By Alaina Leary
Today we are thrilled to reveal the cover for Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee. Cover art by Mariana Ramírez / @motekill. The book will be released on May 4, 2021, by Quill Tree Books. Preorder here!
Noah Ramirez thinks he’s an expert on romance.
He has to be for his popular blog, the Meet Cute Diary, a perfect collection of trans meet cutes and happily ever afters. There’s just one problem: all the stories are fake. What started as idealized fantasies of a trans boy afraid to step out of the closet has grown into a beacon of hope for trans readers across the globe.
When a troll exposes the Meet Cute Diary as fiction, Noah’s world unravels. The only way to save the Diary is to convince his fans that the stories are true, but how can he spin fiction into fact without any proof? Then Drew walks into Noah’s life, and the pieces fall into place: Drew is willing to fake-date Noah in order to save the Diary.
But as Noah’s feelings for Drew transcend their staged romance, Noah quickly realizes that dating in real life isn’t quite the same as finding love on the page. With the Meet Cute Diary and Noah’s heart hanging in the balance, Noah will have to choose between following his own expertise or discovering that some of the most romantic endings are the ones that go off script.
Meet Cute Diary is a YA that hinges on one of my favorite tropes—fake dating. What are some of your favorite romance tropes? Do you have any that you entirely avoid? From a craft perspective, are there romance tropes you love to read/watch, but would never want to execute in your own work?
I think I’ve started to build a bit of a reputation around my writer circles as the “hate to love/enemies to lovers” writer since I end up using that trope in just about everything LOL. I’m also a huge fan of second chance romances, childhood friends to lovers, and sunshine/asshole pairings. I generally avoid writing insta-love unless I’m looking to examine some of the dynamics in it just because it isn’t something that rings true for me. And I don’t like to say that I would never want to try a trope because every time I say that, I end up coming up with an idea about it LOL, so let’s just say I’m open to anything!
It’s still early in the promotional process for Meet Cute Diary, so what can you tell us about Noah and your other characters that will make us fall in love with them and want to read more?
I’ve been sharing little art and factoids and character cards on my Twitter since the book announced just to kind of slip in some of those tidbits, and overall, I think people have really reacted well to Noah’s sarcasm and his love for coffee. He’s just one of those characters who always have a clever retort for everything, and he’s all about his aesthetic and going to coffee shops and bookstores to get the perfect Instagram photos. His brother, Brian, is a kind of jock/himbo type, and he kind of straddles that traditional idea of masculinity while also being extremely supportive of Noah’s queerness. Then there’s Drew whose very much a smooth-talker, Becca, the best friend, who’s a very “smack you over the head and write you a whole dissertation about why you’re wrong” kind of friend, and Devin whose the first trans person Noah meets after coming out, and e’s the artistic/dad joke kind of friend.
As someone who used to work for an online LGBTQ+ wedding magazine, I love the idea of a real Meet Cute Diary centered around trans love story submissions. If Noah’s MCD had been “real” from the start and not partially fiction, what types of stories do you think he would’ve included? What does writing his own story and romance change about Noah’s perspective on fiction vs. reality?
Noah’s all about the super corny, classic rom-com kind of love, so I don’t doubt that those would be the types of stories he’d want on his blog. Anything involving an aesthetic meet-cute encounter and a happily ever after/happy for now would be right up his alley. I don’t want to give too much away about Noah’s journey throughout the book, but I think Noah really comes to terms with the fact that these visually cute romances are just that. Sure, they make for a great Instagram post, but the things that go on behind the scenes are more important than the things we can post online.
What were some of your favorite moments to write in this book?
Oh, God, there are so many! This book was all about having fun for me, but there are also some really heartwarming scenes. I think some of my favorite moments were just writing the dynamic between Noah and his brother Brian because they really play on some of that sibling bickering and humor while also exposing some of the more vulnerable parts of Noah.
If you could be on any panel promoting this book (virtual or in-person, pretending we’re in a universe where that’s safe), what would it be? Who else would you love to have on it with you?
