Elizabeth Laban’s young adult novel, The Tragedy Paper, is a beautifully-written story that has captured the attention of everyone from New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Weiner to Booklist. This debut novelist has intrigued SheKnows too — making her the newest author we love. She chats with us about everything from the most shocking thing about her road to publication to the books she’s loving now.
Sheknows: Tweet us a blurb of your novel. (In 140 characters or fewer, of course!)
Elizabeth Laban: Students at a prep school study classic literary tragedies while their own tragedy unfolds. #tragedypaper
SK: The premise of your book is so unique. How did you come up with the concept?
EL: I have always been intrigued by young adult books, and really wanted to write one. When I was in high school, I wrote an extensive paper about Greek and Shakespearean tragedy that stuck with me. About three years ago, my agent Uwe Stender suggested I read Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werter. I loved the story, and especially the structure of the story. I started playing around with ways to modernize and retell it. Being one of the classic tragedies, it sparked my memory of the paper I wrote in high school, which, in turn, brought back that whole world for me. It all started coming together in my mind and The Tragedy Paper was born.
SK: As a debut author, what was your biggest surprise during your road to publication?
EL: My biggest surprise was how long it took between the time my editor made an offer, and the time the book appeared in stores. It was a solid two years. I was so eager to get it out there that it seemed like forever, but I can see now that it was a luxury to have a publisher take such good care of the manuscript and not rush the process. Along the same lines, I was also surprised by how many times the book went through the copyediting process.
SK: What author(s) are you loving right now?
EL: One of the most memorable books we read this year as a family was R.J. Palacio’s Wonder. I read it to myself first because I couldn’t wait, and then out loud to my kids (ages 11 and 13), and I just loved it both times. We still talk about Auggie quite regularly and quote from the book. Another debut novel I recently bought and look forward to reading soon is Maggie Shipstead’s Seating Arrangements.
SK: What’s up next for you?
EL: I am working on another young adult novel. This one is from a girl’s point of view, and it takes place in a city. There is a school, but not a boarding school. And there is an important classroom assignment that features prominently in the story.