Laura Hankin immerses us into the private lives of stars in her nostalgic new novel The Daydreams (May 2) which has been described as “Daisy Jones in the Britney/Justin era” and “The OC meets High School Musical.” Umm, we are SOLD. This book is addictive, hilarious, twisty, and better than a stack of juicy tabloids.
In Hankin’s novel, it’s 2004 and the television show The Daydreams had everything a popular teen show needed: The perfect cast of actors/singers, high ratings, and a romance that kept its viewers guessing and obsessing. When the show imploded during a live-streaming of the season two finale, no one could understand what went wrong. Afterwards, the four stars went their separate ways. When fans demand a reunion special years later, cast-members Liana, Noah, Kat and Summer, come together again—some for love, some for revenge, and some for forgiveness. As the magic of the show begins to remerge, so do old secrets, and the real reason for their downfall starts to become more clear.
Our May guest author Laura Hankin is an author, screenwriter, and performer. She has written two other books, Happy & You Know It and A Special Place for Women, and also writes songs for her musical comedy duo “Feminarchy” which has been featured in outlets like The Washington Post and The New York Times.
Keep reading for our exclusive interview with Laura Hankin about inspirations for her new book The Daydreams, comedy in writing, and recording her own audiobooks.
What was your inspiration for The Daydreams?
Like so many of us, I’d gotten very into early 2000s nostalgia over the past few years, comfort-watching the movies and listening to the songs that I’d been obsessed with as a tween/teen. But I also couldn’t help noticing how many shining starlets of the time had really struggled in the years since they rose to fame, especially compared to many of their male counterparts. I wanted to write a book exploring that dynamic, but to also make it really fun and nostalgic, the kind of novel that would leave you thinking, but also wanting to throw on a velour tracksuit. On top of that, I love writing about complicated relationships, and the set-up of a reunion special — where people who were once so important to each other were forced back together — felt messy to me in the best possible way!
What was your writing set up like while writing The Daydreams? It feels so different from Happy and You Know I and A Special Place for Women, but with the same twist of positive yet dark feminine energy.
My writing set-up actually was really different from the other two books, because I wrote much of The Daydreams during core pandemic times. So while with Happy & You Know It and A Special Place for Women, I could go to coffee shops or work with other writers whenever I felt lonely or unmotivated, with The Daydreams I was mostly huddled in my apartment like a little hermit. It did allow me to loudly blast early 2000s music when I needed an extra dose of inspiration, though, which was important. Also, I was no longer living in NYC for this one! Special Place and HAYKI are such New York stories, while I feel like The Daydreams opens up more.
Often your books bring underlying issues to the surface, and feel like it has self-help elements for the reader. Do you have any favorite fiction that inspires personal growth?
Thank you! I do like to write about flawed characters trying to figure out how to be better people and live better lives, so if that can help readers, I’m thrilled. I love books about young women getting their shit together, or learning to love their lives even if they haven’t turned out exactly like they thought they would — think Ghosts by Dolly Alderton or Writers and Lovers by Lily King.
What is something you’d like readers to take away from this novel?
I hope readers take away a sense of empathy. It can be very fun to judge celebrities who seem to have it all, but we never know what someone is going through. (And that goes for us normal people too!) Also, even if we’ve made mistakes, it’s never too late for us to try to make things right. And finally, I hope they’re left thinking that the book was an incredibly entertaining ride.
Was there a specific POV out of The Daydreams that you related to the most? What about the least?
I related most to Kat, the main narrator, who played the “Mean Girl” on the show and then fled Hollywood to become a lawyer. She has the same insecurities that I absolutely would’ve had if I’d been thrust into fame as a teenager (something I totally wanted at the time and now am so grateful I never got), and is also the character who overall has had the most “normal” life, so in some ways I view her as an audience surrogate. I will say it was hardest to write Noah, the golden boy heartthrob. He’s the most significant male character I’ve written in a book so far. Because I’m a feminist? Or because I’m lazy? Who knows!
What are you currently working on?
I’m in edits for a new novel now. (Like, right now. I should go work on that.) I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to say about it, but it’s more of a love story than I’ve written previously. And it has an even more significant main male character — I’m learning!
Tell us the first book you ever remember reading, the one that made you want to become an author, and one that you can’t stop thinking about!
The first book I ever remember reading was Charlotte’s Web, with my mother, and both of us just sobbing. I think Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine was the one that made me interested in becoming an author — I must have read it twenty times when I was younger, and was just so transported and inspired by it. And I can’t stop thinking about Adelaide by Genevieve Wheeler, which is a beautiful, raw story of love and self-discovery.