About Laura

I’m a writer of young-adult fiction, a full-time journalist, an SCBWI member and an aspiring cat lady.

I went on dates with 5 fictional Japanese men. Here’s what happened

I recently came across a Japanese app called “PlusBoys” that was created to provide single women with a doting fictional boyfriend to dine with (I was doing research for a story on the culture of dining alone). Seeing as the English version of the app is free, I couldn’t resist going on a “dinner date” with every single one of these eligible Asian bachelors.

Here’s the low-down on the five men you can date with just a few swipes of your iPhone screen.


First impression: He’s got adorable glasses and he loves to read. Of course he was my first pick.

The date: Oh, heeey, Makoto! Good morning to you, too. Wait…you said good morning, but we’re having dinner?

Um, you’re asking a lot of questions about my health. I have a cold and a “broken” stomach? Am I dying?


If my stomach is broken, should I really be eating? And why do you have a watch on the table? Why do you keep glancing at it? Do I have only seconds left to live?

Makoto, that’s the second book that’s appeared on the table beside you. If we’re having a romantic meal, why are you reading multiple books during our dinner? And why do you insist on discussing my apparent IBS?


Also, you keep looking up at me. Am I a giant? I’m only 5′ 8″. How tall are you again?

You’re cute and all Mak. Can I call you Mak? But you come on a little strong with all the worrying. I just…I don’t think things are going to work out.

Verdict: Overprotective


First impression: Not my type. He’s got this whole I’m-wearing-a-suit-so-I-must-be-important vibe going on, and his profile even reads “He’s a little selfish, but very good at his work. So he’s an important person in his company.”

The date: He greets me with a charming story about “an old man that threw up on the train.” Clearly, this guy is quite the conversationalist.

He then proceeds to remove his blazer and then starts on his tie.

photo 2

photo 3

Uh, Shota, I thought I was here for dinner? Let’s save dessert for later, all right?

Luckily, he keeps his pants on and mentions that he brought back a good meal today. That works. You don’t have to make me dinner every day. Takeout is a nice change.

photo 4

Wait. Why are you smoking a cigarette, Shota? I thought it was dinnertime. I’m hungry! I didn’t eat a thing at Makoto’s, and I don’t even see any food here.


Now you’re making business calls? And you haven’t asked one question about me. Do you realize I’ve been sick? I have a cold and a broken stomach and you don’t even seem to care!

Verdict: Douche


First impression: He’s not much to look at, but maybe he has a great personality.

The date: Right off the bat he asks about my day and starts cooking pasta, so I can overlook the fact that he’s sporting Abercrombie & Fitch.

But then, this move happens.

photo 5

I don’t know, Tatsuya. That was a pretty Shota gesture there. And what’s with these glasses with the hearts on them? And the teddybear?

And wait…what are you doing now? Stop touching my food!

photo 1

You made a heart in my pasta. Um…This is just…moving a little fast for me. You’re great though, really. It’s just that I recently got out of a relationship with this total workaholic and I’m not used to being shown this much attention. So if you could just wrap up the leftovers…

Verdict: Will likely stay up all night watching me sleep


First impression: He seems…sporty. I hope he doesn’t expect me to attend all his soccer games. I do think it’s very cool that he “loves [me] very much,” but I’ll admit I’m turned off by the fact that he’s “usually just thinking about food and soccer.”

The date: You’re making me fried rice? Excellent. I’ll get the chopsticks.


photo 1

Yeah, I’m hungry too. I’ve tried and failed to eat dinner like three times today.

photo 2

Yeah, the food does look really nice. Thanks for making it.

photo 2

Yes, Kazuma. The fried rice is freaking amazing. Let’s just shut up about it, OK?

photo 3

You know what? You should be a chef. Why don’t you go be a chef right now. You’d probably be a much better chef than boyfriend. So just go to culinary school and make your freaking fried rice and talk about how awesome it is with someone who cares.

Verdict: Dude makes delicious fried rice.


First impression: Graphic designer? Bedroom eyes? I can dig it.

The date: (Unlike with the previous boys, the free download entitles me to get the full Yuji experience — 13 whole “stories”)

Welcome home? Why, thank you, Yuji. Sooo are you in my house, or did I move in with you? Because if this is my apartment, I’m gonna have to ask you to lose the cigarette.


You made me curry? I love curry!

photo 4

And you…love me. Huh.

That’s sweet, I guess. How long have we been together? Oh, three months now. Guess we can say the L-word.

Please pour me a beer too. Never mind. I guess you’re the only one who gets beer. That’s cool. I’m on cold meds anyway. Also, my stomach is broken.

