In honor of our #NewBooksNewVoices celebration, Laura Sibson, author of The Art of Breaking Things has answered some questions for us and shared some insider info on her publishing journey! Read her interview below and scroll down to read an excerpt of her debut novel, The Art of Breaking Things!
What are your top three absolute FAVORITE reads?
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy for the way that Tolstoy was able to make 19th century upper middle-class people relatable. And I’m not talking about Anna and Vronsky. They were my least favorite characters! I loved Levin and Kitty. There is a scene when they are playing a parlor game after dinner and the romantic tension is positively swoony.
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I put off reading this book for a very long time because I knew it would make me weep. I was not wrong. At the end of the book I was ugly crying, like full-on snotty-sobbing. The book is not only fantastically well-conceived (I mean Death as a narrator? Brilliant!), but it’s so gorgeously written. And it’s about the power of words!
- Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling. Okay, I’m cheating because this is seven books in one. With this series, J.K. Rowling made a childhood dream feel possible: that magic lives all around us, just around the corner and sometimes right next door. If I’m pressed to pick just one book, I’d say my favorite of the series is Goblet of Fire because Rowling built on her already fantastic world by introducing us to the Tri-Wizard Tournament and she ratcheted up the tension in brilliant (and sometimes terrifying!) ways. (For the record, I am a Gryffindor.)
What was the most challenging part of your publishing journey?
Ask anyone in my family and they will tell you that patience is not one of my virtues. But if you’ve been around publishing, you know that there can be long periods of quiet between bursts of action. I don’t want to spend all day refreshing my inbox, so I’m always working on more than one writing project at a time. I also either work part-time or volunteer at a local middle school, which ensures that I come out of my fictional worlds from time to time.
Did you always want to be an author?
I have wanted to be a lot of things: a psychologist, a war zone journalist, a trapeze artist, a chef and yes, an author. Like many writers, my desire to write was born of a love of reading and I owe that love to my mother. She read to me when I was very young, and we took regular trips to the library. When I announced my book deal, friends reminded me that even in fifth grade, I was writing stories. But I worked for many years as a career counselor in higher education before I wrote my first manuscript.
Read an excerpt from The Art of Breaking Things below!
“You want to get out of here?” I ask.
“Yeah, okay.” She pulls out her phone. “Where do you want to go? Jeremy’s? Or maybe the quarry?”
“I want to go somewhere different. Will you be my wingwoman?”
“Always.” Luisa slides her phone into her pocket.
I’m wearing black leggings and I grab a black hoodie. My hair is already dark, so I don’t bother covering it.
“Are we robbing a bank?” Luisa asks.
“No,” I say, but not in a convincing way.
“I can’t get arrested.”
“I don’t think you will,” I say. “You can stay in the car.”
“Oh, shit. Then you better lend me some dark clothes.”
I gather all my Post-its and some markers and heavy-duty tape because the Post-its might not stick. I shove everything into a backpack and sling it across my back. Then I place a step stool outside the back door.
“I admit that you’ve got my attention,” Luisa says.
I smile at her and gesture for us to go.
“Mom, we’re going out for a little bit,” I say when we emerge from the basement.
They’ve put away Scrabble and they’re setting up Settlers of Catan.
“But I like the random board,” Emma says.
“This time we’ll use the one in the rulebook. We can try a random board next time,” Dan says, placing the pieces according to a diagram he holds in one hand.
“Where are you going?” Mom asks.
“Over to Sal’s.”
Luisa side-eyes me, but she says nothing.
“Be back by midnight.”
Dan looks up from his orchestration. “Still not dressing appropriately for the weather, I see,” he says, and I remember that night with the broken plate.
I zip my hoodie to my neck. “Nope, guess not.”
After I retrieve the step stool and we get into Luisa’s car, I tell her to drive toward Sal’s.
“You know that Sal’s is closed now, right?” Luisa says.
“We’re not going to Sal’s. Just head toward Sal’s.”
We park behind the long low building where we always park for our diner shifts.
“Are you going to paint that wall like you said?”
I look at the bland concrete wall. “No, that’s way too big of a job for now. I have something more . . . temporary in mind. Also, we’re doing it out front.”
“I don’t want to stay in the car,” Luisa says.
“I could use your help,” I say. “And I guess we’ll just run if we have to.” I hope that I’m kidding, but I’ve never done this before.
Around the front of the building, the lights of Sal’s diner are out except for the broken neon sign. The shops and restaurants of our town are asleep. Cars rush by on the main street that the strip mall faces. They pay no attention to two girls in dark clothes, one carrying a step stool and the other a large bag. I stop in front of the storefront next to Sal’s that’s been empty for months. I stare at it for a moment until the image emerges for me.
“Start a bottom row. Here.” I hand Luisa a stack of yellow Post-it notes.
“I’m not an artist!” she protests.
“You know how to stick Post-it notes, don’t you?”
She stares at the huge window. “I guess?”
“Stick them in a nice straight line. That’s all you need to do.”
I choose the electric blue notes and start working on the concept I’m holding in my mind. When Luisa is finished with the bottom, I start her on the sides. It’s a good thing we brought the step stool, but a ladder would have been even better. We’ll only be able to reach so high. I keep working, stepping back from time to time to check how it’s coming together.
“This is so calming,” Luisa says, pressing yellow square after yellow square. “Except for the fact that I’m nervous we’re going to get caught.”
“Yeah, it’s a combo of conflicting feelings,” I say as I adjust some Post-its to achieve the effect I’m imagining and then continue to work, slowly covering the broad sheet of glass.
“Skye, I love it!” Luisa exclaims when she sees the picture emerging.
Covering an entire storefront window takes more time than I’d expected. And a ton of Post-it notes. When the glass is covered as far as we can reach, I step back one last time to see how it’s come along. I’ve never created something so big or so public. Luisa was right, pressing the Post-its had a calming effect, quieting the worry and confusion in my mind. But knowing we could get caught had gotten my adrenaline pumping in a way that I liked even better than that coke before the concert. The best thing, though, is seeing the mural we’d created huge and bright against the dark night, shouting to anyone who takes a moment to glance this way.