If you haven’t heard the names Eric Smith and Lauren Gibaldi, well, this is the time because this duo is so powerful! After being close friends with each other for a long time, Eric and Lauren decide to put up a book full of music with the help of 16 different authors. You heard it right! Battle Of The Bands was written by 16 different authors, including the editors of the book Eric Smith and Lauren Gibaldi, plus Justin Courtney Pierre of Motion City Soundtrack.
Each of the authors has their own style, their own story to tell. This is what makes Battle Of The Bands so unique. It is an excellent representation of real life. As you read the book, you get fascinated by the thought of how different people experience the same event in a completely different way. So we don’t only witness the band members’ lives that are playing in Battle Of The Bands, but we are able to see the life behind the scenes. Order the book here!
This idea, of course, captivated us, and we wanted to talk to Eric Smith and Lauren Gibaldi about this incredible book surrounded by music. We have talked about how they met, how the idea came into life, its process, and their upcoming projects. So, no need to wait more! Let us introduce you to two amazing people.
We are so happy to have you on board. Welcome to The Honey POP, and thank you so much for the opportunity to talk to you about this beautiful anthology! Can we get to know both of you a little better? Who are Eric Smith and Lauren Gibaldi? Bonus points if you give us three fun facts about yourselves!
Eric: Thank you! Oh goodness, three fun facts about myself that say who I am? Well, my life basically revolves around books, writing them, and working on them in my life as a literary agent. I’m married and have a gorgeous little kid who takes up the other 90% of my heart (10% is reserved for books). And… I enjoy video games? Does that help?
Lauren: Thank you for having us! Okay, so along with writing YA books and such, I’m a (fact one) public librarian where I spend too much time reading picture books and singing (badly) to little kids. I (fact two) live in Orlando, FL, with my husband and daughters. And I was once in a circus (fact three).
We know that you were good friends with each other before putting Battle Of The Bands together. How did your paths cross?
Eric: It’s true! I initially got to know Lauren when I got sent an early copy of her first book, The Night We Said Yes. I loved it so much and kept seeing her talking about all the music I listen to on the ol’ Twitter. I was like… “I would like to be friends with this person.” And now here we are years later.
Lauren: As a new author, you have a joint fear of “will anyone like my book” and also “will anyone want to be friends with me.” So when Eric reached out after receiving TNWSY, and we realized we had a zillion things in common, it was kind of the best. He has become (and clearly still is) such a bright spot in authoring for me; it’s lovely having someone going through the same thing and really getting it (and also being available to vent to when need be). It was kind of only natural for us to eventually do a book together.
Since you have put together this kind of book, the music should be a huge part of your lives like us in the Honey POP, but we’d like to hear about it directly from you. What does music mean to you?
Eric: Growing up, music was such a wild part of my life, from playing in school bands to playing in garage bands to photographing rockstars…It just bled into everything I did. It’s a lot like books, really. Good songs are like good stories. They stick with you for a really long time, decades after you’ve first been with them.
Lauren: Yes, exactly! When I think back to my high school years, music soundtracks the memories. I know the song playing that one night we drove down to the ocean, or hung out at the mall, or stayed too late at a friend’s house. I wasn’t a great musician or anything (I was a theater girl), but I always had my headphones on. And I find it kind of awesome that music is that relatable thing that transcends times.
How did you come up with this amazing idea of gathering various writers and asking them to write individual but interconnected stories?
Eric: This question is all Lauren. This book was her idea!
Lauren: PSH. So, in high school, I competed in my Battle Of The Bands, and it was such a fun experience for me. I thought it would be awesome to have a book detail a big Battle Of The Bands but told from different points of view, not just one band playing. I wanted different voices. So I brought the idea up to Eric, and THANK GOODNESS he thought it was a good one.
Of course, the planning of the book should be complex. Maybe if they were completely independent stories, it wouldn’t be this hard, but how did you manage to bring this project to life? How did you find the authors and reach out to them? How was the editing process? We want to know it all!
Eric: It was a lot of brainstorming about who might be a good fit. Which author pals of ours like writing about music, or have had music play a huge part in their lives? That part was easy. Reaching out… that’s always awkward. “Hey, we have this book idea. Do you want to commit to it even though it might not sell?”
