Okay, so let me back up and set the scene for you a little bit. I had been in a bit of a book slump. I was just kind of meep-merp about everything I was reading. Nothing was getting into my guts. Nothing was hitting my sweet spot.
There was no snap. No crackle. You guys… there was no pop.
So a trusted friend of mine mentioned that she really liked Unteachable by Leah Raeder. Unteachable has been on my Kindle for like, I don’t know, nine months or something. Just a ridiculous amount of time, really. It kept getting pushed for one reason or another. BUT, I was in a slump so I decided to finally crack open Unteachable and give it a whirl…
Guys, I couldn’t put it down. I was like… what… what is this gloriousness?! What is this distilled genius?! What the hell is wrong with me just letting this sit on my Kindle forever?! Why did I wait so long?!!
Answer: I’m an ass.
Now we have me, all crazy crushing on Leah Raeder because she writes like a freaking ninja-poet, slinging words like Chinese Stars or something. Obviously, I had to do an interview.
So. Here we are! Leah Raeder! Thank you so very much for talking with me today!
Best. Intro. Ever. You are so welcome, Kyleigh. If I could just stop blushing so hard for a second…it’s igniting my brain and making the word-slinging difficult…
Seriously, thank you so much for having me. I’m honored to be here, even though I feel totally undeserving of it. This is all still so surreal at times–that I have a book out there, that a publisher is actually printing a bunch of copies to put on store shelves. Somewhere inside me, Little Girl Leah is jumping up and down ecstatically, all wild-haired and starry-eyed, going, “Do you like me? Do you *really* like me?”
First question: Will you marry me? I make a mean pot of coffee, and I’ve been told I am an excellent kisser with very pillowy lips… Just, ya know, if that sweetens the deal at all.
You are just making this blush worse, dude.
Coffee and kissing are pretty much my two favorite things on this Earth. So… I will give due consideration to your offer. Maybe a test run first. Of both things.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Who is Leah Raeder?
This is my nightmare question, ha. I hate talking about myself. I’m just a person. Who likes words. A lot.
I am blown away that this is your freshman novel. The prose! My God, the PROSE! clutches chest I wish that I saw, and felt, and experienced the world the way that you do. Your writing… I mean… it’s art. Where does this all come from?! What were you doing before writing this book?
It’s technically not my first rodeo, so don’t be too impressed. I wrote several novels before it, had an agent, tried to get published, failed. Racked up a bunch of nice rejection letters that said my writing was good but I just wasn’t writing the “right” stories for the current market. I’ve wanted to be a published author since I was a kid, and everything else I’ve done with my life–graphic design and other artsy shit–has just been a diversion. I knew I had to be a writer if I wanted to die happy.
Not sure where it comes from. I think some people just get lucky and discover their true passion early in life. My family was poor, and we didn’t have cable TV or tons of toys, but we always had the library and books, and that was infinitely better. Serendipity, I guess. I’m grateful I figured out my passion young and hung on to it all these years, despite the deluge of rejection and failure. That’s the truly hard part, IMO–not figuring out what you love to do, but holding on while the world tries to tear it away from you.
On the surface this is a story about a love affair between a teacher and a student. Evan, the crazy hot teacher and Maise, the firecracker high school senior. But it is so much more than that. The relationships throughout the entire story are dynamic and engaging and personal. I could relate to so many parts of the story. What/Who was the inspiration behind Unteachable?
Sadly, I don’t have a scandalous origin story for Unteachable. I’m just kinda pervy about teacher/student romances. I love them, devour them, seek them out, read questionably-written ones just for the raw dirty thrill of the forbidden. I’m sure there’s some cesspit of weirdness in my subconsciousness that explains why I like it so much, but really it’s just hot as hell.
Most teacher/student romances fall into one of two categories: passion that ends in heartbreak or tame sugar-coated fantasy. I’ve searched desperately for something in between, something that embraces the wrongness and thrill of the taboo but isn’t irredeemably fucked-up and doomed to end in catastrophe. I never found that, so I wrote my own.
I think one of the reasons that I waited so long to read Unteachable, is that I don’t typically read New Adult. It just doesn’t appeal to me. But Unteachable doesn’t read like NA at all! It is so confidently written and grounded. It doesn’t have that vibe of reluctance that generally turns me off to NA and YA reads.