Hey, you look pretty stern all of a sudden. What’s up?

photo 5

I should eat three meals a day? Even when my stomach is broken?

photo 2

You’re really insistent about this. OK, fine.

photo 3

Well, that was patronizing.

Um…why do you keep talking about the size of your potatoes and carrot? Is this conversation really about vegetables?


That’s super sweet. What should we do? A trip to the seaside, you say? Sounds great!

photo 1

Wait. Why would we go to the seaside if you don’t like to swim?

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Uh…Yuji, I gotta be honest. That makes me a little uncomfortable.

And are you seriously reading a book right now? Who are you, freaking Makoto? We’re eating dinner! And if you knew I was coming over, why didn’t you make the bed and do a little housework?

photo 2

Seriously? Yes, I said something.

photo 5

Where is this even coming from? How many beers have you had? And my forelock? Am I a horse?

Aaand now you want to be with me forever? That’s sweet, but let’s not talk in terms of forever quite yet.

I don’t mean to brag, but do you know how many fictional Japanese men have asked me to dinner recently? I’m just not at a point in my life where I’m ready to settle down with just one guy’s series of stock photos.

photo 4

OK, fine. I’ll see you later. But you are not watching me bathe.

Verdict: You could do worse.

screen480x480Final thoughts: Unfortunately, to get the full dining experience with all of these guys, by my calculations, it’s going to cost you more than $40. There’s some bizarre pay-per-story system that eventually unlocks the mysterious “Charlie” boyfriend, but it hardly seems worth it as Charlie is likely also a creeper and, despite his American name, his English probably isn’t any better.

Also, there’s no way I can’t explain $40 worth of dates with fictional Japanese men to my real-life husband.


Lauren Oliver’s ‘Panic’ as a K-drama


Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in the legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

* * * Starring * * *


Park Shin Hye (박신혜) as Heather


Sung Joon (성준) as Bishop


Yong Joon Hyung (용준형) as Dodge


Jeon Soo-Jin (전수진) as Natalie

This dramatic series will air on TVN this summer. (But not really. Unfortunately.)

Read more YA Meets Kdrama on these blogs:

Leila Sales’ ‘Past Perfect’ as a K-drama

I only recently discovered Leila Sales‘ books, but I devoured them all in a matter of days. “Past Perfect” lasted me just a few hours, but it cracked me up and briefly made me consider a career as a historical re-enactor.

The book has forbidden love, memorable characters and hysterical pranks between two warring historical villages, so naturally it would make a great Korean drama. (I totally should’ve cast this with photos of the actors in hanbok.)

past-perfectAll Chelsea wants to do this summer is hang out with her best friend, hone her talents as an ice cream connoisseur, and finally get over Ezra, the boy who broke her heart. But when Chelsea shows up for her summer job at Essex Historical Colonial Village, it turns out Ezra’s working there too. Which makes moving on and forgetting Ezra a lot more complicated…even when Chelsea starts falling for someone new.

 * * * Starring * * *

da-heeKim Da Hee (김다희) as Chelsea

nam bo ra

Nam Bo Ra (남보라) as Fiona


Park Hyung-Sik (박형식) as Dan


Kang Ha Neul (강하늘) as Ezra


Eun Ji Won (은지원) as Bryan

This romantic comedy full of hanboks and prankster antics will air on TVN this summer. (But not really. Unfortunately.)

Read more YA Meets Kdrama on these blogs:

Sarah Dessen’s ‘The Truth About Forever’ as a K-drama


A long, hot summer… That’s what Macy has to look forward to while her boyfriend is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother sharing a silent grief at the loss of Macy’s father.

But sometimes unexpected things can happen — things such as meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl’s world upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to wonder, Is it really better to be safe than sorry?

 * * * Starring * * *

macyJung Soo Jung (정수정) as Macy Queen

wesHong Jong Hyun (홍종현) as Wes Baker

kristyJeon Soo-Jin (전수진) as Kristy Palmetto

monicaJung So Min (정소민) as Monica Palmetto

bertKang Min Hyuk (강민혁) as Bert Baker

deliaChoi Gang Hee (최강희) as Delia

momAhn Sun Young (안선영) as Deborah Queen

Read more YA Meets Kdrama on these blogs:

‘Tomorrow, When the War Began’ as a Korean Drama


John Marsden’s international bestseller comes to life in Korea when Ellie and her friends return from a camping trip and find things hideously wrong. Gradually they begin to comprehend that their country has been invaded and everyone in Seoul has been taken prisoner. As the reality of the situation hits them, they must make a decision — run and hide, give themselves up and be with their families, or fight back.

