Interview with Authors Sofía Lapuente & Jarrod Shusterman

By: Michele Kirichanskaya
Feb 3, 2023

Sofía Lapuente (she/her) is an author, screenwriter, and avid world traveler who immigrated from Spain to the United States to realize her dream of storytelling. Since then, she has received a master’s degree in fine arts at UCLA, worked as a producer and casting director on an Emmy-nominated show, and received co-author credits in Gleanings, the New York Times bestselling fourth installment of the Arc of a Scythe series, with her partner, Jarrod Shusterman. Together, the couple writes and produces film and television under their production company Dos Lobos Entertainment.

Jarrod Shusterman (he/him) is the New York Times bestselling co-author of the novel Dry, which he is adapting for a major Hollywood film studio with Neal Shusterman. He is also the co-author of the accoladed novel Roxy. His books have all received critical acclaim and multiple-starred reviews. Sofí Lapuente and Jarrod are partners in every sense of the word, with love and multiculturalism as an ethos—living between Madrid, Spain, and Los Angeles, California. If they are not working, it means they’re eating. For behind-the-scenes author content and stupidly funny videos, follow them on Instagram and TikTok @SofiandJarrod.

I had the opportunity to interview Sofí and Jarrod, which you can read below.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Sofi: Hi there, Jarrod and I are partners! I’m from Madrid, Spain so English is a second language for me—and I immigrated here to make my dream real of writing stories. It’s important for me to represent strong female protagonists, my Hispanic culture, and to make sure everyone feels included in our books <3

What can you tell us about your latest book, Retro? What was the inspiration for this project?

Jarrod: It started with the thought, that considering all the apps and algorithms, do we really have control over our own thoughts, or does technology? We also heard this crazy concept, that ever since the advent of the smartphone humans have become cyborgs, with our computing systems in our pockets. We’re not the same. It’s like that moment we discovered tools and moved from monkey to man. It happened in our lifetime and it made us think, Why aren’t there more YA books that not just include technology, but talk about it.

Sofi: It got us thinking, can we really live without our smartphones? And in our book RETRO that’s exactly what the characters have to do. They take the Retro Challenge— and if they can make it the whole year without those smart devices they’ll win a full ride scholarship! And they’ll do it in style, dressing in vintage gear and living life like a fun retro movie. Only when contestants start going missing, it’s up to our protagonists Luna and her friends to figure out who is sabotaging the challenge, or maybe they’re next. RETRO is a fun guilty pleasure thriller where you go on this adventure with all these characters who end up being your new best friends! Get ready to laugh, cry, and devour the book like a serious Netflix binge!

How did the two of you come together to work on it?

Jarrod: Sofi and I met rather serendipitously in LA—and we were both working in the Film and Television business at the time, while I was also working on my first novel DRY. After a few months of being together we decided to merge our dreams together and start writing screenplays and novels, and here we are! It’s so amazing to work with your life partner, and you really learn interesting things about them, like: would you go in that burning building? Would you throw a milkshake in jerk person’s face? What would you do if you were kidnapped? Most couples don’t play those scenarios out over dinner, but we like it this way 🙂

Sofía Lapuente Photo Credit Diego Bravo

As writers, what drew you to the art of storytelling, specifically young adult fiction?

Sofi: For me, as an adult, storytelling is the last true form of magic in the world. You can transport to any place, in any time, you can be anyone and live a thousand lives. And YA fiction is special because it’s about such an awesome formative time of your life. I was also drawn to the amazing industry of YA literature. We have found a world of librarians, teachers, and readers that are some of the coolest people we’ve ever met. And every time we meet a YA author we know that we have so many shared experiences, it’s like we’re the only people in the world who really understand each other. Signings and conferences can be stressful, but in the end, it’s a form of therapy. And the reason everyone is so cool is because we’re writing for young people, so there’s a responsibility, and it makes you a better writer and a better person.

As writers, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration in general? 

Jarrod: I would have to say we are really influenced by ALL media. We’re incredibly influenced by music, and that’s why every chapter title in RETRO is a throwback song, making the index a playlist—that has a QR code so you can listen while you read! I picked up a lot from my father’s books, Neal Shusterman, because when your dad reads you bedtime stories of people getting ‘Unwound’ and ‘Gleaned’ it kind of makes an impression as a kid. And we take A TON from movies and television. Because series aren’t afraid to cross genres, and we think the literary world is moving in that direction too. RETRO is the kind of book that dabbles in many genres, from thriller to drama to comedy with the right amount of romance and chili-pepper spice! 

