Today I have the greatest privilege of interviewing Rachel Lynn Solomon, author of You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone and the upcoming book, Our Year of Maybe. I was able to read an early copy of Our Year of Maybe and I fell in love. I can’t share my review with you just yet, so I got you something else. An interview with Rachel to talk music, friendship, and Our Year of Maybe.
Maybe you’ve read You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, or you just want to find out more about Rachel, but be prepared! Every time I read this interview, I get even more excited for the world to meet Peter and Sophie.
Peter and Sophie’s relationship to Judaism is explored in different ways in the book, were their conversations or feelings inspired by any of your feelings? Are there conversations you wish they would have had?
Thank you so much for asking—this is a topic close to my heart. Their relationship with Judaism was sparked by feelings I’ve had over the course of my life, from annoyance at having to go to temple (demonstrated by Sophie) to anxiety about not being “Jewish enough” (Peter). Both characters are grappling with what being Jewish means to them, which I’m still grappling with too. They feel a connection to it, but they’re not sure yet what that connection is. I felt that was realistic for teens because religion is a huge unanswered question for a lot of people, and especially for people beginning to ponder their relationships with it.
As I become more aware of the anti-Semitism that’s still prevalent today, I find myself wishing my characters had a little more aware, too. These days, it’s hard to be Jewish in a bubble. I’m still learning how to write Judaism into my books, but I don’t have any plans to stop writing Jewish characters.
Tabby was one of my favorite characters, in the way that she felt completely whole, while not being the main POV. What inspired you to write Tabby’s story?
I have to give some credit to my brilliant 2016 Pitch Wars mentee turned friend turned critique partner, Carlyn Greenwald! Tabby, Sophie’s younger sister who has a one-year-old kid, was originally in her twenties. I didn’t love the relationship she and Sophie had in the first draft, and during a brainstorming session, Carlyn suggested making Tabby younger than Sophie. I’d never read a YA with a protagonist whose younger sibling was a teen parent, and it seemed like a fascinating dynamic to explore. I wanted to do it in a way that didn’t shame the character, and I also wanted to show her in a healthy relationship with her boyfriend/the baby’s father. And I thought it would be interesting for Sophie, who’s completely wrapped up in her Peter obsession, to be under the impression that Tabby’s life is easy given how accepting their parents are. But as she learns over the course of the book, that’s not true—while their parents are supportive, Tabby’s path hasn’t been without its hardships. Sophie’s just been too self-absorbed to notice.
At the beginning of the book, the sisters aren’t exactly enemies; they get along, but they don’t spend time together and know little about each other’s lives. I loved writing their relationship, especially as they learn how to be close for the first time.
Part of the book revolves around the idea of discovery. Of finding parts of yourself, and desires, you didn’t know you had. Of embracing possibilities you couldn’t dream of. If you had to choose a different career path, what would you choose?
If I had the talent, I’d love to be a composer or a professional musician. I’ve also always been drawn to languages (I know Spanish and a bit of Hebrew), and for a while I thought I might become an interpreter.
In your path from before publishing your debut, all the way to preparing for book number two, what are some things you’ve learned about yourself?
I learned that I can’t let a project sit for too long without working on it. Because of how my deal happened (OUR YEAR OF MAYBE sold as my book 2 at the same time as my debut), OYOM sat in a folder on my computer for a year between when I first drafted it and when I opened it back up to send to my editor, and it needed a massive rewrite. It took me a while to figure out the story I wanted to tell, and while I’m so pleased with how it turned out, I know now that I need to feel fully “done” with a project before moving on to something else.
The concept of debt and owing someone is a huge part of this book. There’s a difference between the little push and pulls of a relationship, the ways in which people can give and take, but what do you think is the line? When does it become a more serious issue?
