Today I am so pleased to welcome J.C. Lillis to Joyfully Jay. J.C. has come to talk to us about her latest release, A&B. I am a HUGE fan of her book, How to Repair a Mechanical Heart, and when I heard the guys from that book have a side plot here, I was eager to hear about it. Please join me in giving her (and Brandon and Abel) a big welcome!
(INT. the cluttered living room of a Baltimore writer’s home. BRANDON and ABEL from How to Repair a Mechanical Heart arrive to interview their holiday-addled creator about her brand-new f/f romance, A&B—the second book in the Mechanical Hearts series. Brandon is wearing one of his twenty-three plaid shirts and Abel is wearing hangover sunglasses and a 2016: GET ME OUTTA HERE t-shirt. For those who would like to picture them in matching Santa hats despite the holiday being over, please feel free.)
BRANDON: So we’ll start with an easy question: can you tell everyone a little about the new book?
ABEL: Yeah, and ALSO—
BRANDON: Shush, let her answer. You’ll get your chance next.
JCL: So, okay. It’s my first f/f romance. It’s about jealousy, ambition, first love, and the power of pop music. I sometimes call it “Amadeus, except with queer-girl fledgling pop stars, and it ends up with kissing instead of murder.” And fortunately for you guys, it’s got a neat m/m subplot.
ABEL: Uh-huh. So why did you put us in the book, anyway? Were we, as I suspect, too sexy and fascinating to stop playing with?
JCL: Yes, totally. I missed you guys and I found myself coming back to you a lot—wondering what you were up to, imagining various futures. I thought checking in with you ten years down the road would be fun. I didn’t really have a solid idea for a straight-up sequel, but I thought this would be a nice—
ABEL: Okay, wait. HOLD up a second.
ABEL: No, this is bullshit. I have to ask her.
BRANDON: You said you wouldn’t.
ABEL: I need to know. The readers deserve to know.
BRANDON: Just—don’t open a can of worms, okay?
ABEL: I will summon all my latent powers of tact and diplomacy. (*closes eyes, inhales deeply*) WHY IN THE NAME OF HOLY SWEET MOSES DID YOU BREAK US UP, WOMAN???
JCL: Well, ah, I—
ABEL: Because look, I only peek on Goodreads like ten to fifteen times a week, but it’s reasonable to say there’s a fair bit of Team Abandon squeeing, correct? From folks who 100% wanted to picture us exchanging promise rings by the Christmas of our freshman year and planning a backyard garden wedding by our twenty-first birthdays. How could you deprive folks—NOT TO MENTION US—of the uninterrupted romantic utopia we deserve?
JCL: Okay, first of all: not all breakups are permanent. Right?
ABEL: Yes, but STILL.
JCL: Dude! Hear me out. There were two reasons why I did that. First, I wanted to be realistic about what happens to many relationships that start in high school, especially sweet fumbling first-love relationships where one or both parties are still working out major issues.
ABEL: (*points at Brandon*)
BRANDON: You weren’t a stroll in the park either.
JCL: And second, I knew you guys were going to have the subplot in this book, and I wanted it to be a good, substantial one, with an actual dramatic arc. Like, I didn’t want to relegate you to the big-brother-sidekick roles. I wanted you to have your own stuff going on.
ABEL: Couldn’t you have had us stop an alien invasion?
BRANDON: Or take up bobsledding?
ABEL: Or start a bakery for dogs in some quaint Connecticut town where it snows all the time and there’s like a 3-to-1 person-to-gazebo ratio?
JCL: I mean, I guess. But relationship drama is what you guys do best.
BRANDON: We are pretty good at it.
ABEL: I’m slightly better than he is, but together we’re unstoppable.
BRANDON: Greater than the sum of our parts, you might say.
JCL: Okay, okay, back to the interview.
ABEL: Speaking of couples who are greater than the sum of their parts—
BRANDON: Is this a Cadsim question?
ABEL: Nope, it’s a Barva question. (To JCL:) Man, you sure gave your first f/f couple a sucktastic portmanteau.
JCL: I used up all my portmanteau magic on Abandon.
BRANDON: Fair enough.
ABEL: So thought you might want to talk about the main couple in A&B, Barrie and Ava, and your experience writing for them.
JCL: Sure. They were fun to write—almost as fun as you guys—but also a challenge. First of all? I HAD TO WRITE AN EXTROVERT.
BRANDON: …And now you need a four-year nap, right?
JCL: Sort of, yeah. Barrie’s like me in some ways—very focused on her goals and willing to get creative when Plan A doesn’t work—but she’s much more adventurous and indomitable than I am, so I had to fight against my own instincts a lot when writing for her. And Ava’s spent the past three years living in a commune, and before that she had an unsupportive family to contend with, so I had to figure out how to balance her fairly heavy backstory with the lighter tone of the book. But they’re sweet and funny and creative soulmates, so they’re the sort of couple you don’t mind spending extra time with while you’re figuring stuff out.
