Interview: L.C. Rosen discusses Emmett, Emma, and what he has coming next

Emmett by L.C. Rosen. Image Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
Emmett by L.C. Rosen. Image Courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. /

L.C. Rosen’s newest book is Emmett. It’s a queer, modern-day interpretation of Jane Austen’s Emma and it’s just as fun and messy and romantic as you might expect. While Emmett Woodhouse tries to live a very particular life, he finds it hard to keep to his rules as he tries to play matchmaker for his former friend with benefits and avoid his condescending former friend whom he “used to” have a crush on. Like I said: it’s messy!

As a fan of anything to do with Jane Austen, I could not have been more thrilled to read this book. And I was even more excited to be able to interview the author, L.C. Rosen.

He talks about everything from Emmett and Emma to how he got the idea for the book and what he has coming up next.

Author L.C. Rosen discusses his latest book, Emmett

Culturess: How did you start writing this story? What was the first spark that made you want to write Emmett?

L.C Rosen: I’ve always been in love with Austen’s quote about writing Emma – how she wanted to write a character no one would love but her. I delight in a flawed protagonist, but I’d never really done condescending know-it-all flawed, and that’s what Emma is, and why I love her. But that idea just sort of floated around in my mind for a while until a romance panel I did with Nicola Yoon, Sandhya Menon, and AR Capetta, where we talked about happy endings and what a happy ending looked like for YA romance – I’ve always been sort of nervous about the big romantic finishes because I think it’s a weird thing to tell teens, whose lives are just beginning – yes, you can find the love of your life now when your brain isn’t done growing. And after that conversation it all sort of came together, from Emmett’s ‘no romance until 25’ mentality to the romantic hyperreality of the novel.

Culturess: What drew you to Jane Austen’s Emma with this story?

L.C. Rosen: Well, Emma herself. Her attitude, and that Austen quote I mentioned. I wanted to write a condescending know-it-all who maybe did not know it all after all.

Culturess: Loss is a big issue when it comes to the choices Emmett makes, especially when it comes to relationships. Can you talk a little bit about why that’s such an important part of the story?

L.C. Rosen: Yeah, it’s something I’ve always sort of wondered at in Emma. The book opens with her mom already dead and her mother figure leaving because she’s getting married. Emma is taking care of her hypochondriac father and determined not to marry – there’s something in all that that’s never explored, I think partially because at the time a dead parent wasn’t so unusual. But if you look at the threads – and the fact that in the book, many of Emma’s peers also have a dead parent – there’s this sense of Emma sort of floating over it all because if she touches the ground she’ll have to deal with the sadder realities of her life. So she turns to matchmaking and riddles and picnics and meddling, and it’s wonderful, but there’s something sadder underneath it all. With Emmett, since he has this specific no romance until the 25 rule, I wanted to explore more of the why. Why would he feel this way? His father’s hypochondria and his mother’s death seem directly tied together, so wouldn’t his own avoidance be part of that, too?

Culturess: Boundaries are a very interesting part of the story. The boundaries Emmett draws and the ones he thinks he draws with his friends, his father, and even with himself in some ways. Can you talk about the importance of boundaries in the story?

L.C. Rosen: What an interesting question. I think for Emmett, the boundaries are about neatness, tidiness. This relationship is going to be like this, and only like this. That makes him feel in control. It makes his world feel as though it’s operating on set rules – he will have sex with this person, he will be friends with this person, he will have a romantic relationship when he’s 25. All of this to avoid, essentially, the grief he sees has traumatized his father (and which in turn has traumatized him). In Emmett’s mind, boundaries keep things clean, and clean means no messy emotions. But of course, the world doesn’t work like that, as the falling flower petals are constantly reminding him.

Culturess: How would you describe Emmett’s journey throughout the book? He definitely goes through a bit of a transformation in how he thinks about certain things and certain people (MILES).

L.C. Rosen: Spoilers! But yeah, of course, Emmett has to change. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a romance. It would be a story of a young man living a very tidy life and never ever opening himself up emotionally because to do so would be to invite pain, and he’s terrified if he experiences pain he’ll end up like his father. So I knew he had to change, and for that to happen, he had to get things wrong. Luckily, Emma provides a perfect blueprint for that.

Culturess: What is one thing you want readers to take away from Emmett?

L.C. Rosen: Love and relationships are messy, no matter how neat you want them to be.

Culturess: What are you working on next? Anything you can tell us about?

L.C. Rosen: Well, I had three books out this year, so next is a rest. But I have the third Andy Mills (Lavender House, The Bell in the Fog) book out next fall, and then in 2025, I have three more books – the sequel to Lion’s Legacy, the fourth Andy Mills, and an as-of-yet untitled YA rom-com that’s sort of like a Hallmark Christmas movie, but Halloween instead of Christmas.

Next. Read an excerpt from Slay by Laurell K. Hamilton. dark