Today we shine a spotlight on our newest addition to the Kids team, author Leila Sales! We got a chance to ask her all about her favorite childhood reads, her ideal literary bestie, and gift ideas for all your holiday shopping. Read the Q&A below and come and see us to get some personal recommendations from Leila!
BookPeople: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your history as an author
Leila Sales: I’m the author of six young adult and middle grade novels, published by Macmillan, Chronicle, and Simon & Schuster. I spent the past 11 years living in NYC and working as a children’s book editor at Penguin, where I got to work with all sorts of incredibly talented authors and illustrators.
BP: Can you tell us about your newest book, If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say?
LS: If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say is a YA novel about mob justice in the internet age. The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books described it as, “a thoughtful, compulsively readable story of a twenty-first century teen’s worst nightmare come true.” It’s the story of a teen girl who jokingly makes a hurtful remark online. Her post goes viral, and within 24 hours she becomes Public Enemy #1. She loses her college acceptance, her friends, her entire sense of identity. There are BuzzFeed lists and memes about what a terrible person she is. The novel puts you in her shoes as her world crumbles around her, and then it goes on to explore her attempts to come to terms with what she’s done and to find a way forward.
BP: You recently moved to Austin and very quickly got involved in the local literary scene and started working at BookPeople! What drew you to Austin?
LS: As I was considering where my post-NYC life would take me, my number-one criterion was that it be a place with a good literary scene, where I could find a creative community. That meant whatever city I moved to would need a great indie bookseller, big literary festivals and conferences, and lots of working writers. And of course Austin has all of the above!
BP: Is this your first time working as a bookseller? What have you learned working at BookPeople?
LS: I was a children’s bookseller at a Barnes & Noble in Massachusetts around 2005. There are ways in which working at BookPeople reminds me of that, but many ways in which it’s different. One thing I’ve noticed is just how major the turnover in merchandise is. Most titles that were on the shelves in 2005–even if they worked at the time–aren’t still here. Obviously there are classics and award-winners that stick around for decades. But I remember series that took up full shelves, that I used to get asked for all the time, that are now long gone–because there have been so many incredible new books published since then! It’s a challenge to stay on top of what’s new, but fortunately it’s a lot of good stuff.
BP: What are some of your favorite childhood reads?
LS: When I was a kid, some of my favorite books were Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess; Anne Spencer Lindbergh’s Three Lives to Live; Jane Langton’s The Fragile Flag; Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s Libby on Wednesdays; Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Running Out of Time; Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game; Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy; and of course the entire Babysitters Club series.
BP: What kids’ books have you fallen in love with as an adult? Who are some of your favorite authors?
LS: Some of my favorite kids’ books that I’ve read as an adult (excluding books that I edited and books that my friends wrote, because I am extremely biased toward all of them) are Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity; Ally Carter’s Heist Society; Daniel Handler’s Why We Broke Up; Gabrielle Zevin’s Elsewhere; Kate DiCamillo’s Bink and Gollie; Rebecca Patterson’s My No No No Day; and Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries.
BP: If you could be best friends with a book character, who would that be?
LS: Maybe I just have The Princess Diaries on the brain, but honestly I think I might be best friend with Lily Moscovitz and marry Michael Moscovitz and just take over Mia Thermopolis’s entire life? Or maybe I’d be best friend with Charlotte, from Charlotte’s Web. She would be a very wise friend. Even though I am a little freaked out by spiders.
BP: What literary character do you most identify with?
LS: Harriet, from Harriet the Spy. I’m an only child, I write and imagine things all the time, and sometimes I can be very annoying.
BP: What is your go-to holiday recommendation for a customer shopping for a young reader?
LS: If they’re looking for a Hanukkah book, I recommend Alan Silberberg’s Meet the Latkes. If they’re looking for a reluctant middle-grade reader, I recommend Max Brallier’s The Last Kids on Earth. If they’re looking for a reluctant YA reader, I recommend something by John Green. If they liked Harry Potter, I recommend Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass or anything by Diana Wynne Jones. (See, now you don’t even need me to come into the store; you’ve gotten all my bookselling wisdom right here.)
BP: What gift bundle, including a book and a gift item from BookPeople, would YOU want someone to give you?
LS: I think Abbi Jacobson’s I Might Regret This, because I’m a big Broad City fan and I haven’t gotten to read her book yet (even though I see it on display at the store every day). And a box of cute holiday cards so I can send them to my friends. There’s a display table full of them, and I covet them all.