5 May 2016

Breakfast with Neruda by Laura Moe

Michael Flynn is just trying to get through his community service after he made the dumb decision to try to blow up his friend's car with fireworks--the same friend who stole Michael's girl. Being expelled and losing his best buddy and his girlfriend are the least of his problems: Michael has learned to hide everything, from his sick hoarder mother to the fact that he's stuck living in a 1982 Ford LTD station wagon he calls the Blue Whale.
Then one day, during mandatory community service, he meets Shelly, a girl with a past, who's also special enough to unmask Michael's deepest secrets. Can he manage to be worthy of her love, a guy living in a car, unable to return to his chaotic and fit-to-be-condemned home? Shelly won't give up, and tries to peel back the layers of garbage and pain to reveal Michael's immense heart.

"Moe uses lyrical language to introduce teenagers whose problems go beyond bullying or unrequited love. She treats Michael's unusual home situation with realistic grace, while the relationship between the two teenagers is organic and interesting. A summer long punishment becomes a sensitive, thoughtful novel."—Kirkus Reviews

Hi Laura! What inspired you to write Breakfast with Neruda? 
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly who or what will incite a story within me. For this one, one of my students was bemoaning having to do several weeks of community service at school to make up for excessive absences. At the same time we had been having bomb scares…All the elements fell into place and Michael Flynn and his story was born.

How did you come up with the idea for the cover? 
My editor wanted a cover reminiscent of the early poetry books of Pablo Neruda, so the cover artist designed it based on her preferences.

If it was made into a movie, who would you like to play the main characters? 
I pictured Nat Wolff as Michael as I wrote it, and Tommy Lee Jones as Earl.

Is it part of a series or is it a stand-alone novel? 
I hadn’t meant to write a three book series, but shortly after I completed what I thought was a single novel, Michael and Shelly appeared in a dream and started yelling at me. “There’s more to our story!” I was writing the sequel while simultaneously working on edits for Breakfast For Neruda for my publisher. And now I am drafting what has become a third, and I believe final book or these characters.

Where is the novel set and why did you choose to set it there? 
The setting is in Southeastern Ohio. I spent more than twenty years living and working in this area of the state. Rooster itself does not exist, but elements of it resemble Zanesville and the communities around it.

What is it about this genre that appeals to you so much? 
The teen years are such a vulnerable, passionate time of life. My teaching career was spent in largely high schools, and I think I’m still a teenager at heart. Not that I want to relive those days. Being a teenager now is even harder than when I was young.

What made you want to become an author? 
I love books, libraries and bookstores, and I wanted to contribute to literary canon.

How do you come up with character names? 
My characters usually tell me their names. Sometimes when a character appears and I don’t know his or her name I’ll type in something like TALL DUDE until he reveals his name.

Do you struggle to come up with book titles? Do they come before, during or after you've written your book? 
Titles are almost as difficult as drafting a novel for me. I want the title not to be a spoiler, yet to place its hands around the story. They almost always come after I’ve written the book. After reading an early draft of what is now Breakfast With Neruda, my evil friend Elizabeth suggested I call it A whole Lotta Smirking Going On because of my overuse of the verb ‘smirk.’ In my Word file it’s till called ‘Michael Novel.’

Name one of your all-time favourite books? 
I’m glad you asked ‘one of,’ because all readers know we have many, many favourites. A standout that comes to mind is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I read it in Junior high, and recently reread it for a book discussion group.

Who, or what, inspires you? 
While much of my work is from my wild imagination, some of the things that happen in my work derive from real life. Sometimes a news story will intrigue me or an event from my or a friend’s life.

Where is your favourite place to write? 
I do my best work in a coffee shop where I block out the world wearing noise canceling headphones as music helps guide my words.

What is your favourite movie that was based on a book?
I think To Kill a Mockingbird stands up as well as the book.

Name two of your favourite authors. T
wo of my top authors are Ray Bradbury uses such poetic syntax and of course, the poet Pablo Neruda for words that elevate.

Tell us a random fact about yourself. 
I got tossed out of the high school library for two weeks for tying a kid’s shoes together when he fell asleep..

Who would play you in the movie about your life? 
I’d love it if Meryl Streep was on board, but more likely Shrek would have to play me.

Tell us an interesting fact about where you live.
I recently relocated to Seattle, but where I lived and wrote this book in Ohio is one of the two places in the world with a Y shaped bridge.

What are your (writing) plans for the future? 
I’m finishing a draft on Book Three (no title yet) and will either revisit an adult novel I abandoned a couple years ago or begin a new YA. I won't know until the characters and their stories find me.

Tell us one thing that's on your bucket list. 
I’m planning to build a mantle for my imaginary Oscar for best adapted screenplay.

Favourite myth / fairytale? 
I always loved Rapunzel. I wanted her hair.

Who/What did you want to be when you were a kid? 
A writer, of course. 

A high school teacher and librarian, Laura Moe is a published poet (in journals included Mischief, Caprice, and Other Poetic Devices), but her great love is fiction. This is her first novel.


  1. I grew up in a home cluttered with stuff. I didn't consider my parents hoarders because we had just "moved in and never unpacked." Then I tried to help my mom get rid of things. I hadn't understood as a child why she was ashamed of where we lived until I got into adulthood. I think more people are hoarders than we realize and yet they're only starting to get representation in the public eye. Probably because we tend to hide it.

  2. Your comment is so astute and sad. We moved around too much when I was a kid to become hoarders, but I've known people who won't let go of things. It's a psychological disorder and not easily solved.

  3. Your comment is so astute and sad. We moved around too much when I was a kid to become hoarders, but I've known people who won't let go of things. It's a psychological disorder and not easily solved.


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