Today, Olivia is chatting with Adi Alsaid about his debut novel, LET’S GET LOST!
Four teens across the country have only one thing in common: a girl named LEILA. She crashes into their lives in her absurdly red car at the moment they need someone the most.
There’s HUDSON, a small-town mechanic who is willing to throw away his dreams for true love. And BREE, a runaway who seizes every Tuesday—and a few stolen goods along the way. ELLIOT believes in happy endings…until his own life goes off-script. And SONIA worries that when she lost her boyfriend, she also lost the ability to love.
Hudson, Bree, Elliot and Sonia find a friend in Leila. And when Leila leaves them, their lives are forever changed. But it is during Leila’s own 4,268-mile journey that she discovers the most important truth— sometimes, what you need most is right where you started. And maybe the only way to find what you’re looking for is to get lost along the way.
Olivia with YA-Mag: Adi, welcome to the Young Adult Magazine! I’m very happy to have you here today to discuss your debut novel, LET’S GET LOST.
Adi Alsaid: Thanks for having me!
YA: So let’s talk about Leila. How did you two meet? What made her the perfect character for this story?
AA: Leila and I met the same moment she met Hudson. It was always her story in my head, but the very first thing I wrote was Hudson closing his eyes and listening to Leila’s engine in the distance. I think part of what makes me love Leila is that I first saw her through him. I got to know her through his story, and since he quickly becomes infatuated with her, I did, too.
I don’t want to give away too much about her, since the mysterious aura about her is part of what really drives the book. But I think readers will be interested to know that I got to know her at the same rate they’ll get to while reading. The more I wrote about the other characters and followed their stories, the more Leila reveals about herself to them, the more she revealed to me. She shows different parts of herself throughout the novel and it was a great experience for me to slowly become acquainted with my own protagonist. I like Leila. I think she’d be the perfect road trip partner.
YA: What sets Leila’s story apart from other YA road trip tales, like AMY AND ROGER’S EPIC DETOUR by Morgan Matson or Libba Bray’s GOING BOVINE? What will readers find that is unique to you two?
AA: I think what really sets Let’s Get Lost apart is that it isn’t just Leila’s story. The novel is five coming-of-age stories nestled into one. We don’t actually see a whole lot of road tripping. We see these big moments from Leila’s road trip, and they come with the perspective of someone (with the exception of Bree) who isn’t traveling anywhere. Leila’s on a journey, but the people that help tell her story aren’t. Well, at least not physically.
Leila arrives in their lives at a crucial point, and when she moves on, we know that she’s changed them. I think readers will be curious about these characters that Leila is leaving behind, and what happens to them once she’s moved on. But I think there’s an overruling curiosity for just who Leila is, and where she’ll go next.
YA: What non-book influences helped spark Leila’s story? Any specific songs or shows?
AA: Months before I got to the last section, Oh, Comely by Neutral Milk Hotel gave me a clue for how I would write the part when we finally get to meet Leila. The energy of the Australian bandRoyal Headache’s self-titled album was responsible for the tone of Bree’s section. And readers will be quick to notice the 80s movies influence of Elliot’s section.
YA: What is the story behind the title LET’S GET LOST?
AA: All credit is going to have to go to my editor at Alloy, Emilia. Pretty much throughout the first draft, the manuscript was saved in my computer as ‘Northern Lights,’ which wouldnot have been a very interesting title for a book. We brainstormed back and forth for a few weeks over emails, but as I remember it, I wasn’t very helpful. I could say that I was too focused on writing the book itself, but that’s a cop out. I just couldn’t think of anything that was any good. Emilia suggested the title in an email and thank God editors can get just as inspired as writers can because it felt perfect as soon as I read it.
YA: If you could cast the Dream Film of LET’S GET LOST, who would take the roles of Leila, Hudson, Bree, Elliot, and Sonia?
AA: Jennifer Lawrence would play all of them. No, I kid. This is hard. Shailene Woodley would make a great Sonia, I think. Liam James from The Way, Way Back as Elliot. Chloe Moretz as Bree, maybe? Leila and Hudson are hard to pick. They’re so specific in my head that I haven’t seen any actor who seems to fit the image I have of them in my head.
YA: You have lived in many diverse locations; how does your own wanderlust compare with Leila’s?
AA: I definitely had the desire to see new places when I was Leila’s age. I fell in love with airports and traveling when I was a teenager. I turned 18 while on a flight to Israel. That trip wasn’t exactly like Leila’s journey but it, too, was a coming-of-age.
I often think of travel poetically, as something majestic, though we all know it is not always exactly that. Sometimes it is just movement. It entails a lot of sitting. You listen to a lot of music, or read, things you could ostensibly do in your day-to-day life. Somehow, though, the movement makes it even better.
“Make no mistake about it,” George Clooney’s character says in Up in the Air (I’ve read the novel by Walter Kirn as well, but don’t remember if this particular line is in there), “moving is living.”
I was born intrinsically agreeing with that sentiment. I get restless when I haven’t traveled in a while. Sometimes it physically hurts (a mild pain, sure, but I swear I can feel something constricting in my chest) to think of all the places I haven’t been to. Consciously or not, I imbued the same characteristic in Leila.
YA: What’s coming up next for you in the land of YA storytelling? Do you have any pet projects you’re working on?
AA: I am very happily at work on another YA novel. I like to keep things under wraps as I’m working on the first draft, but I will say that it’s another contemporary, realistic YA with multiple perspectives. It’s going to be a challenge to stay focused on writing while traveling and promoting for Let’s Get Lost, but I’m thrilled to be back doing what I love every day.
YA: Last one! If you could spend one day with Leila and the gang, what would you do together? What would you want to tell Leila about her past and her future while you visited?
AA: This one’s easy. A road trip. I’d drive and listen to them talk. I’d let Leila be the DJ. It’d be an aimless trip, maybe up and down the Pacific Coast Highway, or through New England in the fall. Somewhere with a lot of detours.
I wouldn’t tell Leila, or any of my characters, much about their past or future. I think they’d be fun to hang out with, and wouldn’t want to interview them beyond what I’ve already done. I couldn’t tell them their futures anyway. I don’t know how other writers operate, but, unless the story calls for it, I don’t like to imagine my characters much beyond the confines of the book.
YA: Thank you very much, Adi! And once more from all of us at YA Mag, congratulations on LET’S GET LOST!
AA: Thanks! It was my pleasure.
Readers, be sure to check out Adi Alsaid at his website www.SomewhereOverTheSun.com. Or follow him on Twitter @AdiAlsaid.
LET’S GET LOST, published by Harlequin TEEN, is available starting July 29th at your favorite retailers and local independent bookstores!
Olivia Hennis is a transplanted New England girl dropped by a tornado into the magical Land of Jersey. For more info, follow her on Twitter.