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Friday, March 19, 2010

Chick Chat: Lauren McLaughlin

Lauren McLaughlin is the author of two young adult novels, Cycler and (Re)Cycler. To learn more about Lauren and Cycler and (Re)Cycler, visit her website.


Can you tell us a bit about Cycler and (Re)Cycler?

Cycler and (Re)Cycler follow the story of seventeen-year-old Jill McTeague, who turns into a boy for four days out of every month. In an effort to be a "normal" girl, Jill conspires with her parents to keep this secret locked up--quite literally. The boy never leaves the house.  But, after a while, the boy develops his own separate identity, christens himself "Jack" and decides he doesn't like being locked up. Once he sets out in pursuit of his own freedom, Jack's needs and Jill's needs clash intensely.

What inspired you to write Cycler?

I've always been interested in the subject of gender as a social construct. I was a tomboy growing up and never fully embraced society's stereotypical designation of "feminine." Once I discovered feminism in college, I realized that the black and white dualism of male versus female serves no one except the reigning patriarchy, and therefore should be upended with all deliberate speed. Cycler is the product of all these churning ideas, but the story really came alive for me once the character of Jack was born. It was as if he'd been imprisoned in my subconscious for a long time and was desperate to get out and flex his muscles.

What do you hope readers take away from your novels?

I'm reluctant to pin down the purpose of my novels because I believe that reading is an intensely personal experience. Every reader brings her own imagination, her own history, her own agenda to the story, in effect completing the creative transaction on her own. Reading the various reactions to Cycler and (Re)Cycler confirmed this for me. At times it seemed as if each person were reading a different novel. Some saw it as a light-hearted romp with no subtext whatsoever; others saw it as a sly criticism of gender dualism; still others saw it as an endorsement of gender dualism. Personally, I like to think of it as social satire, but I love that we as authors do not control the reader's response. We just set these creatures free and watch what other people do with them.

Did you find writing your second book easier or harder?

You'd think that as you improve as a writer, it would get easier all the time. Maddeningly, this is not the case. I honestly believe each book is better than the last, but I'm still sweating it out. (Re)Cycler was much harder than Cycler and my third book is proving to be even harder than the second. I guess as your abilities increase, so do your expectations.  When I began (Re)Cycler, I was worried that, since I'd already established so much about the characters and the premise in Cycler, that I'd be trapped. But, in fact, all that background set me free. I had a full book's worth of back story and character development and now I could really play with them--in New York City no less. That wasn't the hard part. The hard part was keeping them out of too much trouble. When you set a secretive cycling hermaphrodite loose in New York, all kinds of shenanigans are possible.

Which one of your characters do you identify with the most?

Jack. He's straight out of my limbic system. He's like the reptilian me, slouching toward full humanity. I adore him.

Besides writing and reading, what else are you passionate about?

Too much probably. I'm fortunate to be married to a brilliant photographer so I'm very passionate about his work. I also recently adopted a baby girl, who right now is watching me type. She's a new source of inspiration and joy in my life and has already changed my writing quite a lot. I write music and I love to dance, though, of late, those things have had to take a back seat. I'm also passionate about women's rights. I believe that a better world is only possible through the full emancipation of women on a global scale.

Many teens dream of becoming authors. What advice would you give to writing teens?

Read a lot. Live a lot. Pay attention to the people all around you because they'll become your source material one day. Only write what matters to you, and only if it matters A LOT. Cut out all the boring bits that you'd skim over as a reader. Don't worry about success or "the market" or your career. Those things come to the most passionate and most committed. No one wants to read what you think they want to read. They want to read what you had to write.

What’s next for you?

My next book, Steal the Future, is set to be published in 2011. It's about ubiquitous surveillance and high-stakes testing. Someone has invented a software program which can process all the data from surveillance cameras, cell phone conversations, email and Web habits to formulate a monthly score indicating a teenager's overall mental "fitness." That score determines everything in life--who you eat lunch with at school, who your friends are, where (and whether) you go to college, etc. It's like a universal S.A.T. score. The story follows a high school senior named Imani whose best friend suddenly drops out of her score range. Imani is now faced with a terrible decision. Does she stick by her best friend? Or dump her to save herself?

There's also a
Cycler movie in the works. We have a script, which I wrote, along with a director attached. My producer, Don Murphy of Transformers fame, is currently trying to set it up at a studio.


Thank you Lauren!


  1. WOw great interview! I had to read Cycler for one of my Anthro: Gender Studies classes and loved it! A movie would be awesome and I can't wait for her next book(sounds very Uglies)!

  2. Your blog is captivating. Can't wait to read more. I believe what you said to be true. As your abilities increase so do your expectations. Therefore, writing anything becomes even harder.

    But as writers we trudge on becoming hopefully as good as we can possibly become.

    Keep writing. Look forward to reading your books.
    Blessings, Barb
    Writing - the ups and downs

  3. Thanks much! I'm glad you commented because I'm always looking for new books to read, and your blog seems to have a lot of that. Cheers-

  4. Hi!

    I love chick-lit and I have a blog dedicated to Marian Keyes, the queen of chick-lit!

    This is the adress:

    Best wishes!

  5. a teen blog's always nice to have an avenue to listen to what teens thinks because this is the stage when they think they are not understood


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