Monday, January 23, 2023

Q&A with Sofía Lapuente and Jarrod Shusterman


Photo by Diego Bravo



Sofía Lapuente and Jarrod Shusterman are the authors of the new young adult novel Retro. Shusterman's other books include Dry. They write and produce film and television for their production company, Dos Lobos Entertainment, and they live in Spain and in Los Angeles.

Q: What inspired you to write Retro, and how did you create your character Luna?


Jarrod: The world is a crazy place, and we felt that people needed an uplifting escape— and that’s when this fun thriller was born! For us, the idea of taking the Retro Challenge, and living life like a Retro movie was just too juicy for us to not explore. Also we wanted to propose a challenge that we thought would be a challenge for us to take.


And the main goal of the story was to question our relationships with our phones and how we treat others through our screens.

Photo by Diego Bravo

Sofi: Luna was created out of our necessity to tell this story through a protagonist that everyone can connect with; as we mention in the book, she is “perfectly imperfect.” We wanted to portray her in a way that is also authentic to me as a Hispanic woman.


She’s strong, but suffers from anxiety, she is driven, has attitude, and a big heart—she takes the whole world on, and when contestants start disappearing, it’s Luna who becomes the hero. A hero addicted to Doritos, who loves to dance reggaeton, with a passion for psychology. To me she feels so real! We hope you all love her!


Q: How did the two of you collaborate on the book? What was your writing process like?


Sofi: We both have our strengths that we are very aware of. And we really trust each other on those things. Where I usually build the characters--what a teenage girl may be thinking/feeling, or Hispanic cultural views--I defer to Jarrod on things like pacing or structure.


We try to take the best of each other, and we always grow closer as a couple during the process. It´s true that we use Google documents which means we can leave each other nice cute notes but also get in editing wars where we change and delete each other’s things


Jarrod: I have learned so much working with Sofi, and it’s been quite the journey to get this book published. I work in a very methodical way in the mornings, and need organization, where Sofi thrives while writing in the middle of the night in chaos.


We’ll decide everything together about a scene, and then we´ll outline it, write a first draft, rewrite (the most painful part haha) and then we’ll ultimately polish it together! When it´s all done it is our beautiful little book baby we created as a team!

Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


Sofi: That’s a great question! We knew there would be an epic revolution. We knew how we wanted characters to grow! We knew there would be heartwarming moments where you feel like you truly know these characters like they were your friends.


All the exciting and mind-blowing twists were decided in the beginning, and then we had to work backwards. If we were going to make fun characters and an interesting plot, there has to be a level of malleability! It’s true that our editor really wanted us to flesh out a few antagonistic characters more, to make them more 3D and they ended up becoming people we really care for in the end!


Jarrod: We knew where we wanted it to go but we didn’t know the path there! Much like driving across country at night, you know the destination but the headlights only afford you a view of a hundred feet ahead. You have to navigate all the way there!


First we design our characters so they are interesting, then we figure out the broad strokes of the plot, and then reform the characters back and forth. We have to make sure that characters grow throughout the story.


The interesting thing we found was that because the more intense thriller portion of our book (last 130 pages) was air-tight, we barely had to make plot revisions to that. Which is always an encouraging sign! We love to mess with the mind of the reader, and always stay one step ahead. Sorry not sorry


Q: What do you think the novel says about the role of technology in teenagers' lives today?


Jarrod: For us we really wanted to communicate that the problem isn’t our devices. What we should question is how we relate to them and how we communicate with people. Do we forget there’s a real person on the receiving end of a hurtful message? Or can we feel compassion and empathy through the screen?


This story isn’t meant to take the phone out of anyone’s hands, in fact, quite the opposite. This story is meant to empower. That behind the profile we see that there is a person with a beating heart. That we are worth more than our data. That we’re all perfect as we are without the filter.


Q: What are you working on now?


Sofi: Right now we are working on two secret projects, that we can’t talk about yet. But I am going to do it anyway because I’m too excited haha.


So, one is the next fun, YA thriller, that also speaks to technology, but a whole new subject matter entirely! Something that has affected us personally. It’s even crazier than Retro in some ways.


And the other is an adult book, that really dives into my Hispanic culture and life experience in this country. It´s a fun comedy/drama about what it’s like to be an immigrant in America. We are just so excited for these books and even what comes after! We just have too many ideas!


Q: Anything else we should know?


Jarrod: We want to thank you for this interview, and for taking the time to talk Retro! We promise this book is a crazy, fun, thrilling ride. We think you’ll love it :)


Sofi: Of course, we have to say thank you to all of you for reading and supporting what we’re writing, for your criticism to keep us accountable, and for all the love in general! If anyone wants to follow us for fun videos, cool photos and inside content we are @sofiandjarrod on IG and TikTok.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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