YEM Author Interview: Hope Larson chats about why she set her book Be That Way in the mid-90’s

Hope Larson is the author of ​​Be That Way. Be That Way follows high school junior Christine who wants more than anything to be that cool girl everyone notices . The novel explores a powerful coming-of-age story set in a time before the Internet that explores themes of betrayal, first love, self-expression, and the power of art. YEM was able to speak with Hope about her inspiration for the book, the book being set before the internet, and the writing process.

Young Entertainment Mag: When did you first know that you wanted to be an author?

Hope Larson: For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved making up stories, drawing pictures, and reading. I wanted to do this as a job from the moment I realized it was a job, probably around second grade.

YEM: Why did you decide to base Be That Way in the mid-90’s?

I set Be That Way in 1996 because that was a memorable time period for me, as a young person. It was before the internet and cell phones became a big part of daily life, and I wanted to go back and remember how it felt to live life in a less-connected way.

Also, I big part of the book is Asheville, North Carolina, the city where Christine lives, and where I’m from, too. It was a very different place back then, a much smaller town, and I wanted to capture that.

YEM: Where did the inspiration for Be That Way come from?

One of the unusual aspects of Be That Way is the format. It’s a diary, and there are illustrations and comics interspersed throughout. I wanted to give myself a chance to play with a format I’d never tried before, and cultivate an anything-goes mindset.

YEM: Was anything in Be That Way taken from your real life?

The locations are all places where I spent a lot of time as a kid and teen, so those are real, but virtually nothing that happens to Christine happened to me. One exception: I did work as a video clerk in college, in Chicago!

YEM: What made you interested in writing during a time that was set before the internet?

I can’t overstate how different it was to be alive before the internet and cell phones. Everyone was more of an island back then, floating in the world and wondering, “Is there anyone out there like me? Is there anywhere I belong?”

If Christine was alive today, she’d probably be making videos on TikTok or something, not writing in her diary.

YEM: What is the writing process like for you?

I start with an outline, and at some point the outline stops working. I panic, fix the outline, and continue on. Repeat.

YEM: What do you hope your readers take away from reading Be That Way?

This book doesn’t have a clear message, particularly. If it does, it’s something like, don’t dim your own weird light. Let it shine.

YEM: What advice do you have for someone who wants to become a writer?

Write! Write anything. The more you do it, the easier it gets, and the more you can stretch your craft. And read, too, because reading is the foundation of writing.

YEM: What is a genre that you hope to write one day?

I’d love to write something in a fantasy space.

YEM: Do you find writing coming of age stories rewarding?

I do! I’m 41 years old, and I feel like I’ve come of age multiple times throughout my life. It’s not an experience that’s relegated to adolesence, which is probably why it feels evergreen to me.

YEM: What is a scene or quote from Be That Way that is your favorite?

I can’t pick a favorite, but I’m proud of the party scene where Christine and Landry have their big fight, and Christine and Paul have their stolen kiss. So much happens in that scene—it kicks off a lot of what happens in the rest of the book—and it involves multiple different cartooning styles.

YEM: What do you have planned in your future for writing?

Next up, I’m writing and drawing a story about an over-achieving eighth grader whose world falls apart when she starts failing math, and discovers she has dyscalculia. It’s a book for all my fellow bad-at-math folks, and I know there are a lot of us.