Tag Archives: Cycler

Guest Reviewer: Lauren McLaughlin
Guest Reviews
February 14, 2009 posted by Nikki

Guest Reviewer: Lauren McLaughlin

Lauren McLaughlin is the author of the quirky tale, Cycler. We interviewed Lauren a few months ago and now we’ve got another McLaughlin treat for you. She’s been kind enough to sit down and review one of her own fave YA novels for your reading pleasure.

She chose Cintra Wilson’s Colors Insulting to Nature.

Colors Insulting to Nature – Cintra Wilson

Cintra Wilson’s Colors Insulting to Nature is a teen novel that’s not quite a teen novel. Though it follows the escapades of fame-hungry Liza Normal throughout her teen years and into young adulthood, it does so with the knowing backward gaze of someone who’s survived the whole ordeal.

Liza Normal is a singer of very modest talent who, largely because of the deluded longings of her topless juggler mother, dreams of being famous. No amount of failure or rejection can weaken this desire and we follow Liza all the way from her mother’s disastrously comic re-staging of The Sound of Music (complete with topless juggling) to her cabaret debut as dominatrix, Venal de Minus. Liza never achieves her goal of becoming so famous that “people will see me and cry,” and that is the subversive point of this novel. You can’t have everything you want if only you try hard enough. Dreams don’t come true. And why is that? Because your dreams are stupid, that’s why.

Talk about a refreshing twist on the coming of age tale.

The story takes place in the eighties and is so chock full of achingly detailed cultural references that reading the novel is like re-living that decade. If you’ve ever seen the movie Ice Castles (and if you’re over thirty, be honest, you have) the novel is worth the price of admission merely for Wilson’s brilliant deconstruction of that film. I never realized until I read this novel just how central to my development as a sexual being that underwear scene was. Colors is full of just this sort of cringingly self-aware detail. And smack in the middle of it all is a love story that is as brutal as it is sexy. Liza’s high school relationship with the cruel, witty, and gorgeous Anton is in many ways a mirror image of the savaging she receives from the world at large. That she loves him just the same is the extra twist of the knife. But then who among us hasn’t, at one time or another,fallen victim to a disastrously potent longing for someone who has contempt for us? And isn’t this in essence what we’ve done to ourselves as a society by allowing mass media to re-engineer our most primal human desires into a vain quest for fame. In the end, it’s this unflinching examination of our unhealthiest desires that distinguishes Wilson both as a storyteller and as a cultural critic. That she also manages to evoke genuine vulnerability and tenderness˜especially in Liza’s relationship with her best friend–elevates the novel above mere satire. Wilson is not pointing a finger and laughing at these characters. Nor is she asking us to laugh at ourselves. That would be letting us off too easy. This is a novel of ideas that implicates the reader by making us want Liza to achieve her deluded goals,even as we criticize her for having them.

Author Interview with Lauren McLaughlin
Author Interviews
December 9, 2008 posted by Nikki

Author Interview with Lauren McLaughlin

Lauren McLaughlin is no stranger to the world of writing. Before she started writing books, McLaughlin spent her time writing screenplays for a living. Her debut novel, Cycler, hit shelves a little earlier this year and caught our attention here at yaReads. To read the book review, click here

Lauren was kind enough to sit down with us for a quick Q & A session about her work, and life as a writer.

Cycler is your debut novel. In your own words can you give us a quick description?

Cycler is the story of a teenage girl who turns into a boy four days every month. In her attempt to hide this fact from the outside world, she inadvertently splinters off a separate personality with a mind of his own.

Is Jack supposed to be a metaphor for PMS?

The story drew heavily from my own mind-bendingly awful experiences of PMS, but Jack is much more than a metaphor. I never establish the precise reason for the cycling or for Jack’s splintering because I wanted readers to draw their own conclusions. But I definitely didn’t intend for Jack to be merely a symbol of something else. I wanted him to breathe, to have life. I guess in some ways, he’s an amalgam of those parts of ourselves that we can’t accept. Beautiful parts, angry parts, ugly parts, uncomfortable parts.

Which character did you enjoy writing more, Jack or Jill?

Jack, of course. Jack basically sprang from my head fully formed, did a little dance, and said “look at me!” I could relate to Jack on a very profound level, whereas Jill took some getting to know.

You nailed the male voice well – did you find writing Jack a challenge, because you’re a female writer? Did you do any specific teen-boy research for him?

I’ve never found it particularly difficult to write male characters. All characters are unique and different from me, and gender is only one aspect of a character’s personality. I’ve always had very close male friends and I grew up with a brother. That plus plain old empathy make it possible to envision life from another’s point of view. Also, my husband, who is very much like Jack, provided daily inspiration.

Although it does it in a comical way, Cycler raises some interesting questions about gender roles. Is hermaphroditism and transgender something you have an interest in?