* * * Starring * * *


Kim Da Hee (김다희) as Ellie Linton


Shin So Yul (신소율) as Corrie Mackenzie


Kim Myung Soo (김명수) as Kevin Holmes


Lee Ho Won (이호원) as Homer Yannos


Ha Yeon Soo (하연수) as Fiona Maxwell


Lee Hyun Jae (이현재) as Lee Takkam (Yes, I finally found a role for my #1 k-drama love.)


Yoon Young Ah (윤영아) as Robyn Mathers

This action-packed, high-drama series will air on TVN (as all the best dramas do) in February.

Read more YA Meets Kimchi on these blogs:

John Green’s ‘Paper Towns’ as a Korean drama


Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life — dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge — he follows.

After their all-nighter end, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q learns that there are clues — and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer Q gets, the less he sees the girl he thought he knew.

* * * Starring * * *


Shin Won Ho (신원호) as Quentin “Q” Jacobsen


Jung Eun Ji (정은지) as Margo Roth Spiegelman


Kang Ui Sik (강의식) as Ben Starling


Kim Soo Hyun‬ (김수현) as Marcus “Radar” Lincoln


Kim Yoon Hye (김윤혜) as Lacey Pemberton

“Paper Towns” will air on TVN in January 2014.

Read more YA Meets Kimchi on these blogs:

Lauren Oliver’s ‘Delirium’ as a Korean drama


There’s something about YA writers and Korean dramas. Perhaps, as writers, we just love a good story. Maybe we’ve simply developed an addiction to the emotional highs and lows we experience during a series, and now we crave all-day Viki marathons. Of course, the pretty boys sure don’t hurt.

Honestly, I could dedicate an entire post to what k-dramas have taught me about the art of storytelling — Oh, wait. I’ve done that — and the amazing community they’ve introduced me to. Thanks to this community, I’m now a part of a blog series we’re calling YA Meets Kimchi.

Each week, we’ll be casting one of our favorite YA books as a Korean drama. If you love compelling stories told with a side of love triangles, piggyback rides, angry toothbrushing and, of course, kimchi, check out the following blogs and fangirl along with us.

And now, here’s the Korean drama cast of Lauren Oliver’s “Delirium.”

deliriumThey say that in the old days, love drove people to madness. The deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don’t.

* * * Starring * * *


Ham Eun Jung (함은정) as Lena Haloway


Kim Ji Hoon (김지훈) as Alex Sheathes


Yoo In Na (유인나) as Hana Tate


Yoo Min Kyu (유민규) as Julian Fineman

lena's mom

and Chae Jung An (채정안) as Annabel Haloway

“Delirium” will begin airing Tuesday, September 10 at 9 p.m. on TVN.

I haven’t hit ‘send’ yet… and I think that’s OK

7021397439_ef0100d8d2_nThis post is sponsored by Grammarly.

I’ve been absent from the blog for a while. Apparently for more than a month. Oops. Luckily, I have pages and pages of new words to show for it!

I left DFWcon newly inspired and with all these ideas to make the WIP so much better. Unfortunately, those ideas weren’t the kind of fixes where you weave in another subplot or clarify a character’s arc. Nope. These ideas required an entire rewrite. Another one. (This realization involved much whining to my Twitterbloc critters and much actual wine.)

The massive overhaul of the manuscript was for the best though. I crafted a new query letter before The Writer’s Voice and somehow — this is still unbelievable to me — got six requests for the full manuscript during the contest. (Sometimes I have to go back to Krista’s blog just to remind myself that this really happened.)

Unfortunately, upon receiving those requests, I had to email all the interested agents and tell them the truth: My book isn’t ready yet.

Doing this terrified me. While I know that agents want to see the best work I have to offer, there was a voice in the back of my head whispering, “If you don’t send the manuscript within the next 24 hours, they’ll change their minds. They won’t want it weeks from now. In fact, they’ll tell you never to query them again. They’ll spread the word to all the agents in the world that you’re unprepared and unprofessional! They’ll come to your house and burn it to the ground!”

Needless to say, this didn’t happen. Four of the agents wrote back within 24 hours to tell me that was perfectly fine and that they wanted to read my book when it was ready. Two didn’t respond, but I know they’re busy and I still plan to send them the book when it’s ready.

Now, I’d be lying if I said that taking these weeks post-contest to finish my rewrite doesn’t still make me nervous — like this window of opportunity will close because I couldn’t immediately hit “send” upon receiving the requests. But I have to be fair to myself: I can’t send a hastily thrown-together book out into the universe. This is my career we’re talking about!

This whole experience reminds me of something author Rebecca Petruck said during a writers’ retreat. A friend of mine told her that she’d pitched an agent during a conference and then decided the book wasn’t ready. Now that the WIP was nearing completion, she was worried she couldn’t still send her manuscript because so many months had passed.

