The Official Future Female Leaders Book Club was launched in April 2020 to encourage a love of literature among young women everywhere, and we pride ourselves on picking books that you won’t be able to put down. Our June 2020 book, Most Likely, definitely fits the bill, and the author, Sarah Watson, was kind enough to grant us an interview to talk about what inspired the book, the reception of the book, and what’s next for her. If you think the book is a fun read, you can only imagine how much fun we had talking to Sarah Watson.
Most Likely is Sarah Watson’s debut novel. She’s the creator of the hit Freeform show The Bold Type and wrote for and produced many other shows, including Parenthood on NBC, Lipstick Jungle, and more. She’s a UCLA grad and has a golden retriever named Daisy.
I sat down to talk, via the marvels of the telephone, to Sarah in early June 2020, several months into a pandemic that seemed to have no end in sight, so the absolute laughter and joy she inspired was such a perfect respite from the world. As an avid reader and someone who has met or spoken to a lot of authors, I know that not everyone is as nice as their books, but Sarah was, if possible, even nicer.
For a bit of background, if you haven’t read the book yet, Most Likely follows four girls during their senior year of high school. But there’s a twist: we know that one of them becomes President of the United States in January 2049. The four girls–Ava, CJ, Jordan and Martha–are all unique and their journeys are fascinating to follow through the course of the novel.
We are in a world of protests and demonstrations, so I immediately wanted to know what inspired Sarah to write this book. No surprise–it was the 2016 election.
“I wrote it post-2016, and that really was the initial impetus for it. I, like most of the country, thought we were going to have our first female president,” Watson said.
After the defeat of Hillary Clinton, an old friend sent her a photo from their 8th grade yearbook where Watson had won “Most Likely to be the 1st Female President,” and the friend had hoped to send it along saying that she was out of the running. “You still have time now,” the friend said.
The book didn’t immediately come fully formed though. It evolved over time and the friendship component of the novel–which is so important to the narrative. The novel was inspired by her own friendships, motivation among friends running a marathon, and the need for young women to empower each other along the way.
“I got emotional thinking about how much my friends have really pushed me to go further, so it was really the combination of that and thinking about who would our first female president be?” Watson said of the process.
Originally, the book was going to be a period piece set in the late 80s/early 90s, with the prologue inauguration taking place present day, but Watson moved that around after reflecting on things like Parkland and other student activism moments. “If I’m going to tell the story of a female president, I want it to be of this generation,” Watson told me.
Of course, I was curious, as a writer and a reader, to know if Sarah knew all along who the “POTUS” was going to be–and she did. Watson, who identifies as a total CJ, knew that CJ was going to be the girl standing at the end, but she still enjoyed fleshing out the characters along the way and giving them all a plausible connection with Logan to keep the mystery of the last name alive until the very end.
Speaking of the end, I admitted to Watson that I did not see the ending twist coming. I read a lot and I’ve seen just about every twist in the book, but this one really hit me out of nowhere, and I was so pleasantly surprised. Watson told me that she’s actually never heard directly from a reader who says they’ve guessed it from the get go–and I think that’s the sign of a good book.
Part of the reason FFL was drawn to this book for our June selection was that the multiple protagonists offered our diverse readers different opportunities to connect with the narratives being presented. While Watson told me that writing CJ was easiest for her, she also really loved writing Wyatt–and I think that shines in the prose. Even though he’s not a “main character” he’s got such a heartfelt piece of the story wrapped up in his journey.
While the girls are working to save Memorial Park in the novel, Watson and I talked about how the current generation of teens and young adults is so active. When we began our chat, Watson warned me that she might cut out if the alert for a city-mandated curfew due to protests came through on her phone, and we talked about how the current climate of activism was so active. Whether it’s fighting against police brutality, climate change, or injustice, teens these days are standing up, educating themselves, and speaking out, and I think Most Likely shows us the different ways people can do just that in their daily lives.
The world being as it is, I of course had to ask Watson which of the four protagonists she would rather be quarantined with. She admitted that she and CJ are too alike to survive, and therefore picked Ava, because she figured they could value their alone time but still enjoy some good conversations. I would agree that that’s an ideal recipe for quarantine bliss.
So…what’s next for Sarah Watson? She told me that she was working on a TV series about a high school remake of an 80s movie–with support from the OG director–when this whole pandemic situation shut production down. She’s hoping that that hits the ground running against once things are safe again. Trust me–it sounds fascinating.
If you loved Most Likely, stay tuned because we’ll have some read-alike suggestions for you soon–and stay tuned for more from Sarah Watson herself.
Get your copy of Most Likely here.