Exclusive Interview with Lauren Gibaldi, YA Contemporary Author of Autofocus

Hi guys! Today, Lauren Gibaldi is here to talk about Autofocus, a book that I won in a giveaway and really enjoyed. I met Lauren back at the SE-YA Book Festival in March, and she was super nice and sweet! I’m so glad to have her on the blog, and I hope you enjoy this interview!

About the BookAutofocus

From the author of The Night We Said Yes comes a fun and heartfelt YA contemporary tale. When Maude decides to search for information about her birth mother, she finds out more than she expected. Perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Susane Colasanti.

Family. It’s always been a loaded word for Maude, whose birth mother died after giving her up for adoption. With her best friend, Treena, in college in the same town where her birth mother grew up, Maude decides to visit and explore her past. But when Maude arrives, she quickly discovers that Treena doesn’t seem to have time for her—or for helping with her search. Enter Bennett, a cute guy who lives in Treena’s dorm. He understands Maude’s need to find her mother. And as Bennett helps Maude, she starts to realize that her mother’s past doesn’t have to define her own future.


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Lauren Gibaldi Interview.png

1. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?

I love writing because it transports me. It’s the same reason I love reading, too. It’s an experience, even when it’s hard. I started writing young, in a diary, with zero pressure. And I think that’s what made it great for me- those early years when I was just given a dairy and able to write whatever I wanted without fear of it being bad.

2. What are your favorite books, genres, and authors? Which ones have impacted you and your writing style the most?

Along with being an author, I’m a librarian, so it’s pretty impossible for me to choose favorites! I read a lot of YA, obviously, and a lot of picture books due to having young children. I listen to adult fiction audio books because I like being inspired on my way to work. And I mostly read graphic novels whenever I’m writing. (I don’t like reading novels when writing.) I think three books influenced my writing the most – Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I read them all in college, and they helped me understand what I wanted to write.

3. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?

I’m a full-time librarian!

Autofocus4. I really enjoyed your sophomore YA romance novel Autofocus, which follows high school senior Maude, who was adopted as a child, as she explores deeper into her mother’s past and discovers the true meaning of family. How do you explore adoption throughout your novel? For readers were or are adopted, how do you want them to be impacted as they read Autofocus?

Thank you! The main idea behind Autofocus is wondering if who we are is determined by birth (nature), or if we can change as we grow (nurture). Maude has no clue who her mother was, so she’s not sure if this person she’s becoming as she finishes up high school is inspired by her birth mother, or by her mom/dad/friends. (She differentiates mother vs. mom.) I think, even though it’s an experience very specific to adopted teens, the feeling is pretty common for any teen–figuring out who you are, apart from influences. As for readers, I’m just happy they’re seeing themselves in a book. To see that their experience, though unique, can also be universal.

5. Do you have an interest in photography like Maude does? What are some of the best or your most favorite pictures you have taken?

I did! I learned how to manually develop film in high school, and used that a bit in the book (though most of those scenes were cut.) A bit out of college, when I was figuring out what I wanted to do, I got into digital photography. I like travel shots best–perhaps it’s because I like traveling best. Though I’m not great at editing.

Me and Lauren at SE-YA

6. Autofocus definitely wrenched my heart so many times. As a contemporary and coming-of-age writer, has writing your story ever made you cry? (I mean as in, were there any scenes that made you very emotional?) How do you write very heart-wrenching scenes so that the readers could feel all the emotions emitting from the pages?

I cry every time I finish writing a book. Every. Single Time. It’s such a euphoric moment. As for a specific scene in Autofocus, there’s a scene in the end where she meets someone important (this is so vague, but no spoilers). I knew the conversation would be ultimately disappointing, and I felt so bad for Maude as I wrote it.

7. How would you “sort” your characters into Hogwarts houses?

Maude and Bennett are both Hufflepuffs. Treena is a Ravenclaw.

Untitled-48. How have your personal experiences in high school help shape your novels, including The Night We Said, Autofocus, and This Tiny Perfect World?

Yes! The Night We Said Yes takes place in Orlando, where I went to high school. Though the night is fictional, many of the locations are real ones I used to go to (including Jefferson High, which is modeled after my high school). Autofocus takes place in Tallahassee, where I went to college, so many of the places there are also read. (The haunted asylum is real, though I never visited. I had friends give me personal accounts though!) This Tiny Perfect World takes place in Christmas, a real city in Florida. It’s about theatre, which I loved in high school (still do, though I don’t perform anymore). Also there’s a scene that takes place at the library where I work.

9. In addition to being a writer along with many other jobs in the education and publishing fields, you have also been a circus aerialist. Could you describe to us what was that like? How did you first get into it?

Haha, yes! I went to Florida State University, where Autofocus takes place. The school has one of the two professional collegiate circuses in the country. I thought it would be something fun to try (and a way to make friends) during my freshman year. I ended up performing for four years, and I loved every minute of it! (And, yes, I hung upside down above a net.) This Tiny Perfect World

10. If your book had a playlist, what songs would you include on it?

I never made a playlist for Autofocus! What songs should be on it?

11. What could we expect from you in the future? Are there any secrets you would like to share?

I don’t have a fourth book announced yet, however I do have a short story appearing in an upcoming anthology titled Color Outside the Lines. It’s about a Jewish girl and Hindu boy and that’s about all I can say. 🙂

12. Before you go, would you like to share any advice you have to any aspiring authors or writers?

Just write! Don’t worry about being amazing. Don’t worry about living up to anyone or anything. Just write. Finish. And then make it better. You can do it!

Thanks so much, Lauren, for coming onto the blog! It’s so great to have you!

About the Author

Lauren Gibaldi
Photo taken by KV Photography.

Lauren Gibaldi is a public librarian who’s been, among other things, a magazine editor, high school English teacher, bookseller, and circus aerialist (seriously). She has a BA in Literature and Master’s in Library and Information Studies. She lives in Orlando, Florida with her husband and daughters. Her books include THE NIGHT WE SAID YES, AUTOFOCUS, and THIS TINY PERFECT WORLD.

I love dinosaurs, pasta, musicals, and cheesy jokes.

I’m represented by Claire Anderson-Wheeler with Regal Hoffmann & Associates.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Goodreads

Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read any of Lauren’s books? Do you like YA contemporary?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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