2020 Debut Author Interview: Lyla Lee!

In 2019, we made it our goal is to work with as many debut authors as possible and spread the word about their debut novels. It was such a success last year that we decided to continue the fun this year as well! Follow us this year as we pick the minds of the 2020 debuts and chat with them. Also stay tuned for news of giveaways, Twitter chats and more!
At the end of 2019, we Tweeted about wanting to discover more debut authors and their books. We ended up finding Lyla Lee and her novel I'LL BE THE ONE, and we have been interested in it ever since. We are so excited to have Sheena on the blog today to answer some of our questions! 

Lyla Lee

Lyla Lee is the author of the Mindy Kim series as well as the upcoming YA novel, I’ll Be The One. Although she was born in a small town in South Korea, she’s since then lived in various parts of the United States, including California, Florida, and Texas. Inspired by her English teacher, she started writing her own stories in fourth grade and finished her first novel at the age of fourteen. After working various jobs in Hollywood and studying Psychology and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, she now lives in Dallas, Texas. When she is not writing, she is teaching kids, petting cute dogs, and searching for the perfect bowl of shaved ice.

Keep up with Lyla: Website / Twitter / Instagram / Goodreads

The Book Bratz: First of all, congratulations! How does it feel to be a debut author?
Lyla: Thank you! It feels great! This is something I've been working towards for over ten years now so finally having my books out there is an awesome experience. There are definitely some challenges and bumps along the way but I'm still grateful that I get to share my books with the world.
The Book Bratz: In your opinion, what's the best part of the writing process? What's the hardest?
Lyla: I personally love revising. Maybe it's because I'm a perfectionist but I really enjoy the process of fine-tuning diction, plots, characters, etc. I like to use the process of carving a sculpture as a metaphor for my writing process. Revising is like carving out individual features of the sculpture and making them clearer and more distinct. Drafting new stories is actually the hardest part for me because it's like "making" the clay itself. It's creating something from nothing, which is an incredibly hard part of the process for me, haha.

The Book Bratz: Where do you get the inspiration for I'LL BE THE ONE?
Lyla: My inspiration behind I'LL BE THE ONE is rather eclectic! I was first inspired to write I’LL BE THE ONE in 2016, when I was living with my parents in Northern California after graduating from college. Winters in Northern California are cold and rainy, and, while looking for a fun way to exercise indoors, I stumbled upon dance practice videos by BTS (who were not as popular then) and fell into a K-pop rabbit hole. I was actually fat-shamed into quitting dance when I was 3, so falling back in love with dance as an adult inspired me to write the book. On the more fun side of things, my uncle won a Korean music competition when I was in middle school, and a family friend won a K-pop competition shortly after high school in Orange County and became a K-pop star. Their experiences also inspired me to write this book.

The Book Bratz: Who was your favorite character to write? Who was the most difficult?
Lyla: Skye was definitely my favorite. I'LL BE THE ONE was an incredibly challenging book for me to write, just because of how deeply personal of a story it is for me. Her voice, determination, and spirit are actually what kept me going while I was writing this book. Conversely, she was also the most difficult character for me to write because she's unlike any other protagonist I've ever written before. I also had to do a bit of mental gymnastics to get myself past my own crippling stage fright (Skye LOVES to perform, so writing first person in her POV was an interesting experience). Finally, I taught myself some of the dances she performs so I can more accurately describe what it feels like to dance like she does in the book.

The Book Bratz: K-Pop is a huge part of this book -- who are some groups that you're loving right now?
Lyla: Some of my favorite groups right now are BTS, Blackpink, Momoland, Stray Kids, ACE, and Red Velvet. I actually mention some of their songs in the book, since I was constantly listening to their music while writing it!

The Book Bratz: What do you hope that readers will take away from I'LL BE THE ONE?
Lyla: The most important message of I'LL BE THE ONE is this: love yourself and don't give up on your dreams, no matter what anyone else (even your inner critic) says.

The Book Bratz: Do you have any plans to return to the world of I'LL BE THE ONE in the future, or do you have any other projects in mind? Can you tell us anything about them?
Lyla: There aren't any plans to return to the world of I'LL BE THE ONE yet, although I do have a sort of companion novel (same "universe" but entirely different cast of characters) coming out in 2021. I can't reveal any details yet other than the fact that it's set in Seoul, South Korea and is about two girls falling in love. Other than that, the fourth book of my Mindy Kim series (my books for younger readers), MINDY KIM, CLASS PRESIDENT, comes out this fall.

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Title: I'll Be the One
Author: Lyla Lee
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: June 16, 2020

Summary: Skye Shin has heard it all. Fat girls shouldn’t dance. Wear bright colors. Shouldn’t call attention to themselves. But Skye dreams of joining the glittering world of K-Pop, and to do that, she’s about to break all the rules that society, the media, and even her own mother, have set for girls like her. She’ll challenge thousands of other performers in an internationally televised competition looking for the next K-pop star, and she’ll do it better than anyone else. When Skye nails her audition, she’s immediately swept into a whirlwind of countless practices, shocking performances, and the drama that comes with reality TV. What she doesn’t count on are the highly fat-phobic beauty standards of the Korean pop entertainment industry, her sudden media fame and scrutiny, or the sparks that soon fly with her fellow competitor, Henry Cho. But Skye has her sights on becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star, and that means winning the competition—without losing herself.

Thank you so much to Lyla for stopping by and answering our questions! We are super excited about I'LL BE THE ONE and can't wait for it to be out in the world on June 16th

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