After finishing Love and Other Natural Disasters, I knew I had to see if Sugiura wanted to chat. I was a huge fan of This Time Will Be Different, so I’ve had Sugiura’s next release on my list for ages now! If you’ve been looking for a romcom obsessed teen who finds out love in reality is way different than the movies, then Love and Other Natural Disasters is for you.
Love and Other Natural Disasters
When Nozomi Nagai pictured the ideal summer romance, a fake one wasn’t what she had in mind.
That was before she met the perfect girl. Willow is gorgeous, glamorous, and…heartbroken? And when she enlists Nozomi to pose as her new girlfriend to make her ex jealous, Nozomi is a willing volunteer.
Because Nozomi has a master plan of her own: one to show Willow she’s better than a stand-in, and turn their fauxmance into something real. But as the lies pile up, it’s not long before Nozomi’s schemes take a turn toward disaster…and maybe a chance at love she didn’t plan for.
The relationship between Nozomi and her Baba is incredibly important in the story for Nozomi. Can you talk about your inspirations for this character relationship?
Baba is one of my favorite characters; as a reader might guess from the dedication, she’s a combination of my two grandmothers. My paternal grandmother was an art lover. She especially loved Gaugin, and she gave my family a big book about Impressionism and the Impressionists, which was how I first learned about the art of art, so to speak. We shared a love of dreamy romantic stories. My maternal grandmother was a stubborn, contrary character, but she doted on me. She’d take me on walks, buy me sweets, and teach me to do whatever craft she was interested in at the time; she was always busy with something. She suffered from dementia late in her life, and some of the details of Baba’s decline are taken from the time I spent with her then.
If you could give Nozomi one piece of advice at the beginning of the book, what would it be?
Max keeps telling her to live in the real world instead of in her fantasy world, which I think is good advice for Nozomi—not that she would listen to me!
Can you think of a few songs that remind you of this book?
Definitely “Can’t Help Falling In Love” by Elvis Presley (and covered by pretty much everyone). It’s so romantic, and it’s featured a couple of great rom-coms. The version by Lick the Tins is the closing song in Some Kind of Wonderful, one of my favorite John Hughes movies, and Kina Grannis sings it in the Crazy Rich Asians wedding scene; it makes me well up every time. If I were making a soundtrack for the movie I’d also include Lizzo’s “Good As Hell” for Nozomi’s first days in San Francisco. She doesn’t quite reach the levels of self-confidence that Lizzo expresses in that song, but I think she’d have it on her playlist and blast it on her earbuds to make herself feel confident.
Nozomi can be fixated sometimes on romantic endings like we might see in a movie, what are some of her go-to romance films?
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, of course! But she’d also love Crazy Rich Asians (So glamorous! So romantic! Gemma Chan!) and there’s a sweet, wonderful Australian rom-com featuring two teenage girls called Ellie and Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt) that I know she’d love.
Which side character was the most difficult for you to write?
Probably Willow. I can’t say too much without spoiling the story, but I had a hard time pinning her down. I’m still not sure I have her exactly right.
Another relationship I loved was between Nozomi and her brother. How was it for you to create their relationship?
Writing Nozomi and Max’s scenes was one of my favorite parts of writing this book overall, especially when Max pushes Nozomi’s buttons to make her mad for his own entertainment. I feel like that’s such an older brother thing to do. I feel like we don’t see a lot of novels where the siblings squabble and get on each other’s nerves as much as I did with my own siblings, and as much as my own kids do. So I tried to channel all that sibling button-pushing, squabbling energy into Max’s and Nozomi’s relationship losing their underlying loyalty and their love for each other.
Did you always know who she would end up with when you came up with the idea of the book?
Yes and No. Without spoiling things too much, I always knew who she’d end up with, but that person’s relationship to the others changed drastically over the first couple of drafts.
About the Author
Misa Sugiura’s ancestors include a poet, a priestess, a samurai, and a stowaway. Her first novel It’s Not Like It’s A Secret, won the Asian Pacific Islander American Librarians’ Association’s Award for Young Adult Literature; her highly acclaimed second novel, This Time Will Be Different, made the Best of 2019 lists of YALSA, Kirkus Reviews, the New York Public Library, and the Chicago Public Library. Her short story, “Where I’m From” appears in Come On In, a young adult anthology of stories about immigration. Her latest book, Love & Other Natural Disasters has been praised by the American Library Association as “hilariously awkward” and “honestly poignant.” You can find her online at misasugiura.com and @misallaneous1 on Twitter and Instagram.