‘Bold Type’ creator Sarah Watson reveals how Parkland students inspired her new YA novel about a female president – Daily News



When Sarah Watson first thought about writing her debut novel “Most Likely,” she considered setting it in the 1990s and showing one of the characters going on to become the President of the United States in the present day.

That all changed after the Parkland shooting.

“I watched these students rise up in unbelievable ways and use their voices in unbelievable ways,” the Santa Monica-based author says by phone from Atlanta where she’s currently working on a television pilot for Fox. “I started thinking, Gen Z, this is the generation that’s going to save us. This is the story that needs to be told. This is the president who deserves to have her story told right now.”

“Most Likely,” published this month by Little, Brown and Company, centers on four high school seniors. Decades later, in 2049 to be exact, one of them will become president. For now, though, they are girls on the brink of adulthood, focused on their futures, figuring out who they are and dealing with occasionally tumultuous lives.

The group at the center of the novel have been best friends since childhood, but are very different people. CJ is an overachiever who can’t seem to land a killer SAT score. Ava is trying to manage her depression, and the expectations of her adoptive mom, while wondering who her birth mother is. Martha is defining her sexuality, with lots of support, and figuring out how she’s going to get the money for college. Jordan is a young journalist who is trying very hard to be taken seriously.

They have very typical teen problems for the 2019-2020 school year (pre-coronavirus, that is). Martha is smart enough to get into a top school, but paying for it is another story. “I really wanted to explore this thing that so many students are going through right now,” says Watson. “Is college worth it? How am I going to pay for this? Am I going to be in so much debt that I’ll never get out of it?”

Meanwhile, Ava’s mom is highly invested in her success, ready to bring in extra tutors and even make a visit on her daughter’s behalf at school.

“I finished the book before the college admissions scandal broke, but it sort of reinforced everything that I was writing,” says Watson, “this idea that your SATs are do-or-die and define your entire future and also this parental pressure and parents becoming so involved to the point of filling out kids applications for them and getting tutors for them and everything.”

In “Most Likely,” Watson’s characters learn that plans can change. Perhaps that’s similar to the author. “I wanted to teach English and write novels in the summer. That was my vision of my adult life,” she says.

While an undergrad at UCLA, though, Watson took a film class as an elective and fell for it. “I loved TV and I loved movies, but I never watched them and thought this is a job that people have, this is something that I could do,” she says. “Going to UCLA opened my eyes to this whole industry that I didn’t know existed.”

Watson found her voice in television, where she spent six seasons writing for “Parenthood.” She also created the series, “The Bold Type.” But she still wanted to write a novel. “After the 2016 election, I was feeling so disillusioned by the world and by sexism in Hollywood. I decided that I wanted to write something that was truly mine,” she says. “I just came up with this idea and it felt like it needed to be a book.”

Young adult, or YA, books, which are often centered around girls and young women, became the perfect format for this story. “There’s so much great YA out there and I was reading a lot of it,” says Watson, “so I knew that’s what I wanted to write. I knew that was the right home for this.”

Her TV experience shows in “Most Likely.” Reading it, you can see how it might be adapted as a series. In fact, it’s already been optioned by Amazon. Watson is writing the pilot.

Much like today’s television series, though, there’s a detail we don’t want to spoil. You won’t find out which girl becomes president until the end of the book. For Watson, there’s a reason behind that choice.

“I really wanted it to seem like, at any point, any of these girls could be president, because I truly believe that is the truth. Any little girl can be president,” says Watson. “It’s not about where you’re from and it’s not about your successes and failures. It’s about who you are and how you lift each other up. I wanted to show how who our friends are informs who we become as adults.”

She adds, “It was important to me to showcase that, at any time, any of these girls has what it takes to be in the Oval Office.”