Sarah Mlynowski Chats About Amsterdam, Backpacking and Publishing

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Sarah Mlynoski, author of I See London, I see France, has written books for children, teens/young adults, and adults. Nothing is off-limits, it seems — and the world is her inspiration. ISLISF follows Syd, who takes a long-overdue vacation with her best friend, Leela. However, only a few hours into the vacation, her bubble bursts when she spots Leela’s ex-boyfriend on their plane. Hilarity, embarrassment, anger, friendship, and romance ensue. Want to know more? Check out our review!

Mlynowski didn’t have enough time to sit with us and chat, but she was nice enough to send over some answers via email! Her responses are below!

When/why did you first decide being published was a goal of yours?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I don’t remember wanting to be anything else.

What’s in the water in Canada? I’ve talked to a lot of authors either living in Canada or originally from Canada, and I’m thinking there’s a secret publishing academy or something.

Socialized medicine, maybe?

What was your very first, or worst, job?

I was a bus girl at a pancake restaurant. So much stickiness.

Dog or cat person?

I’m more of a baby person.

Do you like to write with music or with silence?

No silence ever. I like the sound of people and bustle in the background. If I’m home by myself, I turn on the TV.

What’s the easiest way to brighten your day?

Chocolate.

What is your strangest hobby/interest?

Writing.

What’s your most failsafe way to get writing inspiration?

Before writing my YA books, I re-read my old journals for inspiration and to make sure I get the emotions and the experiences right. Secret crushes! Sneaking out of the house! Getting caught sneaking back into the house! My main characters are often little me’s.

Do you enjoy book conventions, conferences or tours?

Yes. Yes, yes, yes. I love hanging out with other authors. And I love meeting readers.

Have you met any other YA authors at signings or events that you’ve gotten along well with?

Harper sent me on tour with Maureen Johnson and she made me laugh the entire time. I’ve met some of my closest friends at book events– Courtney Sheinmel, Jennifer E. Smith, E.Lockhart…

Would you say a career in publishing is good for aspiring writers? And how does one get into publishing, if they want to take that advice?

It’s absolutely good for aspiring writers. After I graduated from college, I interned at publishing houses, took courses in publishing, and worked at an indie bookstore. Then I started applying for publishing jobs, and was thrilled when I was hired by Harlequin Romances (yes, the sexy novels), to work in their marketing department. I learned a ton about publishing. Also about long haired, shirtless men.

Would you say the line between YA and adult writing is getting more and more blurred?

Yes, but I’d say the line between adults and young adults is getting more and more blurred as well.

Having written both adult and teen books, would you say the YA genre has changed a lot since 2001 (or is continuing to change)?

Yes, it has grown considerably. YA is taken a lot more seriously now. Ten years ago no one knew what YA stood for.

What would you say to someone who thinks adults shouldn’t read YA?

You’re missing out.

What would you say is missing from YA as a genre? A lot of people have mentioned LGBT issues, multicultural characters, etc.

Yes, definitely. YA needs more #ownvoices. It’s so important for people to see themselves reflected in print.

What’s the most entertaining/weird/memorable feedback you’ve gotten about ISLISF so far?

I’ve heard from quite a few readers with Amsterdam stories of their own.

What is the weirdest thing you had to Google (or find in person) while researching for ISLISF?

“Sex show Amsterdam rotating floor with chair”

Did you discover any new places in your ISLISF research? What/where was your favorite?

MY ISLISF research mostly brought me back to places that I had backpacked when I was nineteen. Paris is and has always been a favorite. What’s not to love about wine and baguettes?

How often do you travel abroad in real life?

About once a year if I’m lucky. These days I mostly travel around the U.S. and Canada.

Do you have a favorite place in the world?

I will always love Montreal the most. It’s where I grew up.

What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done in a foreign country?

Well, the book is called I See London, I See France and if we were to finish off the phrase… I’ll leave it at that.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten?

Snails. Gross.

Is there anything that, wherever you go, you can’t travel without?

My sleep mask! I have the best sleep mask. With it, I can sleep anywhere. Plane, train, at my desk at work.

Name a tourist-y location in Europe that’s overrated. Why is it overrated, and what should travelers see nearby that’s more worthwhile?

I genuinely enjoy most tourist attractions. My problem is that I usually forget to make reservations in advance, and then I refuse to wait in a four hour line. So then I get to Paris, and have to take pictures of the Eiffel Tower instead of from the Eiffel Towel.

Which character(s) in ISLISF are you most like when you travel?

Leela. I am very messy and have zero sense of direction.

Are any of the characters’ experiences based on real-life ones?

Yes! I really did backpack with my friends the summer I was nineteen. My trip was a little different though—instead of meeting a guy while I was traveling, I met up with my boyfriend in cities along the way. He was traveling with his friends at the same time.

Do you ever get homesick for your fictional worlds or stories?

Writing about Europe definitely made me miss being abroad. It did not make me miss getting bed bugs in a hostel in Switzerland. That never made it to the book, but it totally happened.

What book, or books, are you reading now?

Helen Ellis’s American Housewife.

If you had to pick only one adjective to describe ISLISF, what would it be?

Fun!

What projects are you working on right now? 

I’m writing Just a Boy and a Girl in a Little Canoe. It’s the companion to I See London, I See France. Sexy summer camp!

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