EXCLUSIVE: Lori Goldstein Talks ‘Sources Say’

You know what my quarantine has been missing? Fun books that make me laugh while still keeping me grounded in the reality we’re all living in. I didn’t know I would find just that exact combination when I picked up Lori Goldstein’s Sources Say, but I found not only that, but also smart, sharp writing, and a really, really interesting study on the expectations we place on other women, and the ones we place on ourselves.

Fangirlish had a chance to talk to author Lori Goldstein about Sources Say, where the idea came from, what the intentions behind the book were and what being a writer is like, especially during quarantine! Check out our interview below, and don’t forget to check out our review of the book here.

1. Sources Say reads like a cheeky YA take on the current political climate. Was that intentional or was it a more general thing that ended up, without meaning to, fitting with the current state of the world?

The tone and aim of SOURCES SAY was definitely intentional. I had the benefit (and stress!) of a quick turnaround time from when I first pitched to my editor the YA that would follow SCREEN QUEENS to what would be that new book’s publication date. While this meant a very tight deadline for writing the novel, it also meant that I could play on what was going on in the world and specifically in the US and know that it would still be timely when it came to the novel hitting bookshelves.

2. The book also takes aim at the idea of “fake” news vs honest news, and very skillfully uses the high school setting to explain a larger issue that we’re constantly dealing with in scenarios with higher stakes. What was the thought process behind bringing in this idea?

The idea for SOURCES SAY came about during a somewhat lively discussion (argument?!) with my nephews. We were talking about the pros and cons of things like Reddit and using social media as a way to get your news. With myself, his uncle, and his mother all having journalism degrees, we clearly had a strong viewpoint on this issue from a more traditional, dare I say “old school” news bent. But as we talked further, I became fascinated by the notion of how we now get our news—adults, but especially teens who have grown up in a very different world than I did. The access to information from sources and channels that didn’t exist even ten years ago is a double-edged sword, creating questions that teens need to grapple with, like how do we know what sources are “trust-worthy”? In this age where the president tweets about #fakenews and the line between fact and fiction seems to blur, what message are teens getting? This very issue has been making its way into school curriculums, and I wanted to add to the conversation by exploring it in fiction.

3. Do you feel you wrote a political book hidden in the middle of high school drama or the other way around? 

Definitely a political book hidden in the high school drama—at least that was my aim! Reading is such a wonderful escape, for myself as well, and as an author, my goal is to ensure my readers have an enjoyable time while flipping pages. That means a great story with fun surprises and complex characters with emotional journeys that are relatable and engaging. That all has to come first.

And yet, I could not have written this book if I also didn’t hope that while immersed in the story, readers would begin to think about the issues central to the concept. And these are important and entirely bipartisan: what does it mean to be part of a democracy, to have the right to vote, to not use that right? How does our media cover and treat our political candidates? What responsibility do journalists have in relaying the news? What responsibility do news consumers have for parsing out what’s real and what’s fake—and how do you begin to discern the line between those things in a world where we are inundated with news and rumors and social media? The character of Cat says the journalism of her grandfather’s day is not the journalism of hers, and that’s true. Everyone—journalists, politicians, and the public—needs to begin to adapt, but that doesn’t mean truth no longer matters. It’s the only thing that does matter. I want readers to never stop believing that and seeking it.

4. The most important relationship in the book is that between sisters Cat and Angeline. Why was it important to tell a story about sisters first and everything else second?

While this novel is about big topics, it’s also about small ones—the relationship between the two sisters being the most important. This is ultimately a story about family, both biological and found, which I’ve come to see is a consistent theme across all my novels. This has likely happened because as an author, I believe characters are the most important part of a story. They are who we follow, root for, and sometimes love to hate. It is their character arc, the goals they are striving to achieve, the obstacles they face, and the emotions they experience that ultimately keep readers reading. While romantic relationships and friendships are certainly paramount in all our lives, especially those of teens, I think there’s something about the experiences you have with a sibling or a friend/relative close enough to function in that capacity that are so formative for the adults we become. Exploring that through sisters who are ultimately very different in almost every way but who realize they need each other still, above all, was part of this novel from the first notes I jotted down.

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5. I will admit the book was nothing like what I expected from the description – I expected a more serious, romance-heavy book. Was your idea always for the book to be what it was, or did it shift as you were writing it?

That’s super interesting in terms of the description, as that was not our intent. We may have to take a look at it! The book was always designed to be a sister story first, to have fun and humor, as that’s always part of my writing style, and to incorporate the political and media components in a story that would see a large cast of characters, each of whom grow and change through the experiences of the novel—and through their interactions with one another. The romance aspect between Angeline and Leo was always a thread, but never the main one. Angeline’s goals and career aspirations were always intended to come first and be pitted against Cat’s same, though very different, desires and ambition.

6. What have you been doing during the quarantine? Tell us what shows you’ve binged or books you’ve read!

Quarantine has found me feeding my creative soul in a few different ways—I’ve become quite adept at re-painting rooms in my house, for one! I have been enjoying small, inexpensive ways to make things more cozy be it rearranging furniture, changing lighting, or a new picture or pillow here and there. But I’ve also been writing a lot, grounding myself in the stories I want to tell. And I’ve been fortunate to continue my creative writing teaching with Grub Street remotely. My workshops this spring and summer have been as inspiring for me as the instructor as I hope they’ve been for my students. I always read and this quarantine time has been no different: some of my favorites include Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, which I simply cannot rave enough about, Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty, who I think is just a master at creating twists you never see coming, and Dear Martin by Nic Stone, which is as engaging as it is timely and important. I’m just starting You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson and love it already! For TV shows, I tore through Mindhunter, Sex Education, The Good Place, and am slowing myself down on Schitt’s Creek because I cannot bear to have the Roses be out of my life! 

7. What’s your writing routine? Do you have a set writing time or are you more of the “let’s wing it” type?

Winging it is not in my vocabulary in really any aspect! I’m definitely a Type A personality, and my writing is no exception. I’m a dedicated plotter, spending anywhere from four to eight weeks creating my characters and plotting the novel. My outlines can be anywhere from forty to eighty pages. I have a general sense of how long the novel will be and when I want my first draft completed. This way, when I start writing, I have a weekly goal for word count, which allows me some leeway if there’s a day where either the words come slower or I have too many other commitments but still keeps me on track for finishing. I think having goals and accountability is important. I schedule out my month at the start, blocking out time for writing, teaching, editing (as I also work as a manuscript consultant), and, in times like now, book promotion. Some months are heavier on some things depending on my workload, but I’m always either plotting or writing something. That’s the thing I prioritize over all else.

8. If you had to give one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Find a writing friend (or two!) whom you can trust implicitly. I have a couple of writer friends, who are now just “friends,” whom I’ve known for going on seven years now. We’ve launched our books together, we’ve served as critique partners and brainstorming buddies, and we confide in one another, sharing our hopes and disappointments. This isn’t an easy industry, and while there are high highs, there are low lows. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be writing without them.

Sources Say is available on Amazon.

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