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‘Lola’ challenges gender roles through the eyes of a female gang leader

"LOLA" book cover.
Courtesy of Penguin Random House

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Lola is a woman on a mission. 

A self-made gang leader, she takes on a powerful drug cartel, navigating life and death situations, all to recover from a deal gone wrong. But from the outside looking in, you'd never know Lola was calling the shots. 

"Lola" is a new thriller from TV writer, Melissa Scrivner Love. It's a story of a Los Angeles woman fighting to provide for her family in some pretty unconventional ways. 

Melissa Scrivner Love stopped by Take Two to tell us about her debut novel. 

Writer, Melissa Scrivner Love
Writer, Melissa Scrivner Love
Courtesy of Penguin Random House

Lola's rise to power

"Lola" is about a woman living in Huntington Park which is kind of South Central adjacent. It's her rise to power in a world where she is constantly underestimated. And that world just so happens to be the drug world.  

I really wanted to write a story about a woman who used the fact that she was constantly underestimated to her advantage. And I think that's something Lola does. Where she runs into trouble – and granted this is not the only place, she runs into a lot of trouble in this book – is when she starts to realize she wants credit for her work. And she wants the world to see her for who she is and she wants to step out of the shadows. 

In this particular case, in this particular neighborhood, in this particular industry that is very dangerous, it's the question of 'How do I get though my day?' But it's very different for someone who traffics drugs and who is a gang member. Things are literally life and death.  

I think that for Lola, and for me as well, and for anyone, it's creating the best life out of what you have. And to me, I hope this is a story of hope. I hope it's actually something people find uplifting in that, no matter where you came from, what your past is, you can use it to your advantage and move forward in a way that Lola does. Although not exactly the way that Lola does, because obviously, she makes morally questionable choices.

Challenging gender roles 

I think it's important for women to be allowed to be human. And I think that's something we all have to work on in terms of our society. Where it's not the superwoman. It's not, she can have it all and she can do it all. Even though Lola is trying to have it all and to do it all, she's also allowed to have character flaws and be human. And I think that's what we all need to allow ourselves. That's kind of a universal truth for me.

Becoming a mother 

In the book, through violent means, she adopts a  5 year-old girl named Lucy. That kind of opened up the whole character for me. How are you responsible for another human being, especially when no day is guaranteed? I think in Lola's profession, she's constantly aware of the fact that she can be killed. But I think it comes back to motherhood. Where we're all just trying to do the best for our kids and that might entail something different for everyone. 

Los Angeles as a backdrop 

What I love about Los Angeles is that I don't feel like there's one dynamic. So many different people are coexisting and it's what made me fall in love with the city and realize, I've always felt at home here. I think because of all the differences and separate existences that I've felt are just all so interesting. Just because LA is such an amalgamation of differences, I think maybe I was trying to find something that united us all. And I think parenthood in general is something that does. 

Conducting unconventional research  

I'm fascinated by Los Angeles and I tend to find a lot through driving and just observing and seeing. I tend to not write things down because I feel that hinders the actual experience. 

I've written for crime procedurals on television for a very long time, I think for almost a decade. My father was a police officer and my mother is still a court stenographer. And I've always been interested in addiction and talking to recovering addicts. And I think there's a little bit of an addiction to power... And it's something that I've constantly researched. If you write for a crime show, your internet search history is just crazy. And you have to know how certain things work. You have to know how money laundering works, you have to know how gangs work -- that's a knowledge that you constantly draw from. And I think that really helped me write this novel as well.  

Quotes edited for clarity and brevity

To hear the full interview with Melissa Scrivner Love, click on the blue media player above.