My mother is a high school librarian. I’m actually named after Beth in Little Women. I have a sister named Meg too! So growing up there were always books around. I loved books. The Sweet Valley High series? Oh my gosh. I discovered those books one summer and would ride my bike every day to the library, pick up a new book, go home, read it, and ride back the next day to get the next book. My mother didn’t care that I was reading Sweet Valley High. When I finished the series she’d slip me a Newbery winner, but she never judged because she just wanted us to read. I want to write books that are fun for someone to read. I don’t want it to feel like work.
In your acknowledgements you thank Stephenie Meyer for a conversation that sparked your idea for the book. What was said?
We were on tour and talking about Pride & Prejudice and the different ways it’s influenced current pop culture—from Bridget Jones’s Diary to the Bollywood movie Bride & Prejudice. And I started thinking to myself, Could it be retold from a teen point of view? Pride & Prejudice is all about the Bennett sisters trying to find a husband but I didn’t want it to be about girls in high school trying to find a boyfriend. So I was like ‘What do girls and boys do in high school?’ And then all of the sudden the title Prom & Prejudice came to mind and I said it aloud and Stephenie was like ‘Ooh, that’s really good!’
Did you immerse yourself in the Jane Austen factory before you started writing?
I reread the original a few times. I watched all the movie incantations, just to see what has been done. And then I just had a lot of fun. It was like going into this novel you loved and then having a Choose Your Own Adventure with it.
If a young reader tells you she loved Prom & Prejudice where would you steer her next?
Read Pride & Prejudice! Read Sense & Sensibility, all of Jane Austen’s novels really. My favorite movie inspired by Pride & Prejudice is probably Lost in Austen. It was made by the BBC and this woman who’s obsessed with the novel stumbles into that world while Elizabeth Bennett stumbles into the modern day. You should see it—it’s hysterical.
What do you think about folks who reflexively sniff at adult YA fans who gobble up Twilight or Prom & Prejudice or Sweet Valley High for that matter?
I just think that people should read what makes them happy. Ninety percent of the books I read are in the YA world. They’re great books! You know, I remember when I first started working in publishing, on my first day at Scholastic, my boss handed me a book and told me to read it because everyone at the publisher was really excited about it. I remember thinking ‘Oh, hmm, okay, sure.’ And it was an early copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which remains one of the best books I’ve ever read.