Sunday Brunch: A Chat with Authors Dahlia Adler and Auriane Desombre

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[Note from Frolic: Our resident YA expert Aurora got the chance to chat with authors Dahlia Adler and Auriane Desombre and ask them a few questions each. Up first, Dahlia Adler!]

Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?

Dahlia Adler: It started with reading a YA book with a “guy in school now vs. summer guy” love triangle and me thinking “What if they were not both guys?” and then somehow rolled up with a past summer trip to the Outer Banks and my love for Demi Lovato (and “Cool for the Summer” in particular) and ta da!

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

Definitely Lara, even though she’s cooler than I am. (Which is actually very intentional.) Her confusion and need to validate her identity to herself and her desire to be wanted for the right reasons and her friendships that keep surprising her for better and for worse…there is so much me in there.

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

I’m not sure that’s different from any other time, though I do think power is coming from different kinds of characters than we’re used to seeing get it. Social media in particular has given far more people a voice on equal footing with others than we’ve ever had, and it’s showing that demographics for readership, among other things, aren’t necessarily what we’ve always been told they are. More people have the resources to publish their own stories, and there’s more of an industry-wide push for that too, from a number of organizations and individuals. It’s all coming together in a way right now that’s made my bookshelves much more interesting.

Please describe the content of your latest read and what can readers expect from it.

Cool for the Summer is a contemporary f/f romance about a girl who’s finally landed the attention of the guy she’s crushed on forever, only to have her unexcepted(ly female) summer fling transfer to her school and stir up really confusing feelings. It’s about questioning bisexuality, compulsory heterosexuality, allowing our dreams to change, and understanding who we are, so expect a lot of introspection, a lot of romance, and a lot of important conversations!

What’s next for you in the bookish world?

Cool for the Summer was the first book in a two-book deal, so I have another f/f romance coming out with Wednesday Books, season TBD. I also have my third anthology with Flatiron Books, At the Stroke of Midnight, coming in Fall 2022—a collection of fairytale retellings by some of YA’s most magical authors.

Who is your current favorite writer? Why?

Courtney Summers, who just released The Project back in February. There’s just no one as consistently gutting in such a real, human way without ever feeling like they’re in it for the shock value. I feel so deeply how she cares about her characters, and it makes me care so much about them too, which makes it all the more haunting when she ultimately destroys us both every. Single. Time.

Any writing advice for aspiring writers? 

It took me a while to really learn and internalize the wisdom of “you can’t edit a blank page,” but I stand by it—don’t edit as your write, or you’ll always find a reason not to finish. Instead, keep a list (or even make notes in the document) of changes you want to make along the way, and keep going. Any reason you give yourself not to hit the finish line is going to bite you in the butt. 

Also, writer friends are a gift. I’m so lucky to count among my best friends people who were just starting querying as I was, friends who got published at all different points along the way, friends who moved at entirely differently paces, who became best sellers and who didn’t, who share my successes as I share theirs. I’ve yet to see an advantage to viewing fellow authors as competition, and there’s nothing I find as restorative as seeing author friends in person. And trust me when I say you’ll need to be restored many times in this industry!

Up next, Auriane Desombre!
Aurora: What was your inspiration behind I Think I Love You

Auriane Desombre: I Think I Love You started as a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. As I revised, elements of Jane Austen’s Emma snuck in there too (the fact that the matchmaking main character’s name is also Emma is a total coincidence!). I think the “classic” books we think of as literary canon and contemporary YA books have so much more in common than we typically give them credit for. I loved thinking about the overlap I could find between Shakespeare, Austen, and a modern teen experience. Both Much Ado About Nothing and Emma are so funny and emotionally rich, and that’s the energy I hoped to bring from them into this contemporary retelling. As a queer writer, I also love finding ways to claim space for the LGBT community within those “canon” stories.

What character in I Think I Love You do you most relate to and why? 

Emma and Sophia, my two protagonists, might think they’re polar opposites, but I think I have lots in common with both of them! Like Emma, I love rom coms, and I care a lot about creating good queer representation in those romances. Sophia loves her friends with her whole heart, and, like her, I definitely see friendship and romantic love as equally important.

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

I think books with strong characters will always connect with readers! Nothing can pull me into a book faster than a powerful voice or unique perspective. Characters that stay with us even after the book is finished will always be my favorites. I think that’s especially true when those characters come from communities who need more representation in literature across the board, since so many readers have been waiting to find characters who reflect their own lived experiences. 

Please describe the content of I Think I Love You and what can readers expect from it. 

I Think I Love You follows Emma, a die-hard romantic, and Sophia, who’s grown cynical after her parents’ divorce, as they compete in a summer film competition. Emma wants to make a rom com that will bring more bi representation to the screen, but Sophia’s trying to create an artistic film with a message. They clash over each others’ artistic visions, Emma’s matchmaking plans for their mutual friends, and their differing views on romance. But as the competition (and some meddling from their friends) forces them to spend more time together, they start to find more common ground.

Readers can expect to see a lot of banter, ridiculous matchmaking schemes, accidental flirting, and the antics of a cat named Lady Catulet.

What’s next for you in the bookish world? 

I’m currently working on another YA rom com, and planning a few projects in the middle grade and adult rom com worlds. Hopefully I can bring f/f feels to all age groups!

Who is your current favorite writer? Why? 

I have so many writers whose work I adore! Annette Christie, Sonia Hartl, and Rachel Lynn Solomon have written some of my favorite YA romances, and all three of them are releasing their adult romance debuts this year, so their work has been so inspirational as I start trying out different genres myself.

Any writing advice for aspiring writers?

My first piece of advice is always to have fun with writing! There are so many pressures in the publishing world, and, for me, knowing that drafting a new project brings me so much joy is what keeps me coming back.

Aside from that, I recommend finding writer friends. That might sound easier said than done, but if none of your friends are into writing, social media groups can make it easier to find online writing communities. Connecting with other writers who can encourage your progress, offer critiques on your drafts, and help you navigate the publishing industry is utterly invaluable. I definitely wouldn’t have gotten here without my closest friends helping me along the way!

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