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Chlorine Sky by Mahogany L. Browne
Credit: Crown Books for Young Readers (2)

Mahogany L. Browne's debut novel-in-verse is going to be big. The author has been presiding over the world of poetry for over a decade now (she's currently the executive director of the Bowery Poetry Club, among other notches on her resumé), but this week she releases Chlorine Sky, an examination of friendship, growing up, and finding your power — with praise from YA powerhouses like Elizabeth Acevedo and Nic Stone. Here, she answers EW's burning book questions, revealing her origins as a writer and her creative secret weapon.

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ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What is the first thing you remember writing?

MAHOGANY L. BROWNE: I remember writing a story in fourth grade. I don't remember what it was about, only that we were tasked with bookmaking as well. I remember the cardboard hardcover was pink with a stick-figure white girl in a blue dress on the front.

What is the last book that made you cry?

Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones. Still to this day — it can send me spiraling.

Where do you write?

In the bed. In the restroom. In the living room. I bought a new chair for my bedroom and that's become a lovely creation space. I write wherever my body lands. Sometimes when I am walking down the parkway in Brooklyn, I am writing. Sometimes when I am dreaming, I am writing, too.

Which book made you a forever reader?

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison made me a forever fan of books. I read the majority of that book in the stacks of my local library. I owed dues and wasn't allowed to check out books for a while. It was the best read of my life.

What is a snack you couldn't write without?

That's a good one. It's a tie between jalapeño chips and sunflower seeds!

If you could change one thing about any of your books, what would it be?

I would change the effect the stories have on me after I've written them. Sometimes the stories make me sad or anxious, and it takes some time to unwrap those feelings from my bones. While my books are fiction, it is real-life memories that make them possible. The characters are a marriage of many people in my life, and the situations I discuss are things I've witnessed or experienced personally. I realized, while the healing allowed me to write the pieces, the trauma resurfaces, and those triggered memories can be painful.

What is your favorite part of Chlorine Sky?

The beginning is my favorite. You don't know what you're walking into. You feel everything.

What was the hardest plot point or character to write?

Lay Li was difficult to write because I didn't want to present a one-sided idea of her. It's easy to think, "She's mean. Let's root against her." But life isn't one way of looking at people. We contain so many versions of ourselves. The self-centered and the self-destructive. I hope I gave her enough room to be revered and annoying.

Write a movie poster tagline for Chlorine Sky:

Friendship shouldn't be sink or swim.

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