I have an interest in gender as a broad topic, but mostly because I think far too much is invested in it. We actually know very little about the subject and yet as a society we spend a lot of time talking about it, fighting about it, and constantly adapting our thoughts and feelings on the subject. I’m a firm believer in equality and freedom and I don’t think individuals, or society for that matter, benefit from strict gender rules. But I also think that a lot of people enjoy playing with the rules. Take, for example, male transvestites who often embrace the most stereotypical feminine traits. They’re playing. I’m interested in the ways in which we construct gender in an ever-changing way using biology and culture as jumping off points.

How long did it take you to write Cycler?

The project began as a screenplay in the mid nineties. I never finished it but it never fully went away. When I started writing fiction, I remembered how much I loved the idea and got right to work on the novel. It turned out very different from the original screenplay and it took me about a year and a half to write.

Do you have any specific routine or rituals you do when you sit down to write?

I can write anywhere at any time, but if I’m having trouble focusing I put on headphones and listen to Bach. Eventually, I’ll branch out into other music and each project will wind up with its own playlist that helps me get into the right frame of mind. I also do extensive outlining but my outlines don’t survive very well. I’m a big planner and a big destroyer of plans.

Can you tell us about the playlist for Cycler?

Okay this is going to be embarrassing as there are some very old songs from my childhood there and I don’t even know why. But here goes, my Cycler playlist in order:

Horse With No Name by America
Nights In White Satin by The Moody Blues
As You Are by Travis
Big Ideas (bootleg version) by Radiohead
Dollars and Sense by Radiohead
Skip Divided by Thom Yorke (are you seeing a pattern here?)
Black Swan by Thom Yorke
Fake Plastic Trees by Radiohead
The National Anthem by Radiohead
My Body Is A Cage by Arcade Fire
The Golden Age by Beck
Off You by the Breeders
Amsterdam by Coldplay
Cheers Darlin’ by Damien Rice
Landslide by The Dixie Chicks
Sara Smile by Hall and Oats (I’m cringing now)
Us and Them by Pink Floyd
Hey by The Pixies
Gigantic by The Pixies
A Wolf at the Door by Radiohead
Creep (live) by Radiohead
You and Whose Army by Radiohead

Basically my project playlists evolve according to a logic I can not divine.

Listen to Lauren Mclaughlin’s playlist!

Did you find the process of finding a publisher hard or easy?

I got lucky with this one. Though I’d been publishing short stories for a while, I had trouble selling my first novel. With Cycler, I got an agent through a recommendation from one of her writers. She sold it in within weeks. She’s good.

You had trouble selling your first novel? Can I assume that it is yet to gain publication? Are you planning on trying to get it published now?

I have not sold it and have no plans at this moment to attempt to sell it. It’s a space opera and something I was very proud of at the time I finished it, but it feels very foreign to me right now and I’m not sure I’m in the right frame of mind to polish it. I have not, however, ruled out turning it into a surrealist road fantasy. We’ll see.

You’re working on a sequel, when is that due out?

It’s due out in the fall of 2009. I don’t think they have an exact date yet.

Can you dish any info regarding the plot?

I can tell you it does not take place in Winterhead.

Is it true you’re working on a screenplay for Cycler?

I’ve already written the screenplay for Cycler and I’m in negotiations with a producer right now.

You have a screenwriting background, right?

Yes. I wrote screenplays for about ten years before turning my attention to fiction. I’ll still write the odd screenplay now and then, but my real love is the novel.

What are your fave books/authors?

I’m a big fan of Meg Rosoff and Cintra Wilson. Colors Insulting To Nature is a great book about a teenage girl that’s not quite a YA novel. I love Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway in particular. I love Kurt Vonnegut and William Gibson. I’m still discovering the wonderful world of contemporary YA but I think it’s a rich genre. Scott Westerfeld and Justine Larbalestier come to mind.


I’m a big Star Wars geek. I also love The Philadelphia Story and anything with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in it. I love musicals.

What are the best and worst things about being an author?

The best thing is the final draft. A story doesn’t even really exist until it all comes together at the end. It’s like an emergent phenomenon. The whole writing process, up until that point, is a battle for clarity over what exactly is the soul of the story. And it’s only after I’ve stumbled upon it that I even recognize it. Which brings me to the worst part of writing: everything that comes before that moment.

On that note, do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

My advice is to read a lot, live a lot and write a lot. Those with sufficient hunger to pursue a story to the bitter end, don’t need any outside inspiration and probably already know who they are. The ones I feel for are the ones who *think* they want to write but lack the obsessive commitment to see it through. I think especially when you’re young it’s important to push yourself further than you think you can just to see what’s inside you. Maybe that obsessive commitment is there but hiding underneath other things – like laziness, self-doubt and procrastination. If, after pushing yourself, you find that the obsession is not there, that’s okay too. In fact, count yourself lucky. As far as the business side of things, I’m still figuring that out.

A big thanks to Lauren for taking the time out of her busy schedule to chat with us! If you want more information about Lauren, you can check her out at www.laurenmclaughlin.net