Emmy Laybourne Visits the Apocalypse

Chestnut Ridge mom Emmy Laybourne visits the apocalypse in her highly acclaimed YA novel, “Monument 14.” Fourteen young people fight to survive a chemical disaster by sheltering in a superstore. In the process, they learn to take care of each other, learn to hope, and ultimately learn to face catastrophe with courage. Despite the bleak setting, Laybourne surprises readers with warmth and humor, her characters’ sweet humanity making the violent effects of the chemical leak all the more horrific.

Laybourne will appear at Barnes & Noble in Nanuet, 140 Rockland Plaza on Rt 59, on Sunday, October 7 at 4 p.m., to meet readers and sign books. We caught up with the author recently, to discuss her thoughts on life in Rockland County.


RCT: In 2008 you moved from Los Angeles with your family to Rockland County. What brought you to this part of the country?

To tell the truth, we moved here for the Waldorf school. Of course, there’s a bit more to the story than that. My husband Greg, who had been a film editor, decided to go back to school to get a degree in Web Design. When he was accepted to Parsons, we looked for a town near enough to NY that had a Waldorf school. Our daughter Elinor, had been in a Waldorf school in LA and we really loved the quiet, steady rhythm of the school day and the focus on nature.

We found Green Meadow, in Chestnut Ridge and when we toured we knew it was the place for us. We’ve lived in Rockland ever since. It was one of the best decisions we ever made. I’m not even sure I would have written “Monument 14” if we hadn’t moved to Rockland.


RCT: Really? How has living here played a part in your work?

You think I’m going to say that I’ve set my novels here, but it’s nothing like that. The “Monument 14” series is actually set in Monument, CO.

I have a theory that environment effects creativity. Take Los Angeles – it’s essentially a desert. If they didn’t pipe water in from outlying aquifers, the whole town would dry up and blow away. I think that the geography actually makes it hard to get projects going out there. Nothing grows in Los Angeles without money. Not plants, not ideas. Nothing.

But here in Rockland? We have to hack the woods back or they’ll overtake our house! This is very rich, old earth and things sprout up and grow of their own accord. It’s the same with ideas. In LA, I spent 10 years trying to get projects going. Here, I have to keep a notebook at hand all the time because ideas are constantly shooting up in my mind.

Perhaps it also has to do with the seasons. Maybe you’ve gotten used to it, but really, when you come from a place where everything stays pretty much the same all year in terms of plant life – the seasons here are forcibly breathtaking.That first long, cold winter, I didn’t even know it, but the idea for “Monument 14” was growing. And when spring came – boom – it unfurled and started pushing up through the dirt. I had to write the story. It started overgrowing my mind!


RCT: Maybe there’s some validity to your pet theory because ‘Monument 14’ is doing really well!?

Yes! I’ve been blown away by the response. Macmillan’s done a second run of printing, the Audio edition will be released on October 9, and the book was an Editor’s Choice in the New York Times. It’s been wonderful.

I have some local events coming up! I will be giving a talk called “Post-Apocalypse Now” as the NY Comic Con on Saturday, October 13, and I’ll be at Bookcourt, in Brooklyn, in October 20. Best of all, there’s the Nanuet event on October 7. I’ll be reading from the book, then answering questions and signing copies, and there will be some swag give-aways, too!


Follow Emmy on Facebook, at emmylaybourne.com or @EmmyLaybourne on Twitter.