Ottawa-based writer Amy Lea was on vacation in Italy when she received a game-changing email. The novelist—who’s known for her #BookTok-loved romcoms, including her debut, Set on You—knew her agent was trying to sell her first YA book, Woke Up Like This, to a publisher, but she didn’t know how those attempts would go. But after a long day walking around stunning Lake Como, an exhausted Lea arrived back at her hotel to good news: Mindy Kaling’s Amazon book imprint, which is dedicated to highlighting books written by and for diverse women, wanted to publish the book—and Amazon Studios would be optioning the rights for a potential streaming adaptation. “I pretty much fainted,” says Lea, who also works nine-to-five as a bureaucrat. “When I got the email, I screamed. I was like, ‘What is going on?!’ It was such a happy surprise.”

Inspired by 13 Going on 30, Woke Up Like This has all the charming qualities that have landed 32-year-old Lea’s novels (her debut was published in 2022) on bestseller lists in the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail. Following a pair of high-school nemeses who find themselves transported into the bodies of their 30-year-old selves only to find out that they’re engaged to each other, the book effortlessly draws readers in with its sweet chemistry-filled love story, which has just enough realism to make it resonate too. And the good news doesn’t stop there for Lea (or her fans): The final book of her hit The Influencer trilogy, The Catch, is set to be released early next year.

I still have a full-time job, so I’ve really had to prioritize time outside of work—in the evenings and on weekends—to write.


Woke Up Like This is an ode to teenagehood. [When I wrote it], I’d just turned 30 and was feeling really nostalgic—and not because ’90s fashion and music were coming back into style. I had a period when I realized that I’m really an adult; I have a mortgage, a husband, a grown-up job and a generally structured life. I got to thinking about high school and all the milestones—teeth-clicking first kisses, falling in love, college applications—that occupy your entire being. As a teen, I really thought that I was on the precipice of the beginning of my life; I was so excited to grow up. I felt really inspired to explore all that in a book.”


“I actually started working on Woke Up Like This in January 2021. I had recently signed a contract for the Influencer series and was working on [my second book], Exes & O’s. That one took me 10 months to write. I was in such a slump—I wasn’t feeling inspired, and I was down about it. Then the idea for Woke Up Like This randomly came to me. I was on deadline, so I couldn’t just put [the other book] aside, but I think I wrote the first chapter and was obsessed with the idea. That got my spark back, and I was able to finish Exes & O’s.”


“I’ve been a massive fan of Mindy Kaling since I saw her in No Strings Attached—I just thought she was hilarious. Years later, I watched The Mindy Project because my friend was like, ‘You have to watch this show; this girl reminds me of you because you’re both so obsessed with romance.’ Then I came to The Office a little bit later. I love her brand of humour and think her talent is extraordinary— she centres characters who aren’t represented in the media and allows them to transcend stereotypes and exist as human beings. She’s such a powerhouse, and it’s amazing that she’s extending that to publishing.”

Woke Up Like This by Amy Lea

Price: $15.35



“I grew up in a town called Espanola near Sudbury, Ontario. It’s a paper-industry town, [with a] population of barely 5,000. There wasn’t a ton for kids to do, which is prob- ably why I ended up using my imagination so much. I also wasn’t one of those kids who had traditional hobbies. I was so shy and didn’t ever want to put myself out there, so I was drawn to more solitary things. I felt like a tertiary character in life, where I was just in the background. I started writing pretty much from when I could hold a crayon; then I moved on to the computer, where I would type in a super-large font to make it seem like I had more pages in my ‘books.’ But I never showed anybody my work; it was always just for me.”


“By the time I reached university, my creative writing had flatlined with my academic responsibilities piling up. In my mid-20s, I suddenly decided I wanted to read again, walked into a bookstore and saw Lara Jean on the cover of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, is that an Asian character on the cover of a romance novel?’ I had never seen that. I started reading a bunch, realized the genre was becoming more diverse and started to itch to actually create again. One day, when I was home sick, I opened up a Word document and just started typing.”


“I didn’t think I would end up publishing anything. I just longed to connect with people and found a whole community that was obsessed with romance [on Instagram]. Writing was just a hobby. But once I got halfway through the [first] book [I’d started working on]—not Set on You; this one was terrible—I thought that maybe I could get it published. That didn’t go anywhere, but I’d read so much contemporary romance that I started to realize what the market wanted. You have to balance that as a writer. That’s when I came up with the concept for Set on You and sent it to, like, 10 agents right when the pandemic started. I ended up signing with one, and two weeks later, I got a deal with Berkley.”


“I still have a full-time job, so I’ve really had to prioritize time outside of work—in the evenings and on weekends—to write. It has sucked in the sense that I always have to say no to social things because I have a word-count goal I have to hit. But I have no regrets. I’ve always been extremely goal-driven, so I’m happy with the results.”