Day 26: Lily Anderson

“As a woman of Afro-Puerto Rican descent, representing a diverse world isn’t a trend for me—it’s my greatest joy.”    Lily Anderson

As I began my research (scouring the internet) in search of information about Lily, one of the first articles to pop up said she was in a car accident.  What the what?  I immediately clicked on it and found out, 40 thumping heart pounds later, that Lily Anderson is also the name of a character on Grey’s Anatomy. Right. Whatever. Meanwhile…

The real Lily Anderson wrecks, too, but in a much more awesome way! She grew up in the Bay Area of California, hungry for books with characters who looked like her.  When she couldn’t find them, she began creating them! A former librarian, Lily loves Shakespeare, podcasts, and fairytales. She enjoys writing about girls who are snarky, intelligent, and… okay, sometimes monsters.  I’m sure we all know at least one girl who fits in those categories!

It is my honor, on behalf of The Brown Bookshelf, on this 26th Day of February, to present:


The Journey

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. In the first grade, I won a county writing award for a poem I wrote about olives. As a theater kid, I often wrote long complicated backstories for the characters I played onstage, a sort of hybrid between character work and fan fiction. The first novel I finished was an extra credit assignment for a high school English class. For a long time, I only shared my writing with friends. I didn’t think there was a place in publishing for a college drop-out who wrote books with happy endings. But as my finished projects started to stack up on my hard drive, I took a shot and started to query literary agents. My first published book—THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN ME IS YOU (St Martins Griffin, 2016)—had a lot of nerdy references in it, so I searched “literary agent + buffy the vampire slayer” to find someone who’d be the right fit for me. I found Laura Zats, who has been my literary agent ever since. Since then, I’ve gone from being an elementary school librarian to a full time writer.

The Inspiration

There are so many authors who inspire me, especially in contemporary YA. My auto-buy authors right now are Nina Moreno, Claire Kann, and Jenn Bennett.

The work of Elizabeth Acevedo consistently moves me to tears. Seeing Afrolatina main characters written with such heart and true poetry is such a balm to my inner teenager, who loved books so much and never once saw herself reflected in them.

When I need to harness my inner boss bitch, I turn to Shonda Rhimes’ television empire (from Grey’s Anatomy to Scandal to Bridgerton).

The Process:

I always start with a character and a problem. I love character creation, finding the quirks and history and relationships that build a person. I tend to start writing the first chapter before I have an outline, getting as deep into the story as I can before I have to pause and chart out what comes next.

When the world isn’t under quarantine, I do my best writing at the public library. I love to be surrounded by books and people working. It reminds me why I do what I do. And hearing other people type helps me stay focused on my work instead of logging into social media.

The State of the Industry

I love that we’re seeing more authors of color being published, even though the numbers are still abysmally low. I love seeing Black main characters in fantasy and science fiction, not just in contemporary YA that can be taught in a classroom.

My hope is that we will also see more people of color working inside of publishing houses. Having every book pass through the overwhelmingly white lens of editing and marketing means that we still being asked to temper every cultural experience for white palatability.

Stay in contact with Lily Anderson by visiting her website at:

On behalf of The Brown Bookshelf, thank you, Lily, for all of your contributions to children’s literature.

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