Emery Lee’s Meet Cute Diary is a wonderfully refreshing pull of a book. In this transgender romcom, teen Noah anonymously runs a “meet cute” blog full of stories about trans people finding true love in the real world. But there’s a catch: nobody knows that Noah is making all the stories up himself. As the popularity for his blog continues to grow, a troll tries to discredit him, launching Noah into documenting a fake romance with a local boy that turns into so much more. But romance in the real world is rarely what is looks like in the media, and Noah finds himself in his own engaging story of self-discovery, self-love, and self-worth.
Meet Cute Diary debuts on May 4th. In the meantime, Emery Lee was generous enough with eir time to answer some questions for us here at Dead Darlings!
Milo Todd: Where did you come up with the idea for Meet Cute Diary?
Emery Lee: The premise basically came to me as a lightbulb moment when I was on a road trip with my best friend and she had what we called an “almost meet-cute” by bumping into a cute guy at an ice cream shop. I was like “can you imagine what would’ve happened if this were a book?” And then the idea of a kid just making a whole blog out of situations like that popped into my head and I wanted to see where it would lead.
MT: I loved the blog comments and DMs sprinkled throughout. They really give it a real-life feel, as well as show the way the blog is changing without stopping the plot. Were those comments/DMs (or the handles) difficult to come up with? Or were they fun?
EL: Thanks! To be honest, those actually came really naturally for me and were pretty fun to sprinkle in. They were largely a shout out to my own blogging days and the types of comments I would see and receive, a range from the sweetest, most supportive people on the face of the planet to people who would come for your life in a second LOL. But it was really fun to just delve into some of the dark corners of the internet and kind of recreate them to fit the fictional world.
MT: There’s a lot of sass/sassy voice in this book. Did that flow from you or did you invent it?
EL: That definitely flows from me LOL. I wouldn’t say I’m quite as sassy as Noah, and I like to think I’m a bit better about bottling that sass when necessary, but writing in a sarcastic, snarky voice was actually very freeing for me because my own inner monologue often flows that way, so a lot of Noah’s voicier comments were just thoughts I had while writing that I didn’t bother to filter out.
MT: Are the “12 steps to love” something you came up with yourself?
EL: Yes, and no? I definitely came up with the names and Noah’s takes on the steps, but they weren’t just pulled out of thin air. I actually did some deep exploration into a lot of my favorite romcoms as I worked out what kind of beats the story should have, so the twelve steps are basically the common beats I found in most of them, broken down into punchy titles and repurposed for this book.
MT: You portrayed the engagement with online fans so perfectly (the neediness, the thanklessness, the drama, the hope, the joy, the good intentions). How did you manage to juggle the messiness of such interactions in so few words?
EL: Experience! I highly recommend authors of YA take some time to just exist in the spaces they’re trying to write in, be that social media or fandom or certain types of hobbies. I grew up using social media and I was on Tumblr up until a few months after I wrote the book, so the general structure and emotions of what kind of stuff showed up in the blog interactions were drawn directly from things I’d seen and experienced personally! Obviously, all the handles and comments are made up, but I think just being a part of these communities for a little while starts to give you this natural understanding of how people work and interact in these spaces which makes it so much easier to write!
MT: This is more of a comment than a question, but I appreciated seeing the pronoun changes for Devin. I felt it was very accurate and helps normalize identity exploration. I also appreciated the themes of healthy relationships and self-respect, especially as trans/NB/GQ people. There’s so much we’re willing to excuse because we’re often taught we should be grateful for any romantic consideration at all.
EL: Thank you!
MT: But back to actual questions! What’s a hope you have for what readers take away from your novel?
EL: Ultimately, this book for me was just a way to fill that desire for a TO ALL THE BOYS-style trans book. Like I wanted all those feel-good vibes and that lovely aesthetic and just all that joy but for people like me, so I really hope readers take that they’re allowed to have that. They’re allowed to ask for that and demand it, and they don’t have to settle for reliving their trauma or being faced with bigotry at every turn. Whatever it is that they want in their stories, they deserve that, and they deserve happiness.
MT: What’s your favorite part of your novel?
EL: Step 12: The Happily Ever After 🙂
MT: Any other books you have planned for the future?
EL: SO MANY! I have more romcoms, I have fantasies, I have adult and MG and graphic novels and…. Like for real, I could go on forever because I have a whole WIP list of like 40+ book ideas, but right now, I’m working on an enemies-to-lovers café romcom and a contemporary fantasy with a slow-burn romance.
MT: If you could say only one thing to budding queer writers, what would it be?
EL: Don’t let anyone try to convince you that you’re niche or unmarketable. You are a person with just as much to say as anyone else, and you should say it.
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. Learn more about em at www.emeryleebooks.com.