Between The Lines with Maggie Lehrman

Between The Lines is a sporadic feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which authors and other industry professionals provide further insight into the writing and publishing process in the form of interviews, guest posts, etc. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy as we read between the lines.


About Maggie Lehrman

Maggie Lehrman is a writer whose first novel for young adults, The Cost of All Things, is available from Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins. Her new book, The Last Best Story, is now available and was published August 7, 2018. She’s also an executive editor at Abrams Books, where she works primarily on young adult, middle grade, and graphic novels. (Check them out!) She has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and she graduated from Harvard College with a BA in English. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband Kyle.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterTumblrFacebookGoodreads

5 Things I Learned From Screwball Comedy

My new book, The Last Best Story, was inspired in part by the classic screwball comedy His Girl Friday. It’s about a pair of high school journalists caught up in the best story of their lives, while they’re also finally (maybe) figuring out their feelings for each other.

Screwball comedy is not a genre known for imparting serious life lessons. In the classic 1930-50s era of screwball, the movies were all about silly situations, fast dialogue, mistaken identity, and unlikely resolutions.

And yet, after many years’ study, there are several things I have learned from them, which I will now impart to you.

1. Embrace life’s detours, but also don’t get steamrolled
I doubt this is the message that Bringing Up Baby wants me to take away, but I see poor Cary Grant’s life-ruining day with Katherine Hepburn as a cautionary tale. Whimsy and excitement are all well and good, but maybe also make sure your prize dinosaur clavicle bone doesn’t get buried by the dog, because there won’t always be a quirky heroine’s riches to save your museum. But also, life is never going to go as planned, so try to take the surprise leopards and nights in jail in stride.

2. Banter isn’t the only reason to fall in love with someone, but it helps the time pass on road trips
Companionable silence is all well and good, but you have to be able to talk to someone you really care about. It doesn’t matter what you talk about as long as there’s that spark underneath. I aspire to the level of flirting on display in It Happened One Night, for example. Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert trade zingers for miles. It’s hashtag goals.

3. If you can’t seem to let something go, you probably still have business to work out with it
Is there something or someone that you seem to keep thinking about, or running into, or emailing or looking at on Instagram or driving by their house late at night? That thing is not going to go away on its own. In The Awful Truth, Cary Grant and Irene Dunn keep getting up in each other’s business, even after they’re supposed to be broken up. There’s something they haven’t dealt with yet. I’m not saying you’re going to get back together with every ex you obsess over – but there’s something you need to figure out before you can move on.

4. Don’t let anyone underestimate you, unless underestimating you is all a part of your grand scheme
If people don’t value you for who you are, there’s no point in trying to prove to them how great you are. In Born Yesterday, Judy Holliday’s gangster boyfriend thinks she needs fancying up, but he’s the one who’s the real boor. But also maybe take a cue from Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve: Sometimes letting someone think they’ve got you figured out (and fooling your beloved into marrying you when you’re pretending to be someone else) can allow you to surprise them in the end.

5. Pursue what you love, not what you think you should love
Sure, everyone has to make compromises, but there’s no reason to give up something you love just because you think you want what everyone else has. Date this person/don’t date at all. Go to college/don’t go to college. Start your weird business, keep doing your art, make time for your weekly competitive basket weaving. You don’t want to be Rosalind Russell at the beginning of His Girl Friday, forcing herself to want to marry mama’s boy Ralph Bellamy and give up the job she loves. But in all other possible ways, though, yes, you do want to be Rosalind Russell.

Title The Last Best Story
Author Maggie Lehrman
Pages 352 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Romance
Publication Date August 7th 2018 by Balzer + Bray
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

A witty, fresh romantic comedy, set on one fateful prom night, about two high-schools seniors who can’t quite admit they are in love. Think E. Lockhart meets Katie Cotugno.

It’s the end of senior year, and Rose Regnero is over it.

She’s over chasing stories for a school newspaper no one reads. Over missing out on “normal” high school life. And most of all, over Grant Leitch: editor-in-chief, former close friend, never-quite-boyfriend. Now all she wants is a typical prom, complete with handsome date, fancy corsage, and dancing to cheesy pop songs.

It’s the end of senior year, and Grant Leitch is in denial.

He’s in denial about handing over the reins of the paper to an unworthy underclassman. In denial that Rose suddenly, inexplicably quit the paper and now won’t talk to him. But mostly he’s in denial that she is at prom with another guy, and it’s no one’s fault but his own. Grant’s only hope of luring Rose back to him (and the paper) is a juicy story she won’t be able to resist.

In the end it takes a toga-wearing prom crasher, an emergency lockdown, a secret stalker, and a wild after-party to bring Grant and Rose together for one last story…and one final chance to admit that they’re made for each other.

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