culture by Gelo Dionora

A Quick Chat with Lang Leav

The former Tumblr poet on the complex women of her debut novel.

Lang Leav has come a long way from her Tumblr poetry days back in 2012. Since then, the social media sensation has produced four bestselling poetry books and her debut novel Sad Girls hA as just hit shelves worldwide. She sat down with us to talk about transitioning to this new medium, the complex characters of her book, and ending right.

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Can you walk us through the adjustments you had to make, working from Love and Misadventure to Lullabies to Memories to this, your first novel?
It actually felt quite natural to me to write it. Audrey’s [the main character] story was so compelling, I couldn’t help but follow through. The difference is writing a novel is immersive whereas writing poetry is a lot more sporadic. There is all that emotion, and I suppose there’s a lot of that emotion that you have to bring to the novel as well. You have all these elements and you really have to think about the actions because every time someone does something, it affects the story in its entirety. The storytelling element to it, the passion, the love of writing was the same with poetry. With the novel, it was just learning the form, the technical aspects.

What was the inspiration for Audrey?
Audrey is her own person, I have to say. She’s not based on anyone I know, thank God! She just came to my mind and I just felt a responsibility to capture the essence of her character. I read this really amazing quote, I do not know who it is by. It says, “There’s no such thing as fiction, just non-fiction in a parallel world.” That was a magical experience for me. I felt like I was looking into an existing world, and a story that actually happened there. Not in this world, but in a different one.

Audrey was carrying a lot. 
Yes. She feels responsible. On the other hand, there’s this deniability. Part of her does not want to accept that she’s at fault. I supposed that was just built into her nature. And she’s a young girl. She’s still finding herself. The smart thing to do would be to write it from the point of view of someone like Lucy, who’s just lovely. She’s my favorite character. But Audrey’s voice won out.

I thought that Lucy was the character that kept the friendship, kept it all together…
Yeah! And she didn’t deserve what happened to her in the end.

Without giving away too much to our readers, why did that had to happen?
Well, originally, I was going to give my readers a Hollywood ending. I hadn’t written it yet, but that was my intention. But the night before I was going to write the final chapter, I was talking to my partner, who is also a writer. And I just said, “It’s not right. The ending’s not right.”

To give it a Hollywood ending?
I didn’t feel right to me. So, we discussed it. And then we arrived at that conclusion. we figured out how it was all going to happen. I couldn’t sleep that night. I just had this heavy feeling. The next day, I got it all down, and I thought, “that’s it. That’s the ending.”

It just felt right.
In a novel, you get pieces of a puzzle, but you don’t know what it looks like until you put it all together. Once I finished the last chapter, I stepped back, and everything made sense. Everything fell into place.

Let’s go to Candela, who really went through some rough times. 
Yeah, she’s a very strong character. I love her. I suppose she’s a selfish character, but she’s also very strong. She doesn’t take any shit from anyone. She is her own person, unapologetic. She was going through a rough time, but inherently, she is a good person. She’s more light than dark, which is why I named her that way because it means luminosity. There’s a lot of symbolism in the novel.

What would you say to the young boy or girl who would love to put their stories into writing?
It’s a big scary world out there. But put your work out, and you always find your people. Some are worried about people plagiarizing my work, and that will happen. It will probably happen to you, which is a terrible thing, but it’s the nature of the Internet. Don’t be too precious of your work. You’ll write better things. You’ll get better as you go. All you have to do is to stay on that path. If you have a passion, and an inclination to write, that’s what you should be doing.

Art by Mags Ocampo

YOU CAN GRAB A COPY OF SAD GIRLS IN A NATIONAL BOOK STORE BRANCH NEAR YOU.
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Gelo Dionora
If you see Gelo Dionora drinking a cup of coffee, listening to jazz music, or reading a Murakami novel, he’s probably trying to pacify his mind that rarely shuts up. A nature boy at heart, he likes walking inside forests, gardens, or any place that’s full of plants. Check him out on Instagram as @gelodionora and on Twitter as @GDionora.
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