The spark for local author Chelsea Sedoti’s breakout YA (young adult) novel, The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett (Sourcebooks Fire, $17.99), began with an article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal about a missing girl. Sedoti followed the local case, but found herself getting too close for comfort when she started clipping articles about the search efforts. This was when she knew she had a story on her hands.
“It made me think about if there was a character that was similarly invested in a case like this,” Sedoti says. “What if she didn’t know how to stop? What if she got herself in deeper and deeper?”
Although Sedoti published short stories in Patheon magazine and the local Helen: A Literary Magazine (she later read the same story at the 2015 Vegas Valley Book Festival), this was the first novel she wrote, queried and published. If you know the industry, then you understand that this rarely happens—never mind the buzz Lizzie received at popular book conventions such as Book Expo America. It’s clear that readers had been waiting for this book: Bustle.com even debuted a sneak-peek of the novel.
“Every book I ever write will probably be the same way. Everything that happens isn’t quite as important as the personal journey that the characters are going on.” – Chelsea Sedoti
What’s unique about Sedoti’s novel is the introspective, sarcastic voice of 17-year-old Hawthorn Creely, who’s tired of her mundane existence in a sleepy Ohio town. When a former classmate, Lizzie Lovett, never returns from a camping trip, Hawthorn can’t stop herself from investigating, even if it means taking over Lizzie’s old job at a local diner or spending time with Lizzie’s boyfriend who just may have killed her. At first the book has the feel of a mystery, but it soon turns into a story of self-discovery. Sedoti deals with serious subjects, but it’s her dark humor that engages readers.
“There’s the central question of what happened to Lizzie,” Sedoti says. “But it’s always Hawthorn’s story. It’s really a coming-of-age story, first and foremost. Every book I ever write will probably be the same way. Everything that happens isn’t quite as important as the personal journey that the characters are going on.”
Sedoti’s writing process always starts with a character, and it’s this singular focus that has already made her a standout. But as Sedoti’s favorite authors range from John Irving to Jandy Nelson, it’s no surprise that Lizzie has such a distinctive voice. Several early teen readers already contacted Sedoti to tell her that the novel described the way they felt because Hawthorn is so relatable.
“When you know that’s the audience you’re trying to reach,” says Sedoti, “having a teenager say that to you is really special.”
Although Sedoti has interacted with the literary scene in Las Vegas, she’s quick to point out that the city’s circle of YA writers is still emerging, and she’s hopeful about its future. Her next book is set near Rachel, Nevada, just off the Extraterrestrial Highway, set for release in 2018.
“I keep waiting for a point in the process when this will start to feel like real life,” Sedoti says. “Writing is a lot busier than I thought it was going to be. There’s a lot of time spent not writing. I think that’s probably the biggest surprise.”