ABEL: Like us, one might say?
JCL: One might, yes. What do you guys think about them?
BRANDON: Well, as someone who spent his whole life being alternately bossed around and ignored by his older sister, it was fun to play the big brother for once.
ABEL: You’re amazingly good at it.
ABEL: And I definitely appreciated your delivering a baby synthpop diva to my front door, and allowing her to draft me as an emcee for her weird one-woman show. That’s been on my bucket list for a while.
…Hey. What happened? Are you interviewing us now?
JCL: Honestly, I have a hard time figuring out where I end and you guys begin.
ABEL: Aw, babe.
BRANDON: You end where my singing and guitar-playing talents begin.
ABEL: Oh snap!
JCL: I can write you a New Year’s Eve stomach bug, you know.
BRANDON: Next question!
JCL: What are a few things in A&B that’ll make HTRAMH readers smile?
ABEL: Ah, let’s see…I run a restaurant stuffed with Castaway Planet memorabilia.
BRANDON: I’m a guidance counselor.
ABEL: My SEX BOMB shirt makes a special appearance.
BRANDON: I’m a Unitarian now.
ABEL: There is a Moment at a dance that possibly rivals our Moment at the Castie Ball.
BRANDON: I dunno if I’d go that far.
ABEL: Ooh, ooh, AND! An actor from Castaway Planet shows up in a totally unexpected way.
BRANDON: So does the Church of Abandon. Same name, different context.
ABEL: And like, this isn’t HTRAMH-related? But there’s a sex scene that’s written as a to-do list.
BRANDON: Unfortunately it’s not ours.
ABEL: It’s so cute, though.
BRANDON: Ew. Voyeur.
JCL: Okay, one more question and then I’ll let you guys get back to…?
ABEL: Glamorous mimosa-sipping at LA’s hottest brunch spot.
BRANDON: (whispering) Exchanging the ugly mock turtleneck my mom got him for Christmas.
JCL: Without spoiling any of the specifics, are you happy with the ending I wrote for you, and would you change anything?
ABEL: (glowing in a slightly nauseating fashion) I…think it’s safe to say I’m beyond pleased.
BRANDON: Yeah. I’m happy. I think readers will be too.
ABEL: I mean, I PERSONALLY think we deserved a smash cut to our adorable, lovingly Instagrammed DIY beach wedding, but I get it—you had some kissy ladies to attend to.
BRANDON: There’s always a sequel.
ABEL: Or a holiday short. Come on: after all that, you owe us a holiday short.
BRANDON: “A romantic Christmas ski trip hits the rocks when…”
ABEL: “…Abel catches the eye of a studly Olympic hopeful while in line for complimentary cocoa.”
BRANDON: I was going to say “when a hunky ski instructor offers to teach Brandon his moves—on and off the slopes.”
JCL: How about I make it a choose-your-own-adventure holiday short?
ABEL: I am fully in support of this idea.
BRANDON: Turn to page 3: Your boyfriend ends this interview so you can make some cocoa in real life. You understand “cocoa” is probably a euphemism for other things.
ABEL: Gotta go! THE END.
JCL: I understand.
BRANDON: Till next time.
ABEL: Mechanical Hearts book 3, Spring 2018!
JCL: Wait, I didn’t—
(Brandon and Abel dash off in their Honda hybrid, leaving their slightly befuddled creator to pour a cup of tea, resume writing, and bid happy reading to anyone who checks out A&B.)
Eighteen-year-old Barrie Krumholtz is a super-tall optimist hell-bent on a single goal: securing a slot on Pop University, a reality show for singer-songwriters helmed by her #1 musical idol. When she humiliates herself on national TV and loses a spot in the finals to smug balladeer Ava Alvarez, the door to Barrie’s well-hidden dark side swings open. Never a quitter, she uses her bitter envy of Ava to shape a bold new artistic direction, and people love it. But when Ava ropes her into a secret collaboration, it sparks feelings neither girl expected—feelings that might threaten their creative identities and distract them from their professional goals. Can love and ambition live side by side? Is happiness an art-killer? They’ll figure it out with the help of a blue guitar named Fernando, a keyboard named Rosalinda, and a few new friends who feel like home.
(Rated R for Rivalry, Romance, and Really Neat Subplot featuring Brandon and Abel from How to Repair a Mechanical Heart.)
J.C. Lillis is the author of contemporary YA novels HOW TO REPAIR A MECHANICAL HEART, WE WON’T FEEL A THING, and A&B, plus various other stories about fandom, friendship, love, and art. She lives in Baltimore with her patient family, a possibly haunted dollhouse, and a cat who intends to eat her someday.