Sandhya Menon, New York Times bestselling author, in conversation with Christina June
Aug. 31, Friday 7-8 p.m.
One More Page Books
2200 N Westmoreland St, Arlington, VA 22213
Arlington resident and author Christina June will be in conversation with Sandhya Menon on Aug. 31, 7 p.m. at One More Page Bookstore. Both June and Menon are writers of contemporary fiction for young adults. The author discussion will be led by June who plans to ask Menon about her “process, research she’s done for her books, and how life has changed for her since being published.”
Menon will be signing her latest romantic comedy, “From Twinkle with Love.” Her earlier book, “When Dimple Met Rishi,” made it to the New York Times bestseller list in 2017 to glowing reviews. It was about two Indian American teen-agers whose families wanted to arrange a traditional marriage for them.
June writes books inspired by fairy tales. Her first book, “It Started with Goodbye,” is set in Arlington and is a modern take on Cinderella. June’s second book, “Everywhere You Want to Be,” came out earlier this year and is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, set in New York. June is excited to share her third book, “No Place Like Here,” which is in set in a place inspired by Airlie, a farm situated in the countryside in Warrenton. It will be available May 21, 2019.
June shared how her writing career started, her writing process, her inspirations, what she considers the most romantic spot in Arlington and more in the following interview.
Why and when did you start writing your books?
I write a lot in my day job, but it isn’t especially creative. In the fall of 2012, I was feeling itchy to create and decided to dive into National Novel Writing Month, which happens every November, with the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel. I managed to do it and never looked back.
What was your first published work? Did it take a long time to get published?
My debut, “It Started With Goodbye,” came out in 2017. It’s a modern spin on Cinderella. In terms of wait time, I think I’m middle of the road. I went from writing the book to landing an agent to securing a book deal to publication in just over three years. I know a lot of people who had much longer journeys than I did, and a few lucky ones who got deals right away. Publishing takes patience.
What inspired you to use fairy tales as the framework of your stories?
I saw an abandoned dress shoe on the sidewalk and immediately knew I wanted to write something inspired by Cinderella. When it became clear that other characters from “It Started With Goodbye” had stories to tell, I looked for original source material to help frame them. “Everywhere You Want To Be” was inspired by Little Red Riding Hood, and I loved swapping the dark forest for the skyscrapers of New York City. I like fairy tales because they’re timeless and it’s fun to put my own spin on the familiar.
What is your writing process like?
Because I’m a full-time school counselor, a mom, a wife and an adult, my time is limited, so I do my best to be efficient. Though my process has changed over time, I tend to write a detailed synopsis first, which enables me to write a clean first draft and avoid big revisions. I work out a lot of what I want to write — both plot and characters — in the shower, when driving, or when working out. I always listen to music while writing; every book gets its own playlist.
What is the best part of being an author?
Connecting with readers is my favorite. I’m so grateful to all the librarians and teachers who have shared my books with kids and invited me into their classrooms. I also love hanging out with other writers. Book people are the best people.
What do you want your readers to take away from your books?
My books tend to be about kids who are trying to find their voice and their place. I want readers to take away the idea that it’s OK to speak up for the things that make you happy, even if it’s not expected or popular. You have to do you, even if no one else gets it.
Does Arlington show up in any of your stories?
Yes! “It Started With Goodbye” is set in Arlington and while “Everywhere You Want To Be” takes place in New York, there are ties back to the DC area. There’s a fun comparison of DC to NYC as my main character is weighing her life choices.
If you were to think of a romantic setting in Arlington, what would it be?
One of my favorite date night spots is Shirlington. We love having a bite to eat and seeing a movie or catching a show at the Signature Theatre. I’m also a big fan of walking around Old Town Alexandria, preferably with an ice cream cone, and seeing the DC monuments lit up at night.
Who is your favorite writer and why?
I have so many favorites! I’m a lifelong fan of Judy Blume, who is just as lovely in person as her books are. More recently, I’ve come to admire Jenny Han, Alyssa Cole, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Katy Upperman, Katherine Locke, Miranda Kenneally, Susan Tan, Tiffany D. Jackson, Jason Reynolds, and Karina Yan Glaser. Though they’re a wide range of genres and age groups, they all write authentic characters that really stick with the reader.
What is your favorite part in “Everywhere You Want To Be”?
When I was researching, I took a great walking tour of The Highline in New York and the information was so fascinating, I knew I needed to include it in the book somewhere. There was a reunion that needed to happen fairly early on, so it made sense to set it on The Highline and make one of the characters a history buff so he could share all those rich stories and anecdotes with the reader. I love that scene because it allowed me to utilize setting in a unique way to create romantic tension between the two characters.