Sunday Brunch: A Chat with Authors Brianna Bourne and Elise Bryant


[Note from Frolic: Our resident YA expert Aurora got the chance to chat with authors Brianna Bourne and Elise Bryant and ask them a few questions each. Up first, Brianna Bourne!]

Aurora: What was your inspiration behind You & Me At The End?

Brianna Bourne: I’d always wanted to write a YA love story where the two main characters get to be alone—really alone—for a solid chunk of time. No school, no parents, no expectations. When you’re a teenager falling in love, it so often has to squeeze in around all the pre-existing parts of your life.

It wasn’t until an image popped into my head—a girl walking barefoot down an empty twelve-lane highway—that I knew where to start.

What would it be like to wake up and find you’re the last person in the huge city you’ve lived in all your life? The streets are silent, the air is still, and there’s no sign of what happened to everyone else—but somehow the electricity still works and your grocery store doors slide open on brightly lit, fully-stocked shelves.

And then… a boy.

Please describe the content of You & Me At The End of the World and what can readers expect from it.

You & Me follows cautious ballerina Hannah Ashton and charismatic, reckless musician Leo Sterling after they wake up to find they’re they last two people in their silent, empty city. As they search for answers amid crushing isolation, they get the chance to explore who they really are away from the families and social structures that defined them—and decide exactly what they want to be to each other. But while their empty world seems harmless . . . it’s not. Because nothing is quite as it seems, and if Hannah and Leo can’t figure out what’s going on, they might be torn apart forever.

Readers can expect to be to be swept up in a dizzyingly real, slow-burn love story as they’re immersed in Hannah and Leo’s surreal situation—and come out the other side ready to take some brave steps in their own lives.

If you liked the speculative style (and stunning feels) of Gayle Forman’s If I Stay and Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End, you’ll love You & Me at the End of the World.

Why do you feel YA books with powerful and unique themes are so popular and have such a voice right now?

People are constantly in search of sparks—of things that feel new, or that give us the strongest dilution of an emotion. No one wants to read watered-down stories that don’t make us feel anything; we have always wanted flavor.

With so much content out there for us to consume, YA novels really have to stand out to be seen. Stories with fresh premises, never-before-seen twists, themes that confront the glaring problems in our own world, and emotions that scratch at more than just the top layer of what it means to be a human—those are the ones that will catch the world’s attention.

YA especially continues to get braver and bolder—it’s truly becoming the place to go for stories that really push the envelope, stories that will change the world. If you think about how young adults were treated one hundred, even fifty years ago, we’ve come so, so far. Teenagers are making it clear that they are capable of handling just about anything in what they read, and that they are hungry for things that are powerful and unique and fresh. It’s going to shape our future, and I’m so ready for that.

What’s next for you in the bookish world?

I just started writing my next book and I’m so in love with the premise!  I’m not sure how much I can say at this point, but it will be full of my favorite things – a slow-burn, swoony romance, an atmospheric setting, and of course, a speculative twist that takes the world we know and flips one part of it in some impossible way. It’s set to hit shelves in 2022, so keep your eyes peeled!

Who is your current favorite writer? Why?

Emily Henry, hands down! Her writing is just so lush and clever and addictive. She’s writing sparkling adult romances now, but her YA novels blew my mind and left me in a sobbing (but happy!) heap. The Love that Split the World and A Million Junes are incredible – check them out if you haven’t yet!

I also love Natalie Richards, Emily X.R. Pan, and Jandy Nelson. In the adult realm, I will voraciously gobble up anything by Naomi Novik, Deanna Raybourn, or Madeline Miller.

Any writing advice for aspiring writers?

– Read some books on writing, then let them sit with you for a while. Like anything else, it will take years to really understand the mechanics behind writing a whole book. Review the basics even if you feel like you already have a grasp of them.

– Get some feedback: find critique partners, apply for a mentorship program, or enter one of the many free critique giveaways on socials these days! (Shameless self-promo: I do a monthly critique giveaway over on Twitter @BriannaBourneYA and I’d love to connect with you over there and see what you’ve got cooking!)

– Don’t be afraid to rewrite huge parts of your book. Or even the entire book. I’m serious!

– Keep going!

Up next, author Elise Bryant!
What was your inspiration behind Happily Ever Afters?

I took a lot of inspiration from my own life when writing this book. I was a lot like Tessa as a teenager: really anxious and scared to share the love stories I wrote with anyone. I was in a creative writing program at an arts high school, just like Tessa, and I let those fears and my imposter syndrome totally paralyze me. I stopped writing fiction when I was sixteen and didn’t pick it up again until I was almost thirty. Through Happily Ever Afters, I wanted to explore those insecurities that held me back because I believe they’re so universal. 

What character in this novel do you most relate to and why?

Oh, definitely Tessa! It’s not totally self-insert, but there are a lot of similarities there. And I guess, through Tessa, I wanted to give myself the happy ending I wished I had as a teenager. 

Why do you feel novels with powerful and unique characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?

I’m so excited about all of the diverse narratives that are being released right now, especially in YA! I think there are a lot of BIPOC people that grew up like me, struggling to find themselves in books, and now they’re writing those books themselves. And there’s such a great need for these stories – Black kids falling in love, solving mysteries, becoming royalty, casting spells. I want all of it! But, I also think there is so much more progress that needs to be made, as books by BIPOC authors still make up such a small percentage of the books published every year. This is just the beginning. 

Please describe the content of Happily Ever Afters and what can readers expect from it.

Happily Ever Afters is about Tessa Johnson, an anxious and a little bit messy sixteen-year-old, who has rarely seen girls that look like her in the romance novels she loves. So, she writes them herself. But once she starts at an arts high school, she’s hit with writer’s block. Her best friend, Caroline, swoops in with a plan to make Tessa’s life into one of the love stories she used to write, in order to help her refill the well. As Tessa’s making her way through the list, though, she starts to realize that the love story she’s chasing may not be what she needs after all. Readers can expect to laugh, maybe cry, and definitely swoon!

What’s next for you in the bookish world?

My second book will be coming out in 2022! I can’t say much about it yet, but it takes place in the same world as Happily Ever Afters and follows one of my favorite characters as she falls in love. 

Who is your current favorite writer? Why?

I’m constantly in awe of everything Brandy Colbert writes. Her characters feel so real to me, and I just love getting lost in her worlds. 

Any writing advice for aspiring writers?

Read! Read widely and read often. I never read a craft book before I drafted Happily Ever Afters, but I learned from reading and studying books that I love. 

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