she would rather spend time with the people in her head. Laurie can mostly be found writing happily at her desk, with the world’s most spoiled Chihuahua on her lap. Laurie drinks way too much coffee, snorts when she laughs, and times herself when she does crossword puzzles.
Laurie is represented by the amazing Kathleen Rushall of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.