Interview with Emmy Laybourne, Author of Momument 14

Emmy Laybourne is the author of Monument 14, a new YA post-apocalyptic tale about a world gone mad.  Natural disasters and toxic chemical spills make life very difficult for the young protagonists scrambling to stay alive.  Emmy dropped by the virtual offices to chat about her book.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Emmy Layton] I’m a YA novelist, musical theater writer, and recovered character actress who is also a mom to two kids and a lizard (adopted)!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Monument 14?

[Emmy Layton] Monument 14 is the story of fourteen kids who get trapped in a superstore (think Target) during a series of environmental catastrophies that leaves the world outside the store hostile and dangerous. It’s the story of how the kids come together and try to survive and take care of each other, despite their differences. 

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Emmy Layton] The idea for M14 actually began as a musical! I wanted to write a musical about a small colony of people living in a Wal-Mart. But then I decided to write it as a YA novel and everything changed. The only character who remains from my original notes and ideas for the musical is Astrid! In the musical idea I had a wild girl living up above the ceiling tiles. Astrid is that wild girl!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the book?

[Emmy Layton] It was hard to take characters that I created (and really ended up loving) and put them through so much anguish. Especially the young ones. As an author, I knew that the story needed to really move fast, the characters needed to be in danger and the tension needed to stay high until the very end. As a mother, well, I just wanted to make everything okay. The mommy part of me wanted to make NORAD find a way to quell the airborne chemicals and have Mrs. Wooly show up in a new bus to take all the kids home to their loving parents!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Dean?

[Emmy Layton] Observant. Kind. Honest.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Jake would never have in his pocket?

[Emmy Layton] Great question! A calculator. A pack of raisins. A condom.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Alex’s single most prized possession?

[Emmy Layton] The analog alarm clock he took apart and put back together when he was five.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Emmy Layton] Authors Anne Lamott, Kent Haruf, and Lynda Barry; UCLA professors Howard Suber, TIm Albaugh and Richard Walter; and the ten years I spent as comedy improviser.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Emmy Layton] At least 4 straight, uninterrupted hours; a good breakfast with plenty of protein; and my Classical Radiohead playlist on Pandora!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Emmy Layton] Hold Me Closer Necromancer, by Lish McBride. I loved the characters, the tone, the setting AND the story! It was such a cool world – it made me want to move to Seattle and work in a fast food joint and you really can’t say that about every book you read!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Emmy Layton] Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel. I read it as a 13 year old and it completely cracked my world right open. The latter installments are basically pre-historic romance novels but don’t cast aside CCB because of them. CCB has a brilliant, tragic plot that is nail-bitingly tense and deep, down-body good.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Emmy Layton] I love writing country song lyrics! I really do. I’m working on one right now called Jackpot about a man who’s determined to gamble his life away until his lady-love comes back to him!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Emmy Layton] I would love to connect with my readers on my website: or on Twitter @emmylaybourne. They can follow my blog tour via links on my webpage, too. Thanks so much for having me here at Manga Maniac Cafe!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order Monument 14 from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below.  Available in both print and digital.

Review: Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne



   Title: Monument 14

   Author: Emmy Laybourne

   Publisher:  Feiwel and Friends

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Your mother hollers that you’re going to miss the bus. She can see it coming down the street. You don’t stop and hug her and tell her you love her. You don’t thank her for being a good, kind, patient mother. Of course not—you launch yourself down the stairs and make a run for the corner.

Only, if it’s the last time you’ll ever see your mother, you sort of start to wish you’d stopped and did those things. Maybe even missed the bus.
But the bus was barreling down our street, so I ran.

Fourteen kids. One superstore. A million things that go wrong.

In Emmy Laybourne’s action-packed debut novel, six high school kids (some popular, some not), two eighth graders (one a tech genius), and six little kids trapped together in a chain superstore build a refuge for themselves inside. While outside, a series of escalating disasters, beginning with a monster hailstorm and ending with a chemical weapons spill, seems to be tearing the world—as they know it—apart.


