When Britta Lundin graduated from Astoria High School in 2003 and began school at Reed College, she intended to go into politics. It didn’t take long before she decided there was a better way for her to make an impact by crafting words and characters for the entertainment industry.
“I was extremely into the show ‘The West Wing,’” Lundin said.
Upon deeper reflection, she realized, “I’d rather write for ‘The West Wing’ than work in the West Wing.”
The Astoria native eventually secured jobs in Los Angeles as a television writer for CW’s “Riverdale” and HBO’s “Betty.” Now, she is writing for a new show, “The Big Leap,” a FOX-produced comedy-drama that airs in September.
Lundin is also a published author. After securing her second book deal with Disney, Lundin’s newest book, “Like Other Girls,” is set to publish on Tuesday. Lundin’s first book, “Ship It,” was published by Disney in 2018.
During her time with “Riverdale,” she recalls waking up and seeing tweets from viewers around the world, especially young people. They were acutely invested in the characters and plot line, and Lundin saw firsthand how television can have an outside influence on a person’s life.
“You don’t want to take that lightly,” she said, adding that it requires balancing a desire “to honor the people who care about the story you’re writing” with wanting “to tell the best story that’s honest about these characters.”
She feels the same way about novels. Growing up in a small town with limited influences and resources, the Astoria Library and the high school library doubled as portals where she could continually find new materials that introduced her to new people and perspectives.
“These books can really be a window into other worlds, and that was very necessary for me,” said Lundin. “I’m always writing for those kids who spend a lot of time in the library.”
In “Like Other Girls,” readers meet Mara Deeble, a high schooler from a fictional town in rural Oregon who joins her brother on the high school football team — and is soon followed by four other girls. What wasn’t a big deal when it involved a single girl, especially a masculine-presenting one, suddenly turns into a threat, with Mara involuntarily seen as the leader.
“She’s really struggling with what it means to be one of the girls,” and much of that derives from her fear of experiencing the same sexism they experience if she loses her place as “one of the guys,” Lundin said, adding, “It’s kind of messy and complicated, which is what I like in storytelling.”
‘A window into other worlds’
“Like Other Girls” is set in the small fictional town of Elkhorn, Oregon, a rural community where life revolves around ranching, sports and church. Although it differs from Astoria in numerous ways, Lundin notes that, as a writer, you naturally incorporate elements of your own experiences.
Mara is a closeted lesbian who’s always considered herself “one of the guys,” and they welcome her readily. Even when she joins the football team, there’s no pushback. Standing roughly 6 feet tall and masculine-presenting, she fits in well, and she’s a good player.
However, four other girls follow suit, including Mara’s crush, and then the tension rises. What started as Mara’s simple desire to play a sport is transformed into a perceptual movement of sorts, and Mara fears being lumped in with the other girls. This eventually initiates a journey of self-exploration to confront her own internalized misogyny.
In this way, “Like Other Girls” tells a deeper and more authentic story in a world where girls playing football is on the rise and not an outlandish concept. The book instead deals with Mara’s own response to being unwittingly thrust into a position where she’s seen as leading a political statement.
Ultimately, Mara comes to realize “there’s more than one way to be like other girls,” and the true danger lies “in thinking you’re better than other girls, because you’re different than them.”
In addition to shedding light on internalized and external sexism, “Like Other Girls” also highlights themes of exploring one’s gender expression, being a closeted gay teenager and learning to love oneself. This ultimately enables Mara to connect more authentically and positively with others around her.
There is no big coming out plot line, although Mara develops a romance with another girl on the team. Lundin says that allowed her to tackle the other themes more thoroughly and “balance out the intense part of being a closeted gay teenager with being young and having fun and meeting someone you really like,” she said.
“There was a time when every queer young adult book was about coming out,” she said. “Thankfully, we’ve moved past that, where some of them are still about coming out, some are related to sexuality, and sometimes, the sexuality is incidental. We just need books that cover the spectrum.”