That’s a really interesting question. I think healthy relationships should be as equal as possible in terms of push-pull. Part of the reason Sophie and Peter’s friendship becomes so toxic for Sophie is that she realizes she has given so, so much to him and received so little in return. And for a long time, she was okay with it because it meant she could spend time with this person she loved so deeply. She could give, and give, and give, and maybe one day he’d decide he loved her back. As a teen, I thought this was how to make people love me—completely misguided now, I see that. But I did so many of the same things and changed so much of myself in the hopes it would make someone notice me. I didn’t know it when I started writing this book, but I wrote the kind of book that my teen self needed to read.
If you could pair Sophie and Peter up with any other characters from your favorite books, who do you think they’d get along with best?
Weirdly, I think Sophie would have a lot in common with Cardan from THE CRUEL PRINCE, hahaha. They’re both completely lovesick and approaching it in 100 percent the wrong way. And this one isn’t a book—I mean, it is, but I haven’t read it—and I know the movie/story has its issues, but when I saw Call Me By Your Name last year, I couldn’t get over how much the main character, Elio, reminded me of Peter. They’re both Jewish, pianists, bisexual, big readers…so I’m not opposed if anyone wants to picture Peter as Timothée Chalamet.
Note from Lili here, because of Rachel’s answer, I have now bought both THE CRUEL PRINCE and THE WICKED KING. This is how my TBR dies.
Music has been a big part of both of your novels, is it going to feature a role in the next? And talk me through your own musical evolution! Favorite childhood band? Go to artist for your rainy day mix? What do you listen to when you want to get pumped up? Tell me as much about your history and passion for music as you’d like!
Definitely! I’m not sure I can write a book that doesn’t feature music. I played in a band in high school, and I firmly believe the music we listen to as teens sticks in our heads the longest. There are so many songs I attach to a particular emotion because of how often I listened to them as a teen.
Musical evolution…okay, when I realized as a young teen that I didn’t have to only listen to what was on the radio, the first thing I found was ska. I can thank Meg Cabot for that one—I was obsessed with her books, and one of her protagonists was passionate about ska. I’m laughing now because I don’t love it anymore, but I was into early No Doubt, Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake. After that, I moved on to new wave, which I do still listen to: The Smiths, The Cure, Blondie, Depeche Mode, David Bowie. I got really into the local music scene, though sadly a lot of my favorite bands are now defunct. I had a Nirvana (and Hole) phase, which I think is mandatory for anyone who grows up in the Pacific Northwest, and a classic rock phase. And I’ve always loved musicals, too. I tend to gravitate toward female vocalists—I love Regina Spektor, Tegan and Sara, Kate Nash, Neko Case, Metric, Ingrid Michaelson, Camera Obscura, Janelle Monáe. Oh, and I have a soft spot for big band music because I used to swing dance pretty regularly.
These days, my taste is all over the place, but some of the artists I’m loving right now: Alice Merton, Tessa Violet, Bleached, Alex Lahey. For rainy days: First Aid Kit, the Carpenters, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Rilo Kiley.
Lili here again, can I jsut say I screamed a little when I saw this list and realized I have some musical tastes in common with Rachel!
I know you have more books that will come to the world, is there anything you’d like to say about them? Besides that they exist and I cannot wait?
Thank you!! I’m so excited about my 2020 book, which is tentatively titled TODAY TONIGHT TOMORROW. I just completed the first draft, and it’s a YA romantic comedy—a bit of a different tone for me, but still contemporary. It’s about two rival overachievers who realize over the course of 24 hours on the last day of senior year that they may actually love each other. It’s also a love letter to Seattle. I can’t wait to share more about it!
Lili here again, but can I just echo HOW EXCITED I AM FOR THIS NEXT BOOK!
About the Rachel
Rachel Lynn Solomon writes, tap dances, and collects red lipstick in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of two young adult novels, You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone (out now from Simon Pulse) and Our Year of Maybe (out January 15, 2019). Once she helped set a Guinness World Record for the most natural redheads in one place. You can find her online at rachelsolomonbooks.com and on Twitter @rlynn_solomon.