I am SO GLAD you used the word “reluctance.” That’s a major factor that disappoints me about so much NA and especially YA fiction. The reluctance makes sense: it springs from the uncertainty and confusion of adolescence/young adulthood. But I was an uncertain, confused teen once upon a time, too, and I wasn’t reluctant about throwing myself passionately into disaster. Adolescence is the time when you’re brave and foolish enough to make beautiful mistakes. I embarrassed the hell out of myself, but we have a word for that: living.
So many young characters in contemporary novels seem afraid to live and make mistakes. They wait for life to happen *to* them rather than going out on a limb and doing things, fucking up, failing, living.
I can tell you that this is going to be one of those books that I become unreasonably defensive of. Unteachable is now one of maaaaaybe three books that I will openly admit to judging you if you don’t like it. There isn’t really a question here… just… kinda giving you all a heads-up. #SorryNotSorry.
Dude, thank you. I am seriously humbled. <3
Unteachable has a new cover, and it has also been picked up by Atria! Congratulations! That’s kind of a big deal!
It’s my childhood dream come true. I could die happy now. This is all I ever wanted. When the paperback comes out this Fall, and I walk into a store and see my name shining out at me from a shelf, I am pretty much going to lose my mother-effing mind. There will be A Scene. If you guys want to see a grown woman on her knees crying in the middle of Barnes & Noble, visit Chicago this October.
When I finished reading, I just wanted to start some sort of… I don’t know, some sort of Unteachable Evangelism. Hand out flyers on the streets. Knock on some doors. Witness to some folks. “Can I have a few minutes of your time to share the good works of Leah Raeder with you?”
So, whats next? What do we have to look forward to from you?
I am hard at work (read: softly, gently, sensitively at work) on a standalone New Adult contemp romance/suspense novel. Atria is planning to unveil the title and synopsis this July-ish, with a cover reveal to follow later this year. What I can tell you about it now:
It centers around three characters: the heroine and her two best friends — one female and one male. The three become extraordinarily close. But they’re keeping secrets from each other, too. When one of them does something very, very bad, they’re all forced into an uneasy pact…which soon starts to unravel.
This book is much darker than Unteachable, and much more personal. There are strong themes of mental illness, family dysfunction (as usual in my writing), personal identity, girl/girl love, the way the past ripples out to us in the present, and vengeance versus forgiveness, amongst other things.
Oh, and if you’ve read Unteachable, you’ll definitely recognize one of the minor characters. ;)
Alright, we are going to move this on to the nonsense, rapid-fire portion of the interview.
Celebrity crushes, Male and Female?
Female: Ellen freaking Page (obviously), Jennifer Lawrence, Saoirse Ronan, Teresa Palmer, Kristen Stewart (shut up), Janelle Monae, Charlize Theron
Male: Matt Bomer, Chris Hemsworth, Michael Fassbender, Shaun Sipos, Edward Norton
Oldest thing in your refrigerator?
There may be primordial lifeforms growing in a certain jar of mustard.
Dirty little secret?
I have a secret Tumblr full of, um, hotness. Of the girl persuasion. Ahem.
Most prized possession?
My laptop, but that’s so unsentimental. So…probably the very first Createspace paperback of Unteachable. I MISS YOU RAINBOWFACE.
Favorite way to spend a Sunday?
In my backyard, getting high on the smell of fresh-mown grass, with a glass of bourbon at my side and my laptop on my knees, pretending to write but actually dicking around on Twitter.
I make electronic music. Wub wub wub. Don’t judge.
Let’s make out.
Kyleigh, this isn’t a ques–okay yes.
Favorite book? (other than your own)
Oh, c’mon. I’m not THAT vain. And Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.
Best joke you’ve heard in a while?
God, I never remember jokes. But here’s something funny and/or unforgivably nerdy: one of my characters in a certain online game is from this race of plant people, and I named him Fernest Hempingway.
Favorite song(s) on your iPod?
Lately I’ve been obsessing over “5-HT” by the Good Natured. Reminds me of someone.
A picture of yourself right now?
Leah, thank you so very much for talking with me today. I am a big big fan now, and I’m looking forward to reading more from you!
Dude, Kylez (can I call you Kylez?) (more importantly, can you stop me?), thank YOU so much for having me. I am super grateful for the love and energy people share with me, and the passion they pour into my stories. I’m living a dream here. <3
Let’s do this again sometime. Or just the making out part. #ForScience.
Enter to win a signed paperback copy of Unteachable