I am fascinated by post-apocalyptic stories.  I enjoy books where the disaster is unraveling without warning, forcing the protagonists to find hidden strengths and somehow survive the ensuing chaos.  In Monument 14, Dean, a high school student, is running late for the bus.  In his America, set a short-time in the future, there is a gas shortage, so everyone takes the bus to school.  His mom is yelling at him to hurry up and get outside, or he’ll miss his ride to school.  Racing out the door, he doesn’t even have time to tell her good-bye.  As one disaster after another plays out, he begins to regret that he didn’t take that extra time.  It is starting to look as though he won’t ever see her again, let alone live to tell her about his really, really bad day.  I liked the urgency of the opening paragraphs – Dean doesn’t have time to do anything but barrel to meet his fate, and making that bus is going to have some alarming consequences for him.

A freak hailstorm destroys the bus and almost ends Dean’s life.  Saved from a certain and painful death, Dean ends up in a superstore with a group of very different kids, running a spectrum of ages.  With nobody but themselves to depend on, they have to work together to survive as one disaster after another wreaks havoc to the world outside.  They actually have it good, considering the magnitude of the disasters that are unfolding outside.  Secure in the store, they are safe and have plenty of supplies as they wait to be rescued.  But as it becomes apparent that there isn’t going to be a rescue, they must take matters into their own hands.  Should they stay safe inside the store?  Or should they venture out into the unknown and look for their parents?

I enjoyed this read, despite some pacing issues.  I also had to suspend disbelief in order for this story to work for me.  The prose was strong enough that I decided to just sit back and follow along as Dean narrated his adventure.  Circumstances weren’t all that dire for the kids because they were in the store, and thanks to riot gates, they were also safe from the evil bad guys who wanted in.  I did get a little annoyed as the older boys spent most of their time goofing around, being unproductive and not towing their end of the line.  I hated Brayden and didn’t think I would have minded that much if something really, really bad happened to him.  He and Jake, football god extraordinaire, were so counter-productive and so predictable.  All they offered up was opposition to efforts to get settled in for the long haul. 

Dean is a little too passive for my tastes, and I wasn’t always convinced by his voice.  I did like him, though, and wanted him to survive his ordeal.  Events were also a little humdrum during the middle of the book, only picking up near the end.  I occasionally found my attention wandering and had to take a few breaks during my reading.   Even though I thought the pacing was a little slow,  I was fascinated with the personality conflicts as Dean and his new friends struggled to survive. The non-ending was irritating, but I liked this book enough to follow with the series.

Grade:  Waffling between a B and a B-

Available in Print and Digital

Review copy provided by publisher

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Waiting on Wednesday–Cold Fury by T. M. Goeglein

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

Cold Fury by T M Goeglein looks great!  Sara Jane has to save her kidnapped family all by herself! Good thing she has a .45 to help protect herself.  I hope this read is as gritty as the cover.


Jason Bourne meets The Sopranos in this breathtaking adventure

Sara Jane Rispoli is a normal sixteen-year-old coping with school and a budding romance–until her parents and brother are kidnapped and she discovers her family is deeply embedded in the Chicago Outfit (aka the mob).

Now on the run from a masked assassin, rogue cops and her turncoat uncle, Sara Jane is chased and attacked at every turn, fighting back with cold fury as she searches for her family. It’s a quest that takes her through concealed doors and forgotten speakeasies–a city hiding in plain sight. Though armed with a .45 and 96K in cash, an old tattered notebook might be her best defense–hidden in its pages the secret to "ultimate power." It’s why she’s being pursued, why her family was taken, and could be the key to saving all of their lives.

Action packed, with fresh, cinematic writing, Cold Fury is a riveting and imaginative adventure readers will devour

In stores July 2012

What are you waiting on?

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