Keshav: So, Emery Lee! Why “Meet Cute”? And not just as a question about the title. Why write a story off the concept of an initial interaction?
Emery Lee: I think meet-cutes have really become a staple of romcoms and romance in general. There’s this idea that a relationship is automatically magical if you meet in a charming way. It feels like destiny is pushing you to this other person. So I really liked the idea of taking this common rom-com trope and reinventing it with a trans main character.
Keshav Kant: Where did you draw inspiration from for the characters? Especially Noah and Becca, given their evolving friendship dynamic.
Emery Lee: Noah was kind of inspired by who I was in high school. From his naivete to his creativity and flair for the dramatic. Becca came as the result of needing somebody to put Noah in his place. *laughs*
Ultimately, I knew if I was going to let Noah run off and be chaotic in his own way, he needed a friend who could help bring him back to reality a bit, so that’s where Becca comes in.
Keshav Kant: Okay, so The Twelve Steps To Love. What inspired the concept? How do you see that sort of listicle idea of finding love shaping up in the real world? Because I need to know for me. I want to find love in 12 simple steps.
Emery Lee: *laughs*
Well, the concept was largely just my way of taking the plot beats in any traditional rom-com and putting them down on paper. I was doing a lot of research to make sure my story was really stacking up to the expectations set for romcoms, and I just thought it would be funny to have a main character who really thought real-world love would play out in exactly the same way. As for how the steps would work in the real world, I mean, Noah definitely learns that they’re not foolproof or even all that accurate. *laugh*
Unfortunately, real life is pretty hard to predict, so love just never works out the way we plan.
Keshav Kant: Devin’s neo-pronoun journey is something incredibly unique to this book. Especially given the discourse around their use within the queer community in real life. So what made you think to add that to the story and then settle on e/em/eirs?
Emery Lee: I use neo-pronouns myself, so I knew I definitely wanted to include them. People have this idea that neo-pronouns are this like… new and trendy concept, but they’ve actually been around a long time. The Spivak pronoun set (e/em/eir) can even be traced back to the eighteen hundreds, so they definitely aren’t a new thing, but it’s so rare that people treat them as something that’s normal, so I really wanted to help normalize them. As for why Devin eventually settled on those pronouns, it was really just vibing!
Keshav Kant: Who was the troll! I have got to know. Who had that much time and energy to unravelling The Diary and then make all the accusations of theft and bullying?
Emery Lee: We don’t know! There were a lot of requests throughout the process that I name the troll and close that storyline, but something I was insistent on is that it’s the internet, and there are a lot of people who will go out of their way just to tear other people down, but it’s rarely somebody you actually know. The idea that the troll was someone Noah knew well just felt so inauthentic to me because ultimately, most trolls are just people who have too much free time and a mean streak, but ultimately, I wanted to show how toxic social media can sometimes be and so there were actually several different accounts that went after the Diary throughout the course of the book, and we’ll never know who they are. Sometimes people are just mean!
Keshav Kant: The book has several difficult emotional moments for Noah in a very short period. As a writer, what drew (no pun intended) you to write about this sort of reformative summer experience? And which of the moments was the most difficult to write?
Emery Lee: I think high school summers feel like a huge deal. Even when not that much happens, they’re this huge transitionary period where you really change a lot from year to year. Post high school, time doesn’t really have that structure anymore, but as a teen, I think summers can be this huge metamorphosis, so I really loved the idea of Noah really transitioning, not only in terms of his gender but just in who he was as a friend and person in his time in Denver. And I think some of the hardest stuff to write about where the elements of the summer camp. To take Noah who’s this super free-spirited, immature character and force him into the role of a caretaker was pretty difficult to pull off.
Keshav Kant: Who is your favourite side character from the book? Personally, it’s Georgette.
Emery Lee: I have a special place in my heart for Jeff!
Keshav Kant: In the book, there’s a little passage where you wrote about how it would be a dream if Disney made a movie based on the stories of the diary. Are we hoping for a film?
Emery Lee: We are always hoping for a film! Disney, if you’re reading this, hit me up!
Keshav Kant: What more can we look forward to reading from you?
Emery Lee: A lot of things, honestly! If all goes well, I plan to branch out into some new genres and demographics in the future including fantasy, horror, Adult, middle grade, and more!
Keshav Kant: Anything you’d like to tell the readers about the book before they dive in?
Emery Lee: I think there have been a decent number of readers who’ve gone into the book expecting a pretty serious exploration of gender and getting over the hurdle of self-doubt, largely because of the comp to FELIX EVER AFTER. While the book definitely does have gender explorations and some moments of learning about identity and self-acceptance, it’s a rom-com and that means the main plot of the book is a humorous love story. If you’re looking for a coming-of-age book with sprinkles of romance and humour, this is not the book for you!