Lauren: That part was all Eric. He has zero fear when it comes to approaching people, which is INCREDIBLY awesome. And then, honestly, though the book is interconnected, each author wrote their story independently. They told us their idea, so no one overlapped, and that was it. Once they were done, we went in and did all the connecting, asking them questions like, “Hey, is it okay if your unnamed drummer is Beckett from this other story?” The authors were all incredibly amazing about this.
Okay, of course, the question we have been dying to ask: how did you successfully bring Justin Courtney Pierre on board? What was his reaction when he heard about the project?
Eric: Hah! Well, much like how I messaged Lauren all those years ago to be friends, Justin was much the same! I sent him an awkward message on Facebook.
Honestly, so much good stuff can happen if you just shoot your shot and put yourself out there. Let yourself feel a little silly and a little vulnerable. I know it can feel “cringeworthy” or whatever, but trust me. The results are often worth it, and more people than you think just want more cool pals.
Lauren: Again, Eric is awesome at this.
If you were to give shoutouts to 3 bands for the inspiration of this book, which ones would they be?
Eric: Ooooh. I’m curious what Lauren’s are. Mine… Third Eye Blind (I was booed at a high school talent show while playing a cover of one of their songs hahaha), Less Than Jake (my high school and college music experience was mostly ska), and… hm. Sugarcult, maybe? Trying to think of a pop-punk band I listened to a LOT while working on this, and they’re up there.
Lauren: Okay, so for me, my high school favs were: The Ataris (honestly, I was the biggest fan), Blink-182 (ok so in retrospect, some songs are kind of cringe, but they were life when I was in high school and many songs still hold up), and, for Eric, Save Ferris. I had to throw some ska in a while working on it.
One of the most beautiful things about these stories is that we are not only reading different high school bands’ stories, we are also witnessing something so deep. The stories have amazing depth, especially about their characters. Do you have any story that struck you when you first read it?
Eric: For me, it was the combo, one-two-punch of Jeff Zentner and Brittany Cavallaro’s stories? They just hit me right in the feels in the best way. A story about family, friendships, growing up and growing apart… and they bookended the collection so well!
Lauren: We didn’t know they were doing that, so when their stories came in, it was like, “OH WOW, THIS IS PERFECT.” I think for me, it was Jasmine Warga’s. I have a tendency to like quieter stories, and hers was just beautiful from start to finish.
Do you guys have any favorite memory of working on Battle Of The Bands? Can you share it with us?
Eric: I have a few, but a big one was printing out the entire collection and working on edits while at a book festival in Canada. I was sending texts to Lauren from another country, gushing about this project together.
Lauren: Yeah, so I remember the first time we finalized the order and put all the stories in one big word document to send to our editor. Realizing that the stories all fit together and that they (in theory?!?) made sense in all of the connections… It made me tear up.
Did you celebrate after finishing or publishing the book? If yes, how did it go? How were you both feeling?
Eric: We did a bunch of online events and texted a lot? It’s a weird time to have new books out, that’s for sure. She’s in Florida. I’m in Pennsylvania, we both have small children. There’s no jet setting around to party, at least not right now. But I think we’ll make up for that eventually!
Lauren: We sent a lot of giddy texts throughout release day. It’s kind of wild we did an entire anthology without meeting up ONCE throughout the process haha.
Now we are feeling bittersweet because we are on the last question! Before we ask you, we want to thank you again for talking with us. We are so hyped to have you here. So, the last question: do you planning to work together again on a future project? What was the best thing about working together?
Eric: Yes! We have a new collection coming out in 2023 that we are busy editing right now. Lauren, do you wanna talk about it?
Lauren: Thank you SO MUCH for having us! And, yes! Freshman Orientation releases in 2023 with Candlewick. It’s about that first day moving into college–making friends in the dorm, saying goodbye to parents, trying to fit in, trying to find the union. All of that. We’re so, so excited about it.
We are definitely so excited for Eric Smith and Lauren Gibaldi’s new project! Until then, you’ll find us re-reading Battle Of The Bands. Have you read the book yet? Did you enjoy this interview as much as we did? Tell us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram! If you want more bookworms in your life, don’t forget to join our Discord server, The Hive.
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Featured Image Source: Bibi Lara for The Honey POP Graphics Team