Lauren Gibaldi is a public librarian who’s been, among other things, a magazine editor, high school English teacher, bookseller, and circus aerialist (seriously). She has a BA in Literature and Master’s in Library and Information Studies. She lives in Orlando, Florida with her husband and daughters. Her books include THE NIGHT WE SAID YES, AUTOFOCUS, THIS TINY PERFECT WORLD, and the upcoming anthology BATTLE OF THE BANDS (co-edited with Eric Smith).
Voyage: What was the inspiration behind your latest novel, This Tiny Perfect World?
Lauren Gibaldi: This Tiny Perfect World was inspired by my love of theater (as it plays a large role in it), and the question of “what next?” that comes with your senior year of college. I feel like—for me—it was simple: I wanted to leave Orlando and find myself somewhere else. And I did, and I was lucky to do so. But that’s not always possible for teens—some have obligations at home, some cannot afford it, some just simply don’t want to. As a librarian, I work with teen volunteers and often hear them contemplate their next steps. For some, I listen to them tell me that they’re done with school and have to go start working. For some, I write multiple college recommendation letters. For some, I just listen as they debate which step next. It’s an important time in a teen’s life, one I think we easily forget. So I focused on that. And, honestly, one of my favorite things is when my volunteers come back to say hi a year, or years, later just to tell me they’re okay. That they did it.
V: When you write your stories, what is the one thing you hope readers will take away?
LG: I write happier stories (for the most part), so I hope they take away comfort from being with my characters. I hope they take away the idea that you should always believe in yourself, and do what you feel is right. I write for today’s teens, obviously, but I think some of those things I needed to hear when I was that age, as well.
V: What was the hardest scene of This Tiny Perfect World to write?
LG: There’s a scene in the end where Penny has a heart-to-heart with her dad over a truth he’s sharing. It’s a sensitive scene, and I wanted to make sure I had his words—and her reaction—as truthful as possible. I spoke with people and had many readers go over it to ensure it was handled well. I re-wrote it…a lot. And I know it’s all the better because of the work that went into it.
V: If you could tell your younger writer self anything, what would it be?
LG: My younger writer self wrote for fun and didn’t see it as a possibility for something professional in the future. And honestly, I’d keep it that way! I think working at a craft for fun, with no solid plans, gave me the ability to try a lot of things until I found the type of book I wanted to write. I’d go back and give advice to myself, like, two years ago instead. And that’s this: remember it’s fun.
V: What are your writing must-haves?
LG: I don’t really have many! Because I work full-time and have a family at home, I have to write whenever I can. That means, first thing in the morning at 5:30 a.m. when everyone is still sleeping. Or during my one-hour lunch break at the library. Or after everyone is in bed and, honestly, I’d love to sleep, too. I have to be amenable and take advantage of every moment I can. (And I also have to allow myself to not work when I just, mentally, cannot.)