contemporary middle grade / contemporary YA

Debut Club: Lygia Day Peñaflor Dishes About UNSCRIPTED JOSS BYRD

Lygia spoke about her debut, a contemporary MG/YA crossover just published by Roaring Book Press, with fellow author T.E. Carter. Lygia’s a member of the Sweet Sixteens, an online group for authors debuting in 2016. T.E.’s first novel will be pubbed in 2018.


bookcover.jpgJoss Byrd, Hollywood’s most sought-after young actress, struggles with her mother’s expectations, a crush on her movie brother, and an ambitious director’s gritty script.


We aren’t required to read or review the novels when we prepare the interviews. However, I loved this book so much that I feel obligated to tell you how amazing it is. It straddles the line between MG and YA. The protagonist, Joss, is only 12, but the novel deals with older themes and the story certainly will appeal to older readers, while it’s still relevant to a MG audience.

Having coached actors myself in a past life, I appreciated the portrayal of Joss. While I only worked with high school drama students, many of the same concerns and emotions were still present. In fact, I had a starring actress who was exceptionally talented – and also dyslexic. This touch in the novel hit me personally, because it was handled honestly and accurately.

That’s what I loved most about this book. It felt truthful. I was immediately immersed in Joss’ life and thoughts. They always felt real, even if I’ve never personally lived the Hollywood life. Her experiences are both common for all young girls and also unique and intriguing for those of us who haven’t lived in that world. The novel also gives us a new look at our celebrity-obsessed culture, reminding us of the human element behind the stars (or Bessies).

I was very impressed by the sense of time and place in the novel. I was there when reading. It is contemporary, but I could feel the ocean and hear the voices of each character. In a fairly short read (under 250 pages), all these characters came to life and Lygia completely avoids tropes and clichés.

I planned on reading the novel eventually, but started it and couldn’t stop reading. I really loved it and I think Lygia Day Penaflor is a writer to watch!

You can buy JOSS BYRD here: AmazonPowellsBAMBarnes and NobleIndie Bound



Lygia is a private academic teacher for young Hollywood stars. Her students have included the young casts of Gossip Girl and Boardwalk Empire, as well as I Am Legend. She enjoys writing about teens and has kept true to her teenage self by marrying her high school sweetheart and remembering her locker combination (32-18-12). She lives on Long Island where she is an avid equestrian and old-school roller skater. UNSCRIPTED JOSS BYRD is her debut novel.

You can find Lygia online at her website,, and on Twitter


Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Yes, I always, always, always wanted to be a writer. No matter what else I was doing, I was thinking about it. I started writing seriously toward publication around six years ago because I grew anxious witnessing everyone around me in the film industry living out their dreams. I wanted to accomplish my own goals, too.

What advice was the best you’ve received as a writer?

A writer/producer I really respect told me, “No one will ever knock on your door to ask you what you’re writing.” So true! You have to take risks and show people your work. You never know who will connect with your writing.

 Obviously, you have personal insight into the acting world, especially from the POV of young actors. Did anything in particular inspire the novel?

When I tell my students about Unscripted Joss Byrd, they sometimes respond with a quick, “Oh no!” Of course they’re afraid that the book is about them. The details of living and working on location are inspired by real sets, but Joss, her mother, and their experiences are completely fictional.

What was your publication journey like? How long did it take to find an agent and how was the process once you signed the deal with Roaring Brook?

I was lucky enough to find representation through my first batch of queries. My now-agent, Molly Ker Hawn, requested a full manuscript within 24 hours. She read my book in four weeks. When I got The Call, I swear, it felt like a chair turned around for me on The Voice! In fact, every time I watch The Voice, I remember what it was like to sign with Molly. Editing was wonderful with Katherine Jacobs at Roaring Brook. She truly understood my characters and shared my vision of what this book could be. When she told me we were finished with final edits, I didn’t believe her. I thought the process would be much more complicated; I actually emailed her, questioning if we were really done.


Favorite movie?

I have so many, but since it’s summertime, I have to say Little Darlings with Tatum O’Neal, Kristy McNichol, and very young Matt Dillon. I watch Little Darlings every summer. I love coming-of-age movies.

What kinds of books did you read at 12-18?

As a tween, I loved S.E. Hinton, Judy Blume, Sweet Valley High, and was obsessed with The Body by Stephen King. In high school I was the one student in my class who enjoyed assigned readings—The Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies, Shakespeare. I liked it all, except for Ethan Frome. I still can’t get behind Ethan Frome with all that snow and the paralysis, ugh, so depressing.

Do you have a playlist for this novel?

I must’ve listened to Pearl Jam’s “Daughter” 800 times when I wrote this book. Joss and her mother, Viva, have a partnership relationship as actor and momager. When Viva calls Joss her “daughter” it’s often to show off to others rather than to express affection. Everything about that song is Joss to me.

Any music you loved at 16 that you still love?

I must’ve listened to Pearl Jam’s “Daughter” 800 times when I wrote this book. Joss and her mother, Viva, have a partnership relationship as actor and momager. When Viva calls Joss her “daughter” it’s often to show off to others rather than to express affection. Everything about that song is Joss to me.

Favorite character ever (book, movie, TV, etc.)?

Kevin Arnold in his NY Jets jacket, walking his bike over to Winnie Cooper’s house. Kevin Arnold forever…

Quirkiest writing habit?

Sometimes I need to watch a little Degrassi to get me in a writing mood. (I can’t believe I just shared that.)



TE Carter lives in New England and spends a lot of time reading (everything from comics to classics), writing, and being a proud nerd. That means remaining 100% Team Lannister, debating the best companion (still Amy Pond), and telling anyone who listens that The Walking Dead comic is superior to the show (sometimes a bit too loudly). Her debut novel, I STOP SOMEWHERE, is a searing, heartbreaking story of a lost teenager caught in the wake of a vicious assault and her town damaged by the recession. It will be released Winter 2018 from Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan. TE Carter can be found on Twitter and at


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