Sofi: I really appreciate activism. People who fight for the LGBTQIA+ community, feminism, and the immigrant community to name a few. That’s why our characters are so diverse. Because it represents my reality as a Hispanic immigrant and I’m a part of all the aforementioned worlds! 

What are some of your favorite elements of writing? What do you consider some of the most frustrating and/or difficult? 

Sofi: My favorite part about writing is definitely when we are shaping the premise and have stars in our eyes. Everything is flowing together, and we are just so excited about the potential of the project. We LOVE to develop fun and quirky characters. And there is no more satisfying feeling than to give voice to these interesting people we are creating—and definitely in an inclusive way that makes everyone feel a part of the story! The most frustrating part is when you’ve written your characters into a corner and you have to get them out, which we all know as ‘writers block’ but there is an easy way out, which is just do research, research, research. The more you learn or invent about your world or characters the more creative pathways you’ll be able to fluently come up with! One of the most difficult parts is definitely after the drafting phase. Rewriting. It’s the most important part of the writing process because it’s when everything comes together and finally takes form as a finished project, but taking notes and applying them and deleting things that you love is just so painful for writers. It’s like your little darling is undergoing surgery, and they are making you do it!

Aside from writing, what are some things you would want others to know about you?

Sofi: I love to travel the world with Jarrod! My fist language is Spanish and I have an accent like Puss in Boots <3 I am really passionate in general and I love to laugh loud, dance and party. I’m obsessed with food and it is obsessed with me. I have a really high tolerance for spicy food and we have competitions all the time (and I always win) As a kid I wasn’t incredible bookish, so the passion for reading came from a passion for communicating and storytelling!

Jarrod: We want people to know that we’re really accessible people and we’re always making fun behind the scenes author content and videos on TikTok and IG: @sofiandjarrod You should definitely follow us because we are always doing these contests to see whose name gets to be in our book (there are five winners who are in RETRO) and we often do free giveaways of Advanced reader copies. We just have a ton of fun being ourselves online, and if you ever have a question or something we’ll usually always respond!

Jarrod Shusterman Photo Credit Diego Bravo

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet but that you wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?

Sofi: This is a great question! We’ve always wanted to hear: “Can I get a ticket to the movie premier?” Because one of our big dreams is to have one of our books adapted, by us, into a movie or a television series. Having started our journey together in Lalaland, California, working in showbiz, there is a huge part of our hearts stuck in that golden age of Hollywood. There’s something so transportive and romantic about it, we simply can’t get enough. Oh, And of, course, the answer to that question is: YES! You are so 100% Invited!”

What advice might you have to give for aspiring writers?

Jarrod: I would tell any aspiring writer that although this is an art form, but more so it is a craft. You have to put in your ten thousand hours or more, and they need to be quality hours. Find a mentor, even if it’s just a book or a master class. Have the humility to accept notes/criticism, and recognize that you are not a reflection of your art, your art is a reflection of you. Don’t take things personally when you didn’t execute something masterfully or have to erase scenes. Because erasing should be easy for a writer, because they must trust in their craft, and in themselves that they can recreate any scene! The first fifty things I wrote totally sucked, so don’t be surprised if your first fifty short stories or scripts or outlines suck too : ) Hey, maybe they don’t suck as bad as mine and you already have a better starting point than I did. Basically, I would say just keep writing, and with the right guidance and effort, you will get it!

Are there any other projects you are working on and at liberty to speak about?

Sofi: We are currently finishing up our first Adult novel, which we’re about to begin showing publishers this year, so we’re quite excited about that. It’s a dramedy inspired by my crazy life, and my friends’ lives, as Immigrants in the States. Because there’s tough parts to life, but also there’s a lot of warm moments full of friends, love and laughter. Life has highs and the lows—and for us we want our books to always be entertaining—with just the right amount of romance. We’re even developing the second YA novel as well, which we are super excited to write. But it’s a secret project at this point! 

Finally, what books/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT? 

Sofi: As for YA we are fans of Kat Cho, Claribel A Ortega, and Adalyn Grace—who wrote BELLADONNA. Then there’s Gina Chen, Alex Aster, Stephanie Garber, Susan Lee, Kristin Dwyer, Margaret Stohl (and the list goes on)! LEGENDBORN by Tracey Deon is amazing, and Adam Silvera’s books like THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END are a must. There’s also our long-time favorite by Nancy Farmer called THE HOUSE OF THE SCORPION, which you have to check out! But we are biased because we’re all friends! <3

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