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By Maureen Lee Lenker
May 13, 2020 at 09:00 AM EDT
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Makeup Breakup
Credit: St. Martin's Press

Imagine two rival app developers, one focused on making break-ups more impersonal and another focused on helping couples work through relationship issues.

This is the central conceit for Lily Menon's Make Up Break Up, a new romance hitting shelves next February. Menon is the pen name of YA author Sandhya Menon, who has become a best-selling author with her breezy, frothy YA fiction like When Dimple Met Rishi. Make Up Break Up is her first work of adult fiction, but Menon promises there's still plenty of her signature humor and fun in store for her dedicated readers. Get your exclusive first look at the cover below.

Make Up Break Up follows Annika Dev, creator of app Make Up, which has been dubbed the "Google Translate for failing relationships." Annika is dismayed to learn the flashy developer Hudson Craft, with whom she had a Las Vegas summer fling, is moving into the office right next to hers. She's particularly perturbed because his app Break Up, known as "Uber for break-ups," is the antithesis of everything her life's work stands for. The two rival developers clash, but Annika can't help but be drawn into Hudson's world, which leads her to wonder if she's had him all wrong from the start.

We called up Menon to talk everything from her jump to adult romance to researching women in tech to the bright pops of color that make her cover stand out. Read more after the cover image.

Makeup Breakup
Credit: St. Martin's Press

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This is your adult fiction debut – what made you want to make the jump from YA?

LILY MENON: I've been an adult romance reader for a very long time. I've really just devoured adult romantic comedy in every possible form and shape like all the Meg Ryan movies, all the Julia Roberts movies, all the Sophie Kinsella books. It really just felt like coming home in a way, and I wanted to do this for a while. I had written a few YA books, and my editor on the adult side approached my agent and asked if I had any interest in writing an adult rom-com and I just completely jumped. I don't think the words were out of her mouth before I was like, "Yes, I want to do it."

Did the pen name come at the behest of your publisher to distinguish from your YA work? Why did you opt for that?

That was a mutual conversation.  I actually brought it up to my publisher, because I remember in the '90s when Disney started doing Touchstone Pictures, and they wanted this differentiation between their family movies and their R-rated movies. It was very much the same thought process. I have such a great stable of my readers, about half of whom are actual teens. I wanted to make sure that they knew that this was something completely different because the book does have sex in it. And not all teens are ready for that or want to read that. So, this is just a very important distinction for those readers.

What appealed to you about setting your story in the world of the tech industry? I'm not sure if it's Silicon Valley or somewhere similar. 

They're actually in L.A., but it is California. I am a huge fan of women in tech. This is my second book that has a woman in tech as the heroine. I remember reading this statistic that percentage-wise, compared to the '80s, there are actually fewer women in tech today. In the field of computer science specifically. It shows so much about the culture in tech, and the fact that women are not being recruited and not being encouraged and retained. It was really important to me to show this woman that, though she's only a couple years out of college, she is very much an entrepreneur and she's very much a techie, and she's committed to making her stamp in that world.

One of the big issues we hear about with tech is sexism both in hiring practices and the way apps are often designed from the ground-up. Was that something you wanted to tackle on the page?

Absolutely. The CEO of the app Make Up is Annika; she's obviously our heroine and she's female, but also her coder, her right-hand person, is June who's also a woman. I'm not a tech person myself but I did a lot of heavy reading and research and talking to people in the tech field to get the tech right. Even though most of my readers aren't going to be techies, I wanted that world to feel really authentic. I wanted to show this feeling of these two women who have this really great female friendship but are also heading up this app and kicking ass all by themselves without having a male boss or a male coder or a male developer on their side.

Your covers have been these really eye-catching photos, often featuring a tantalizing beverage. This is quite the departure to the more cartoonish, illustrated approach. Can you walk me through that choice?

I'm a huge fan of illustrated covers for adult romantic comedies. I just feel like it's so iconic. It was a conversation between my publisher and me. We were on the same page, as far as we wanted [it] very font heavy and bright, beautiful, kind of captures the summer vibes, really captures the romance. That's basically all the designer was given, and she did such a phenomenal job of capturing that idea without any other direction. I feel like it's simple, but it's so eye-catching that it just really hits right in my rom-com loving heart.

The colors really pop. Did you choose the color scheme?

My editor actually asked me, "What kind of colors do you like/do you envision with this book?" So I promptly went and, as one does, made a Pinterest board of all the pictures that peak to me, as far as the vibes of the book go. I noticed that there were a lot of teals and pinks and those very typical summer romance colors. That's what I gave them as a palette, and then, they picked and chose colors from those and went from there.

Do you wish either of the apps in the book really existed and how did you devise them?

Make Up is this app that uses deep learning to tell couples how to communicate better. It's this helper app at its core, and it's aimed at harmonizing relationships and bringing people back together. Then you have Break Up on the other side, which has been termed the Uber for break-ups. Literally people who cannot be bothered to actually break up with their significant others can go in this app and send a "terminator," who's a neutral third party who drives over to their significant other, and says, "Okay you've been broken up with." They're completely different apps. They're totally different ideas, and they symbolize the hero and heroine of the book. I would love to see Make Up be a real app because it's about bringing people together. In my other life, I am a therapist, so it really appeals to me. But I have to say honestly from the research I did, if either of these apps were going to be a thing, it would be Break Up because it's a lot simpler to get off the ground. It's not as coding or development heavy so I think probably if one were to come to fruition, it would probably be Break Up.

For those who’ve come to love you in YA, what would you say are the greatest similarities and greatest differences about this new foray?

For people who love the YA, I feel like they will definitely find that this is a lot of the same vibe. It's very summery; it's very light-hearted and very romantic. It's got the delectable hero and the heroine who's full of heart and wants to do the right thing. The biggest difference is that Make Up Break Up is very steamy. I actually surprised myself with how much I enjoyed writing sex scenes. That is something that is very, very different about this one.

Because beverages have played a big role on your covers, I have to ask if they feature in this book?

There definitely is a line about margaritas. Annika says, "It is a universal truth that all the evils of the world could be blamed on margaritas, Las Vegas, and devastatingly gorgeous men." Definitely a little bit more of an adult beverage then When Dimple Met Rishi, which is an iced coffee.

What’s the one drink you can’t live without and why?

I would say probably tea. Because I drink endless cups of it while I'm writing and editing.

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