Lang Leav is once again making waves in the writing scene—the international bestselling author has just released a new book, but it's not like the previous ones she's written. Her new book Sad Girls is not a compilation of poems, but instead a novel complete with flawed and realistic characters, an interesting plot, and an unusual love story.
Sad Girls is Lang's debut novel and everyone is looking forward to what she can offer aside from her beautifully written and honest poetry. As a fan of Lang myself, I was excited for her novel and bought it the moment it was released in the Philippines. A special edition of the book, which comes with a free bookmark, was released in the Philippines exclusively by National Book Store (NBS).
Aside from the special edition release, NBS also brought Lang Leav back to the country for two book signings (one in Cebu and another in Manila). Before flying to Cebu, I got the chance to interview Lang Leav herself and ask her about her new novel as well as some of her inspirations for writing or life in general.
When asked what inspired her to finally write a novel and not her usual compilation of poems, she said she always had the aspiration to write a novel, "I guess it's one of the things you want to do as a writer." Lang said she remembers the night Audrey's voice came into her head and she couldn't resist bringing her into the world. She felt as if the voice was speaking to her which was why she finished the first chapter in a couple of minutes.
In her new book, Lang chose to write about anxiety, death, and other serious topics rather than the cheesy romance writers usually write about for their debut novel. "I love cheesy romances and I love all kinds of fiction, but I suppose I wanted to write a character that was authentic, [that was] real," she explains. Lang adds that some people tell her that they love Audrey and some tell her that they hate the character, which to her, is really cool because she didn't want to create a character who is perfect, but instead a character who is flawed and isn't necessarily good. She says Audrey is somewhat an antihero in the story.
"I love cheesy romances and I love all kinds of fiction, but I suppose I wanted to write a character that was authentic, [that was] real."
Lang said she created Audrey and all the other characters from scratch and it was all from her imagination. She says she read a poem that said "there are no fictional worlds, only non-fiction in a parallel world" which was what she felt like while writing Sad Girls. "It felt like I was looking into something that wasn't fiction, that it was real, but it was all happening inside my head," she adds. Lang says it was a magical experience creating the characters and writing the novel. She says that for her and her partner Michael, the characters in the book felt real to them and they had their own life force.
"It felt like I was looking into something that wasn't fiction, that it was real, but it was all happening inside my head."
I asked if there were parts in the book that were from her own experiences and she answered that apart from the love of writing and the anxiety, she had nothing else in common with Audrey. Lang also recalls a part in the book where a character talks about visiting the Stonehenge and having pictures taken but doesn't remember being there because he was still a little boy at the time. This scene was similar to when she and Michael were in his parents' house and they were looking at a photo of young Michael at the Stonehenge and Michael says he doesn't recall being there. According to Lang, these tiny details are the only scenes similar to the scenes in the book and nothing major from the book was based on real life.
On the inner front cover of Sad Girls is a quote that reads "Your first love isn't the first person you give your heart to—it's the first one who breaks it" and I couldn't help but ask Lang about her first heartbreak experience. "My first heartbreak, I mean it's a rite of passage to have your heart broken. It's something that I suppose happens in life, [it's something that happens] and you get over and normally happens when you're very young," she replied.
Before Sad Girls, Lang was best known for her poetry compilations Lullabies, Love and Misadventure, The Universe of Us, and Memories. Her poetry talked mainly about love and heartbreak, so I wanted to know where she gets her inspiration from when she writes. "I just get my inspiration from nature, from my friends, family. I suppose ever since I was really young, I've always written and sometimes I don't know where it comes from, I've always felt this very deep emotional well and the need to express it," Lang says.
Lang Leav has inspired a lot of aspiring writers to start writing, but what exactly inspired her to start writing? Lang says it was something she had always done ever since she could remember; she refers to writing as her first love that even though she tried her hand at fashion and creating artworks, "it always started with a blank piece of paper and a pen."
When asked what pieces of advice she could give to those who aspire to be like her someday, Lang simply said "Just read widely—your favorite authors will be your best teachers. Write from the heart, find your voice, and don't be afraid to show your work."
Before the interview ended, we had a round of quick fire questions. Here's how it went:
What was your childhood dream?
"My childhood dream was to be a writer [from the very beginning] for as long as I can remember."
What is your favorite poem that you've written?
"My favorite poem [is] probably 'Sea of Strangers' because it has sentimental value. I remember writing it one night, the whole poem just appeared in my head and I just scribbled it down and I felt this sense of relief. It's about someone you haven't met yet. I wrote that and just a little over month later, I met my partner, Michael, so it felt like that was the first poem I wrote for him."
What is your favorite childhood memory?
"I guess just going to the beach with my brothers, laughing."
What is your favorite fan encounter?
"I remember I was actually in this hotel, I went to use the bathroom and this really sweet girl followed me into the bathroom, she was really lovely and she just asked for an autograph. It was little bit surreal."
What other writing styles have you tried before you realized poetry was the one for you?
"Poetry has always been a major thing; I've been writing poetry ever since I was a kid. I also really love writing comedy but I mainly just write for myself; I haven't really shown anyone my comedy writing."
Poems or novels?
"I can't really choose between the two, I love them both equally."
What is a saying you live by?
"I always say to my readers, 'Remember your words are your power. Never forget your words.'"
What quote from any of the poems you've written describes your life right now?
"I wrote a poem called 'Happiness.' I think that's what probably best describes my life right now because I'm in a really great place, I'm in a really fantastic relationship, and my career's going really well. Everything's great at the moment."
Sad Girls is a coming-of-age novel that will surely leave you wanting more. Lang is having a book signing in Cebu on the 24th and in Glorietta on the 25th. Go and attend the signing so you'd see how nice and lovely of a person she is. Lang says she has a poetry and prose compilation coming out in February (yaaas!) and she plans to write more novels in the future so stay tuned!