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June 10, 2016

An Evening with Meg Leder, Author of THE MUSEUM OF HEARTBREAK

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THE MUSEUM OF HEARTBREAK, Meg Leder’s young adult debut, was released on Tuesday, June 7th and the launch party was held at the fantastic NYC bookstore, McNally Jackson. I attended this event with Teenreads.com’s Rebecca Munro, who has nothing but praise for this novel. After listening to Meg, I know that this is a book that I have to pick up right away.
 
Public transportation was not on my side that day; I was a bit late to the release party and let me tell you, it was packed. I stood in between bookcases and professionally dressed people --- many of them Meg’s publishing colleagues --- listening to Meg Leder speak about her book. I could not see her, but I was immediately enraptured by what she had to say.
 
The cover of THE MUSEUM OF HEARTBREAK is really unique and reflective of the novel. Meg Leder once took a tour of the Museum of Natural History and felt like she had entered into Narnia or a cabinet of wonders. Years ago, Meg had a bad breakup and thought about how much emotion items held. She was also inspired by the idea of how the actual things are gone, but their pasts remain as objects, such as museums and dinosaurs. She wanted the cover to feel similar to that experience. 
 
Then Meg introduced her own heartbreak items: a silver egg her ex won for her at a carnival, a collection of letters from an ex-best friend --- humorously scrawled with the words “Do NOT open until 1990” --- a cassette tape from grad school and a spoon from a thrift store. Some items, like the spoon, were not necessarily related to her heartbreak, but they clearly held meaning to someone. By including her own items on the cover, Meg hopes that readers will understand that we all carry pain and heartbreak, but none of us is alone. Mainly, Meg wants readers to take away from this story that it’s okay to feel heartbreak. She hopes her readers “learn to  treasure their relationships.”
 
Meg was soon asked about letting go of items from the past. Her response definitely helps me to justify my sentimental hoarding mentality. Everything has a meaning and a memory to Meg.
“I’ve always loved objects. The objects hold the feelings more than the actual memory of the person for me. I feel so tender and protective of my younger self and it’s nice to remember her through these objects.” I’m just happy this means I don’t have to get rid of my old Beanie Babies just yet.
 
It was funny to listen to Meg share the inspiration for her characters because many of them have basis in her own life. She “cherry-picked” from her friends and family for traits she liked. “My characters had to be able to put up with Pen the way my friends put up with me.” 
 
As with most fun YA novels, there’s a love triangle in THE MUSEUM OF HEARTBREAK. The decision of who would be the romantic villain and who would be the good guy was based on Meg’s own life experience. Growing up she always crushed on the “not-nice” guys because “you just get caught up in the idea of falling in love.” She wanted Pen, the novel’s main character, to move past the idea and into actually falling in love. For Meg, “the real person you fall in love with might not always be the cutest, coolest guy.” Meg hilariously ended the question’s response with, “he might have smelly socks and bad breath, but he’s real!”
 
If Meg could be any of her character’s besides Pen, she would be “Ephram because he’s so cool and laidback.” She would also want to be Pen’s best friend, Audrey, “because she’s in an exciting time where she’s figuring herself out without Pen and that’s very cool too.”
 
The hardest part of writing YA for Meg are teens, “teens are scary --- especially New York City teens!” She added that teens are far more worldly and cultured than they are typically given credit for, so underestimating them is a huge mistake.
 
When asked about her transition from working in publishing to actually writing a book, Meg explained that she expected to be cooler about it but it makes her feel really vulnerable. It was really interesting to hear her say that “everything you know as an editor goes out the window.” Anyone who has ever written creatively would relate to Meg when she said, “having people read the book and respond to it is surreal.” Meg did have to say that dealing with copy edits was still a horrible experience despite being an editor by trade. She also explained that she writes in a coffee shop in Brooklyn --- not because she likes coffee --- because her cat is a jerk and a distraction.
 
Since everyone in the room was of the bookish variety, it was no surprise that Meg was asked about some of her favorite YA books. Rainbow Rowell’s ELEANOR & PARK is one of her all time favorite books. She binge-read Sarah J. Maas’ THRONE OF GLASS series based on the recommendation of a friend and is now a fangirl waiting for the next book to come out. She also recommended any of Morgan Matson’s books. She couldn’t resist an opportunity to promote some other YA debut novelists. Meg belongs to the Sweet Sixteens group --- a group of YA and MG authors who are debuting in 2016 ---  and had these three books to recommend THE GIRL WHO FELL, GIRL IN PIECES and LEARNING TO SWEAR IN AMERICA.
 
Meg was asked, “when did it first feel real?” Her response was very endearing because for her it didn’t feel real until just then. She had a normal day at home, ironically she watched Tremors 2 with her friend to calm her nerves. As more of her friends and family started trickling in from all over and with everyone who came out that night, she said “ it feels very special.”
 
So, what’s next for Meg Leder? She is working on a YA book about girl, who has a twin brother, with very high expectations placed on her. Instead of New York, which is where THE MUSEUM OF HEARTBREAK is set, this next book takes place in Ohio where Meg grew up.