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Lang Leav Talks About 'Sad Girls,' Her Inspiration, and More

Author of many celebrated books and now the novel 'Sad Girls,' Lang Leav serves as an inspiration to aspiring writers of all ages. But what inspires the inspiration herself?
IMAGE National Book Store

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).

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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.

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"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."

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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.

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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.

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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."

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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."

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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.'"

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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!

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"Concerts, football, pastel colors, and boys in bands are kinda my thing. Oh, and I also like writing and sunflowers.
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Serene Fae A day ago

"The paradoxical idea of attaining a happier life and how to withstand these beliefs."

The Revolting Truth About Happiness by Theserenefae

If people ask you about your vision of a happier life we automatically envision ourselves having more money, true love, a better job, Instagram-worthy vacations, etc. But let me break this to you this, According to Dr. Laurie Santos, Professor of Psychology at Yale University and the voice behind The Happiness Lab podcast, "Most of the goals we think would make us happy do not really make us happy." And why is that? Simple, being happy is all in our minds. The human mind ploys us with these lenses on how we envision ourselves and our lives to be happy. The perception of "having" or "gaining" is the exact opposite of what will truly make our lives better. So how can we really be "happy"?

• Seek happiness inside you. This is a quintessential reason for our vision of happiness: misconceptions about having a lot of money would make me happy; owning this and that would make me happy; entering a relationship would make me happy. This is not the case, if you want to be truly happy with your relationship, you have to be already happy on your own. If you want satisfaction from others, you have to be satisfied with yourself. And so on.

• Fill that hole righteously We all have that tiny hole inside our hearts, tampering it with temporary band-aids. Fill this hole with purpose. Have you ever heard about The Three "M's"— Master, Mission, and Mate? Define who will be your Master, is it God? If that's so, your Mission could be following his words and will. Mate would be the last for they will be the best companion to fulfill your mission. Now hear me out, it is important to do this accordingly. We often times jumble it or invert it which can lead to failures.

• Give gifts to others. The wonderful grace in giving. There’s nothing like the rush of pure joy when you get a chance to give. However, this may not be something that we're used to. But apparently, openhandedness is our soul's true shape. As Eugene Peterson put it, "Giving is what we do best. It is the air into which we were born." This doesn't necessarily mean we have to give away our stuff but we can also present love, kindness, gratefulness, etc. in our own simplest ways to anyone such as giving time, encouragement, helping hand, or even forgiveness. Try giving and you'll receive inconceivable gifts in return.

• Savor moments. Savoring deeply intensifies our positive emotions while doing something that we love the most by simply stepping outside of the experience to review and appreciate the moment. You can practice this by having a delicious meal, reading a good book, or any activity that you enjoy and love. It can also be enhanced by sharing these experiences with others, appreciating such amazing moments, or staying present the entire time.

• Choose to Love Deeper Today's society relentlessly pressures all of us to have this "perfect" lifestyle such as pursuing careers that drain you, finding value through virtual world and purchases, letting achievements become your whole identity, and yet after all that you still feel empty and failure inside. Consumption is just skin deep—a shallow perception of happiness. Deep life brings the best out of us and others. It is about nourishing what you already have, focusing on the relationships than material wealth, becoming vulnerable at times, and being self-aware.

• Understand that Sufferings and Pain are part of Human Being. Always remember that loneliness and sufferings are inevitable. That is completely how life goes. You may be happy for a moment or a month but sooner or later great tribulation will start to kick in. Combat despair with graciousness. Count all the blessings that you have (and will have in near future, claim it!) by writing it down on a piece of paper or typing on your phone. Viola! an instant boost for happiness. We all know the fact that this superficial happiness won't work, but why do I keep on wanting? I already have all this wisdom about how to be happy for ages, but why can't I apply it to my own life?

First, you have to understand that simply knowing doesn't change your behavior. Care to realize that all the tips that I have mentioned are all verbs? Because at the end of the day, it is all about how you choose to be happy and initiate actions towards success. Know, reflect, visualize, believe, and do something about it. All of these are Actions! This is the secret of all the happiest and most influential people in the world—actions. Furthermore, do know that some of these tips do not work instantly most of the time. It requires a lot of time, motivation, consistency, and effort. I do know it's easier said than done. Take each of them slowly, one step at a time.

If it wasn’t for pain, I wouldn’t be alive. It may sound contradictory, but it’s true. Pain reminds me that I can feel, along with other emotions. Pain reminds me that I can heal, just like how I did in the past. Pain reminds me that I am strong and I can do better. It reminds me that life can be bitter, and it is up to us to make it a little sweeter (or saltier, depending on what the person wants).

With this epiphany, I take pain in a positive light. It’s normal that it can break me and make me want to stay in bed all day, but having someone or something remind me that there is hope is enough. It’s normal that I cry my heart out, but it’s important to remember that there’s a calm after the storm. If it wasn’t for pain, I wouldn’t be who I am now. It has shaped me and how I look at things. It has changed the way I approach circumstances that can challenge me and my beliefs.

Pain, back then, made me cower in the dark. Pain used to be my biggest fear, and I used to do my best to avoid pain. However, I realized that avoiding pain is like avoiding life. Because of how I wanted to protect myself, I closed myself off to people and opportunities. I used to tell myself that “this will end badly”, or “this is going to hurt in the end”. I always focused on how much pain I might endure in the end that I forgot to enjoy the process.

It’s inevitable, you see? Endings, most of the time, may hurt. It’s natural for us to grow attached to someone or something, and their disappearance might bring us a lot of pain. However, one should always remember that the pain is a reminder of how close you became, how many memories you had. If it wasn’t for pain, life would be pointless. If it wasn’t for pain, we would be nothing.

margaux marie A day ago
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