I would love to do a panel on YA romance tropes. Personally, I prefer in-person panels just because I love to get all dressed up and ready to go LOL, and I’d love to have some of my favorite YA romance authors on it—Becky Albertalli, Adam Silvera, Phil Stamper, and Julian Winters.
Do you have any advice for authors, especially emerging or debut authors?
Haha, I’m definitely still learning all of this as I go, but I think the best advice I can give is to build your connections early. I hear people say things like, “I’ll make a social media account after my book sells,” or “It’s not worth networking since I don’t have a book yet,” and that thought process feels so counterintuitive for me. First, when you sell/announce your book, things fluctuate between slow and way too fast, so trying to build up a platform on top of everything else is just so stressful, and building a strong, organic platform takes time so you’ll miss out on the opportunity to build that base. But the more important reason is that having those connections is invaluable. The people I turn to for advice, the people whose shoulders I cry on, the people I scream angrily to at 2 am—these are all people I knew well before my book sold. Building friendships when you don’t have the pressure of “are these people using me for clout?” is huge, and having those connections with you as you go can make all the difference.
You participated in Pitch Wars. What can you tell us about being a part of an online pitching event/writing community like that?
So I actually got my agent through DVPit, and now I’m doing Pitch Wars as a mentor, so the experiences for both have been kind of different while building off similar events. With DVPit, I wasn’t very well-known, and so I just kind of went around interacting with people whose pitches I liked, and I’ve actually made some pretty great friends that way! It’s a cool way to kind of glimpse an author through a snippet of what their work looks like without any awkwardness if their work isn’t for you.
With Pitch Wars, it’s been a very different experience because people know me now, and being a mentor, I’m in this position of power that largely changes the way I interact with people. Getting a chance to meet other mentors and see what kind of stuff they like has been cool, and I think that part’s kind of similar to the DVPit experience. With potential mentees, it’s a little intimidating, actually LOL. It kind of feels like being put on this pedestal where I now have to watch the things I say and act very formal, which is totally different than the way I would normally interact online. It’s really exciting, though, and I think the community building element will be a little easier once mentees are chosen, and we can all loosen up a little more LOL.
What other books do you see Meet Cute Diary as being in conversation with? And do you have any recommendations for published or forthcoming books, especially kidlit?
I definitely think it’s got a bit of a conversation going on with What If It’s Us? by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera in the way they both kind of come at meet cutes from opposite angles and Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender in that both kind of aim for that happily ever after for a trans boy of color, but again, coming at them from different angles. I think in a lot of ways, most queer YA—and even more so looking specifically at queer YA by authors of color—is kind of in conversation with each other because there aren’t that many of us, and so we’re constantly being compared to each other. That means having to know what other books have done before you so you can always show how yours is different, but also kind of carry the conversations started by those books without just completely rehashing them or stepping on toes. As for recommendations, the two above, plus Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas and Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa (out June 2021)!
What is one question you wish you were asked more often (and the answer)?I’m a fan of super wonky questions! Anything that kind of breaks out of the usual mold (like zombie apocalypse or what anime character would you be kind of questions), but within the realm of publishing, I’d love to answer more questions about where I draw inspiration for my characters/stories. Meet Cute Diary was actually drawn from a real-life near-meet cute, and Noah’s basically high school me if I’d realized I was trans back then.
Emery Lee is a kidlit author, artist, and YouTuber hailing from a mixed-racial background. After graduating with a degree in creative writing, e’s gone on to author novels, short stories, and webcomics. When away from reading and writing, you’ll most likely find em engaged in art or snuggling cute dogs. Find em online at emeryleebooks.com.
Alaina (Lavoie) is the communications manager of We Need Diverse Books. She also teaches in the graduate department of Writing, Literature, and Publishing at Emerson College and is a book reviewer for Booklist. She received a 2017 Bookbuilders of Boston scholarship for her work in the publishing industry. Her writing has been published in New York Times, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Refinery29, Allure, Healthline, Glamour, The Oprah Magazine, and more. She currently lives in Boston with her wife and their two literary cats. Follow her @AlainasKeys on Instagram and Twitter.