The Sochi Olympics are underway, so we thought it’d be perfect timing to chat with author Lauren Morrill about her contemporary YA novel Being Sloane Jacobs (out now). The book follows figure skater Sloane Emily Jacobs and hockey player Sloane Devon Jacobs. After a chance meeting, the girls decide to switch places for the summer: Sloane Emily tries to fit in at hockey camp, and Sloane Devon trades in her aggressive hip checks for sequins and axels. Think The Cutting Edge meets The Parent Trap. Morrill didn’t plan the Olympic tie in, “I think it was a happy accident,” she told us, but it’s quite fitting that her witty novel about two badass female athletes is available now. Read on for our chat with Morrill who has her own interesting sports background.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where did you come up with the idea for Being Sloane Jacobs?
LAUREN MORRILL: I’ve played roller derby for the past seven years and had tossed around the idea of writing a roller derby book, but I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to go there. But I was really excited about the idea of female athletes and that’s where the hockey and figure skating came in. And then the switch is something I’ve always loved. I love switch movies: The Parent Trap, 17 Again. All of those. I was really excited to blend those two things together.
Have you shut the door on a book about roller derby?
I think I’ll go there some day because in Being Sloane Jacobs I just really loved writing these female athletes and finding their aggression and their competitive spirit. I think a lot of times there are so many books about sports and guys, but there are so many female athletes out there, so I like speaking to them. And I would love to get into the aggression of roller derby in the teenage years.
How did you get involved in roller derby?
There was a reality show called Rollergirls. I watched it, and I really wanted to play. But at the time, I had two broken arms from falling down in my apartment. [Laughs] Probably not a good sign that I should have been taking up a contact sport. So once they healed, I tried out. I was living in Indiana at the time, and played for the Bleeding Heartland Rollergirls. Then moved to Boston, and then played in Boston for four years. I’ve just been totally hooked which is weird because I was never a sports person.
Why did you choose to focus on hockey and figure skating in Being Sloane Jacobs?
Because I’m a skater. I roller skate and this sort of skating is similar. I also had a lot of teammates who were either former hockey players or former figure skaters, so they were able to help me out. I knew a lot of the body movements from playing roller derby. The checking and speed skating and stuff like that. So it was an easier crossover for me to write the action scenes.
Did you have to do a lot of extra research on both sports?
I used my friends. I also went to a Bruins game with a friend who’s a big fan. So he explained a lot about hockey to me. And Nancy Kerrigan wrote a book called Artistry on Ice, and it explains figure skating. I read that book cover to cover many times to try to get down like, “What exactly is a triple axel?”
Why did you decide to use the name Sloane Jacobs?
It just sort of came to me. The last name is common, so it works with the switch. The first name I really liked because I’m a big Ferris Bueller fan, and the girlfriend’s name is Sloane. So that worked out. And I feel that Sloane is a name that doesn’t have a whole lot of personal connotations with it, so it could fit a lot of different kinds of girls.
Switching gears, I know you’ve worked as an extra on some CW shows. How did you get involved in that?
About a year and a half ago I moved with my husband down to Georgia, which is apparently the new Hollywood. They film all these shows here. I’m a big fan of The Vampire Diaries, and right after I started watching it, I found out that it filmed here. So I immediately Googled, “How to be an extra on The Vampire Diaries?” Because as a full-time writer, I have a really free schedule. I started doing it, and then now they film the spinoff The Originals down here too. So I work on both of those shows.
Is being a TV extra your fallback job?
I hope not because it doesn’t pay very well. [Laughs] But I just sold two more books to Random House, and one of them takes place on a movie set because I’ve been working on the shows and have so much on-set experience now.
What else are you working on right now?
I’m finishing up the next book which is called The Trouble with Destiny. It takes place on a cruise ship. It’s a marching band on a band trip on a cruise ship. [Laughs] It’s a little bit more like Meant To Be. There’s a lot of misdirected miscommunication and romantic tension. And then my book after that is called My Unscripted Life, and it’s the story of a very small southern town and what happens when a movie comes to film there and takes over the town.