Interview With Author Emery Lee
I adore a cozy, happy romcom, and Meet Cute Diary definitely fits the bill! I recently had the pleasure of chatting with author Emery Lee about eir book, the inspiration for it, the importance of joyful trans stories, writing advice, and more!
Can you tell us a bit about Meet Cute Diary and what inspired it?
So Meet Cute Diary is the story of sixteen-year-old trans boy Noah who runs a blog documenting real-world trans meet-cute stories, except all the stories are made up. When a troll threatens to expose the blog as fake, he sets up a whole fake romance in the hopes of proving that the stories are real, and hijinks ensue. The book was inspired by an "almost meet-cute" I witnessed on a roadtrip with a friend that had us wondering "what if this could've been a real life love story" and I loved the idea of writing about a teen who saw the potential for the perfect romance in every day encounters and based a lot of his life around that possibility.
I love the fake relationship trope in romcoms. What made you decide to use that one in your story?
I was riding on the high of watching To All the Boys I Loved Before and just the sheer joy I got from seeing this fun, happy romcom starring an Asian girl. It really made me want to create the same things for brown trans kids.
I read that you draw inspiration from anime, punk pop music, and your own cultures and identities. How did those elements influence Meet Cute Diary?
Noah is triracial, and that very much informs the way he approaches everything from his transness to his relationships to what he values in a cute romance. Though Noah's already out at the start of the book, he does get to play around with his gender for the first time when he gets to Denver, and the way he approaches transition and his presentation I think are very reflective of the way that certain cultures and subcultures see gender less rigidly or even just visually different than what is seen as the default in most white American spaces.
You also wrote Café Con Lychee. How was the process of writing your second book different from your debut? How was it similar?
The actual writing process was wildly different. I sold Cafe Con Lychee on proposal, so it was the first time I ended up actually outlining a book before it was fully finished and I ended up having to write the end of it on a deadline with the expectation that my editor would read it without me being able to go through and edit it on my own. There was way more pressure, and I didn't get to have as much fun with it as I did Meet Cute Diary. As far as the stories themselves, I think Meet Cute Diary is a romcom that both subverts typical romcom conventions while also leaning directly into them. Meanwhile, Cafe Con Lychee is a bit less satirical, but it also leans a little more into elements of identity exploration and some heavier topics.
What do you think is a critical element to a great romcom?
Humor! I think a lot of writers set out to write a romcom and get so caught up in the romance that they forget that romcoms are first and foremost comedies. A great romcom shouldn't take itself too seriously, and it should definitely warrant some audible laughter.
Any advice for aspiring writers?
Something I always tell people is that you don't need to aspire to publication to be a writer. You can just write. You can write and share it with a few friends or strangers on the internet or keep it just for yourself. Sometimes, you have a story you want to write because you love the story, and sometimes you have a story you want to write because you desperately need people to read it. It's good to figure out the difference between the two and really contextualize what matters to you before you burn yourself out on writing seeking publication that you may not even really want. Your dream may not be to be a published author, and that's perfectly fine!
Where can people order Meet Cute Diary?
It's available online everywhere books are sold and I've found it in store at most bookshops. If you'd like to support my local indies, I highly recommend ordering a copy from The Ripped Bodice in Los Angeles or Mysterious Galaxy Books in San Diego.
Where’s the best place to follow you?
I'm not on Twitter anymore, but you can find me on Instagram @ Emeryleebooks, on TikTok @ EmeryLeeWho, or subscribe to my newsletter on my website emeryleebooks.com.