Good morning readers and welcome to hype week for Tomorrow and Tomorrow from co authors Lillah Lawson and Lauren Emily Whalen! The ladies are here to take over the blog, starting with a post from Lauren Emily Whalen and the co-authoring experience.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow Hype Week: Writing From Afar (Specifically from Athens to Chicago)
When you’re a lifelong Midwesterner, writing about the South can be quite the challenge.
Very early on in the process–over countless Facebook DM voice messages, our secret weapon–Lillah Lawson and I decided to set Tomorrow and Tomorrow, our rock and roll remix of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in Athens, Georgia. I grew up in downstate Illinois and have lived in Chicago my entire adult life. To say I was out of my element is a vast understatement.
Now, it’s not like I’ve never been to Athens. Ten years ago, I visited Lillah there. It was Labor Day Weekend, and UGA was playing Clemson, and the only reason I remember this is because the two friends who were with us were very excited and playfully arguing about the Dawgs versus whatever Clemson’s team is, throughout our dinner at The Grit (RIP) and our subsequent barhopping. At one point Lillah and I got tired of the sports talk and retired to the beer garden, talking about how cool it would be if our respective writings got published someday.
Fast-forward to fall 2021. We’re no longer in lockdown, but the country is about to go into another sort-of lockdown in anticipation of the Omicron surge. Fun times! Lillah and I both have several books out, not to mention extra time on our hands because, well, there still aren’t a lot of places to go safely. Our conversations start with Shakespeare fangirling–at this point I have two Shakespeare reimaginings for YA readers coming down the pike–and eventually get to the point of, “wait, why is there not a retelling of the Scottish Play through the eyes of a Runaways-esque band of young women in their twenties? Wait, why aren’t we writing it? Together?”
Just like I am a born-and-bred Illinoisan, so is Lillah in Georgia, specifically the Athens area. Her husband’s in a band, so she’s familiar with the area’s vibrant music scene. Plus, even in its early stages, something about our as-yet-unnamed book feels uniquely Athens. Even though I’ve only visited once, and I imbibed several drinks that night that led to a Michael Jackson dance off (but that’s another story), I can still remember Athens’ distinct air. It’s gritty, it’s creative, it’s very Southern. As the kids say (I think), Athens is a vibe, and one we wanted to bring to our story.
I’m a place gal: my debut novel Satellite is set in Chicago (specifically, the area I live in) and Los Angeles (specifically, the area my best friend lived in for three years, and where I visited him often). Two Winters, my YA reimagining of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, is set in two different time periods and places: the second half is 2014 in Chicago, and the first is 1997, in a farm/college town almost uncomfortably similar to where I was raised. (Upon reading this book, my sister said to me, “that’s [our high school], isn’t it?” Yep.)
Take Her Down is my third novel and tackles Julius Caesar through the eyes of a group of smart, driven teens who are surviving the election of a, um, controversial US President. Though the location is never specified, it’s a tony suburb of Chicago, where college admissions are everything, seventeen-year-olds are building their résumés, and wealth and privilege can be lost at the drop of a hat.
See what I mean about places?
I know myself, and I knew I couldn’t approximate the voice of a lifelong Southerner to save my life. (“When I read your writing, I can hear you talk,” quoth a guy I once slept with. It’s likely why I slept with him more times after that.) When Lillah and I decided to write alternating perspectives, I immediately decided that “my” narrator Duff–think Macbeth’s Macduff as a tall optimist with bleached hair who rocks a bass–would be a Midwestern transplant who immediately falls in love with her surroundings (and maybe a cute male witch…).
As for the rest? I relied heavily on my coauthor and friend Lillah, for everything from, “what do the mountains look like in December?” to “what was it I ordered at The Grit? I know it was a sandwich with cheese in it…and I think we had a chocolate-y dessert?” People ask how to cowrite a novel, and all I can advise is, find someone who will put up with your endless inane questions about setting, and sandwiches.
As I write this, I’m getting ready to go back to Athens for our book launch events. I can’t wait to see Lillah, of course, and share the book that started as an Omicron-era voice message and is now Tomorrow and Tomorrow (with perhaps the most kickass cover I’ve ever seen). The Grit is no more, but I’m willing to be the Athens vibes I felt back in 2013 are still alive and well. We’ll see.