Upon hearing this, Rebecca said something that really stuck with me: The agent requested the material because the story interested her. Months may have passed, but she wanted to read it then and she’ll want to read it even now. You’re only helping yourself by ensuring that you send that agent your best possible work.

So while my WIP still isn’t quite ready for agent eyes, it will be soon. And I know that if these agents pass, it’s because the story needs work or because it’s not the right book for them. It’s not because I took the time to polish my manuscript. The real mistake would have been sending them a book that doesn’t showcase the kind of awesome work I’m capable of.

I used Grammarly to grammar check this post because I don’t have time to worry about split infinitives — I have a novel to write!

Photo: Colourful.Threads/flickr

Quick update: DFWcon and class notes

DFWConOver the weekend, I sent my PowerPoint presentation, notes and handouts from the DFW Writers’ Conference‘s “Art of the Interview” class to those who’d requested them. If I forgot to include you on that email (sorry!) or if you missed my class and would like notes, let me know.

Also, I’m now contributing to the DFWcon website, so you can find my posts there throughout the year. I’ll be writing about…well, writing…as well as the conference, querying, publishing and maybe even cats. (OK, I lied. I probably won’t be writing about cats.)

My first post will be about an exciting DFWcon success story from the 2013 conference. I’m talking to the agent and newly signed writer and will share their story soon. It’s a unique one — the agent actually offered representation during the writer’s pitch session — so be sure to check it out!

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend, everyone!

Photo: courtesy of DFWcon

Writing research: Why interviews are better than Google

sledIt’s easy to think of interviews as something reserved for journalists or nonfiction writers, but I’d like to make the case that fiction writers can benefit from them as well. This week I’ve been working on my presentation for DFWcon‘s “The Art of the Interview” class, and one of the things I plan to cover is how interviewing someone can not only bring realism to your writing, but also life and depth.

(We’ll also go over finding sources, interview techniques, helpful apps and what it means to go “off the record,” but I digress.)

I tend to think of there being two types of interviews: the get-the-facts interview and the in-depth interview.

When you’re simply on a fact-finding mission — you need to verify historical data or understand a process — an interview can be pretty short and sweet. A get-the-facts interview is one of the few times I think it’s OK to correspond with an expert only via email.

But if you’re talking to someone with the purpose of developing a character or building a world, then you need to meet with that person. Maybe you’re writing about an FBI agent, but all you know about agents is what you’ve Googled or seen on TV. Maybe you have a character who grew up in a war-torn country, faces a terminal illness, won an Olympic medal or chases polar bears for a living — experiences you’ve never had yourself. Or maybe you have a unique setting — real or imagined — that needs details to help it come to life.

In these cases, it helps to talk to someone who works at Quantico, survived a war or traveled into space. You need to get to know them. You need to see how they talk, think, move and interact with their world. You need to hear their stories. In journalism, we think of this kind of interview as “putting a face to the story,” and it applies to both writing a news article and writing a novel.

signFor example, a few months ago I was working on an article about a tiny Canadian town called Churchill, which is known as the “Polar Bear Capital of the World.” Every year some of the planet’s most deadly predators migrate through Churchill, a town with a population of fewer than 1,000 people. By November, sometimes 60 polars bears can be seen on a given day.

Bears wander up to homes and businesses, and the local “bear catchers” chase them out — and sometimes lock them up in “polar bear jail” or fly them away on helicopters. Tourists flock to the area, blatantly ignoring “Danger: Polar Bear” signs. Clearly, this is an interesting place.

Now, I could’ve written about Churchill by just reporting the facts: how many bears are captured annually, how residents prepare for bear season, etc. But the real story here — as with any story — is the people.

bearsWhat I wanted to know was what life is like in this place. What’s the daily schedule of a “bear catcher”? What do kids think of trick-or-treating alongside an army reserve unit? What’s it like to have a polar bear stick its head through your car window?

Sure, I can Google polar bear facts and email wildlife experts to get the bones of the story, but to really make it interesting, I had to find real people who lived there and get them to talk to me — which is often easier said than done, but we’ll cover that in the session. If I hadn’t talked to Churchill residents, I wouldn’t have learned some of the most fascinating aspects of life there.

For instance, residents leave their car doors unlocked so that anyone can jump inside in the event a bear shows up. And the natural resources officer I spoke with once had a bear charge his truck and total it. Can you imagine? But it’s details like these — memorable, interesting details — that make a story truly come to life.

I love Google as much as the next writer, but it’s no substitute for people.

“The Art of the Interview” class will take place Sunday, May 5, at DFWcon. You can read my story about “The Polar Bear Capital of the World” on The Huffington Post.

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Photos: (sled, bears) courtesy of Manitoba Conservation; (sign) em_j_bishop/flickr