Monday, July 27, 2020

Jenny Has Five Questions for Author Rachel Lynn Solomon

Okay, I admit that lots of YA authors have earned the title of my favorite, depending on what book I’m reading at the moment, but today I’m thrilled to welcome one of my super star favorite YA authors, Rachel Lynn Solomon, to the Boswellians Blog! The stories Rachel creates are always rich with a complexity of emotions, meaning you'll be thinking about the choices her characters make long after you've turned the last page. Her lovely and expressive writing caught my attention in 2018 with the publication of You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, a heart-wrenching story of a messy sibling relationship that left me in tears (always a plus!) She followed up the next year with Our Year of Maybe, which has a fabulous new cover in paperback. When Sophie’s gift of a kidney frees Peter to follow dreams that don’t include his best friend, Sophie is devastated and forced to rethink everything she’s expected and planned for. 

I’m so excited to chat about Rachel’s new book Today Tonight Tomorrow, which takes her usual complicated, beautifully drawn characters and blends in cleverly written, laugh-out-loud banter. High school rivals Neil (valedictorian) and Rowan (salutatorian) have no idea how adorable they are together (or that everyone assumes they’re hooking up). The two go all out to best each other one last time before college in an all-night journey of self discovery, non-stop bickering, and something that might be simmering passion (or just close proximity in too many dark places) as they race through the streets of Seattle to win a senior class scavenger-hunt known as Howl. Publishers Weekly gave Today Tonight Tomorrow a starred review, saying, “This funny, tender, and romantic book is fresh and wholly satisfying.” 

JENNY CHOU: Rachel, thank you so much for joining me on the Boswellian’s Blog! I always like to start by finding out about the problems the main character is facing, because it doesn’t matter if an author is writing picture books, middle grade, or YA, every protagonist stumbles over some sort of obstacle on her way to the end of the book. I adore Rowan, and she sure has a lot going on! Tell us about her. 

RACHEL LYNN SOLOMON: Thank you so much for having me, Jenny! You’ve been such a champion of my books, and I’m tremendously grateful. Rowan is probably my favorite character I’ve written. She’s a Type-A overachiever, co-president of the student council, and secretly: an aspiring romance novelist. I’m always drawn to ambitious characters, and the challenge here was writing someone with this very clear goal who’s also deeply afraid of people judging her for it. Rowan is optimistic, a bit of a dreamer, and sometimes she’s so enamored with her vision of the future that she struggles to slow down and enjoy what’s going on right in front of her. 

Over the past four years, she’s also maintained a rivalry with Neil, her co-president and perennial headache. She’s convinced she despises him, even though she texts him every day and thinks about him constantly. Spending so much time in close proximity during these last twenty-four hours of high school causes a lot of new feelings to develop (or maybe latent feelings to surface) as they shed their insecurities and question what the future holds for them, both separately and together.

JC: What do you hope readers, and especially teens, take away from Today Tonight Tomorrow?

RLS: At its core, this is a book about being open and honest -- with yourself, with your friends, with the enemy who maybe isn’t an enemy anymore. It’s about embracing what you love without shame, which society unfortunately, unfairly, and disproportionately attaches to the interests of teens and women above all other groups. Mostly, though, I hope Today Tonight Tomorrow brings readers joy. It’s the most fun I’ve had writing a book, and I can’t wait for it to be out in the world.

JC: Your writing in Today Tonight Tomorrow feels like a love letter to Seattle, the city where you write, tap dance, collect red lipstick, and live with your husband and your tiny dog. While reading about Rowan and Neil and their internal journey of self-discovery, I was just as fascinated by their literal journey to Seattle’s one-of-a-kind, sometimes kitschy landmarks. The Gum Wall. Orange Dracula Dimestore. Rainbow crosswalks. The Red Hall. The not-to-be-missed Best View in Seattle. What advice do you have for writers trying to create such an evocative setting, the way you did?

RLS: I’m so glad to hear that! I’ve always been drawn to stories that are love letters to cities, and from the beginning, that was what I wanted this book to be. There’s much more to a city than its geography - there’s a feeling you get when your heart pulses along with downtown traffic or a raspberry sunset caps off a perfect summer day. Exploring how your characters relate to their setting also helps it become a character itself. What do they love about it? What annoys them? What would they make fun of about it? What would only a local know about it?

Rowan in particular is terrified of leaving Seattle and everything she knows, and though she has a summer ahead of her before she goes to college, this night sort of functions as a goodbye to this place she’s spent her whole life.

JC: If you could tell your naive, unpublished past self anything about querying agents, selling your novel, working with an editor, or anything else about the sometimes mystifying world of publishing, what would it be?

RLS: The goalpost is always moving. I used to get trapped in thinking that if I just made it to the next step of my career, whatever that happened to be, then I’d feel professionally fulfilled. But as soon as you get to that next step, there’s something else you want. I was a little like Rowan in that way - I thought so much about the future that I struggled to celebrate my successes because I was always playing the comparison game.

It took me a while to accept this aspect of publishing and to even embrace it. Yes, the goalpost is always moving, but that also means that as a writer, I’m always improving, always pushing myself. It’s still surreal that I have my dream job, and I want to enjoy the writing itself as much as I can.

JC: Let’s imagine you get to be an Indie bookseller for a day! Are there any new releases you’re super excited about and would like to suggest to YA readers?

RLS: Ooh, this is a fun one! Verona Comics by Jennifer Dugan - the first chapter is the most adorable meet-cute I’ve read in YA, and the book contains so many important conversations about mental health. (The author includes content warnings on her website.) And then I’ll cheat a little with something that isn’t out yet - I loved Now That I’ve Found You by Kristina Forest, a delightful contemporary YA romance that reminded me of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and releases at the end of August.

JC: Thank you for joining me on the blog, Rachel! To keep up with Rachel Lynn Solomon’s latest writing news, including info on her upcoming adult romantic comedy debut called The Ex Talk, blog readers can follow her on Twitter at @rlynn_solomon and Instagram at rlynn_solomon.

On Thursday, July 30th, our friends at Third Place Books in Seattle will host Rachel Lynn Solomon in conversation with authors Becky Albertalli (Simon VS the Homo Sapiens Agenda) and Marisa Kanter (What I Like About You) for a free virtual event. Join in the fun by registering here.

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