I have practically been squealing in my seat for WEEKS waiting to share this interview with y’all, and it’s finally here! *cue party poppers*
I am so happy to have Rachel Lynn Solomon on the blog today, talking about her sophomore novel, Our Year of Maybe. I’ve read it and HOLY COW it is fantastic! Just as amazing as her debut, if not more.
This interview honestly has it all–a summary in verse, photos of teen Rachel, all the friendship discussion–and I’m so ready to hear what you think! Plus, there’s a giveaway at the end for a signed copy and dandelion pins [insert eye emojis]!
I won’t bother you with introductions for too long, but know that Our Year of Maybe is a fantastic contemporary that I wholeheartedly suggest you pick up! Now, onto the interview . . .
Rachel! It’s so great to have you on my blog today. I’m so excited to chat books with you! To start us off, will you let readers know a little bit about yourself, You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, and Our Year of Maybe–but in verse?
Thank you so much for having me, Vicky!! Let’s see…
I was born and raised in Seattle
which influences much of my work.
Mainly because I’m often making fun of Seattle
(in a loving way)
and how we wear
My books have a lot in common:
music (and occasional music snobbery)
and romances that don’t always end with happily ever after.
But where You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone opens with a fractured sibling relationship,
Our Year of Maybe begins with two best friends:
Sophie, hopelessly in love with Peter
Peter, hopelessly in love with the world
(a world his illness has kept him from).
When Sophie donates a kidney to Peter,
e v e r y t h i n g
c h a n g e s.
I was maybe a liiiiittle self-indulgent with the formatting, haha. I have approximately 93847 times more respect for verse novelists now 😉
Something I loved reading in You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone was the complex sibling relationship between Tovah and Adina. In Our Year of Maybe, how did Sophie and Peter have a really strong relationship as best friends (although Sophie wants something more). What elements and themes from the sisterhood in You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone translated over into the strong friendship in Our Year of Maybe, and why do you think these types or relationships show up so often in your work?
I definitely love writing all kinds of complicated relationships. The people who are closest to us have the power to hurt us the most, and I might have a fondness for torturing characters in this way. A lot of this stems from my teen years. I didn’t have a lot of close friends in high school, but I did have these horrible, aching crushes that felt more like obsessions. I latched onto people (cool girls, cute boys) and constantly sought their approval, which of course isn’t something you should ever rely on another person to provide.
Though both books are dual POV, the relationships follow opposite but parallel arcs: YMMWIG is about how sisters who are no longer close learn to let each other back into their lives. But OYOM centers on best friends who would do anything for each other—or at least, one of them would, and as Sophie says in the first chapter: “he hasn’t had the chance to prove it like I have.” It’s about their struggle to maintain that friendship after a kidney transplant warps it in ways neither of them could have predicted. Without giving it away, I’ll say it has my favorite ending to a book I’ve ever written. Imagine the smiling devil emoji, and that’s me writing the ending to the book, but also crying a little because #emotions.
Similarly, another common theme that I’m seeing in your debut and Our Year of Maybe is music, as Adina was a viola prodigy and Peter is a pianist. How would you say musical elements not only helped make your books better, but also helped form your characters?
My favorite kinds of characters to write are those whose passions influence their narrative voice, which is why I especially love writing musicians. I played both piano and guitar growing up, and I wrote songs as well, so music is a natural second language for me. Some pictures of my HS band…can you feel the angst?
And yes—in my first two drafts of OYOM, Peter liked music, but he was not a pianist! After she read my first draft, my editor noted that she didn’t feel that Sophie and Peter were best friends, which was a problem, because we need to believe that in order to understand Sophie’s decision to donate a kidney. Sophie was always a dancer, but it wasn’t until I made Peter a pianist and connected them through music that everything clicked. I added that Sophie and Peter grew up writing songs (Peter) and dancing (Sophie) together, even performing for their families. I even wrote a prologue (my first one ever) that shows them doing this a few years before the story starts in chapter 1. Peter playing piano is such a huge part of his arc now—he joins a band and that’s how he meets another potential love interest—that I can’t imagine the book without it.
Everyone says writing your sophomore novel is so much harder than your debut, and I’ve definitely seen you tweet a few times about this process for you–is there anything you struggled with in writing Our Year of Maybe, and how did you overcome this?
For many people, the second book is your first experience writing under contract and knowing the book is for sure going to be published, which was a surreal feeling. It took a while to wrap my mind around that fact—knowing that my Word document would eventually become a hardcover. I also made a really, really ridiculous mistake: OYOM was written at the time of my sale, so I put it aside for an entire year while I worked on YMMWIG edits and drafted an adult book. When I opened up OYOM, I was kind of horrified by it? There were so many things I didn’t like, and I had a month before my draft was due to my editor. I began a frantic rewrite, and I wound up turning in a complete garbagedraft. Fortunately, her notes were so brilliant in that they encouraged me to think more deeply about who my characters were.
I also struggled with what kind of book I wanted to write. Should it be similar to YMMWIG, or should it be as different as I could possibly make it? I was revising OYOM when early reviews of YMMWIG were coming in, so I’d see that a reader loved something in YMMWIG, something I knew wasn’t in OYOM, and I’d wonder if I should add it.
I did ultimately find a balance by thinking deeply about what kind of book I wanted to write. OYOM is a book about unrequited, obsessive love, and wrapping yourself up in someone else so much that you forget who you are. Very, very similar to my high school experience, and 100 percent the kind of book I needed back then.
Lastly, I have to ask–who’s your favorite (Sophie or Peter?) and who do you think will be the readers’ favorite when they get a chance to pick up Our Year of Maybe? I know in You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, Tovah was my favorite although I loved her and Adina both.
This is a tough one! I’m probably more drawn to Sophie because there’s a lot of my teen self in her, though Peter has some of my personality, too. I’m hopeful readers will relate to both Sophie and Peter—they’re full of so much wanting and are trying their best, even when that means making a lot of mistakes.
Thank you again for having me, Vicky!
Ahhh this was so awesome and WOW RACHEL SHOULD TRY HER HAND AT WRITING IN VERSE THAT WAS AWESOME. (Also seeing teenage Rachel was so cool!).
And Rachel was definitely right–after reading I found myself both in Sophie and Peter (although Sophie is more like me and Peter is the smol bean).
You can read my review of Our Year of Maybe here, but it’s safe to say that I LOVED it! So awesome and so well thought out and so everything!
Also, here are some of the content warnings for Our Year of Maybe:
illness (renal dysplasia, chronic kidney disease), though much of it is referenced in past tense, as the transplant takes place in chapter 4.
More About the Book
Our Year of Maybe by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Hardcover, 384 pages
January 15th 2019 by Simon Pulse
Aspiring choreographer Sophie Orenstein would do anything for Peter Rosenthal-Porter, who’s been on the kidney transplant list as long as she’s known him. Peter, a gifted pianist, is everything to Sophie: best friend, musical collaborator, secret crush. When she learns she’s a match, donating a kidney is an easy, obvious choice. She can’t help wondering if after the transplant, he’ll love her back the way she’s always wanted.
But Peter’s life post-transplant isn’t what either of them expected. Though he once had feelings for Sophie too, he’s now drawn to Chase, the guitarist in a band that happens to be looking for a keyboardist. And while neglected parts of Sophie’s world are calling to her—dance opportunities, new friends, a sister and niece she barely knows—she longs for a now-distant Peter more than ever, growing increasingly bitter he doesn’t seem to feel the same connection.
Peter fears he’ll forever be indebted to her. Sophie isn’t sure who she is without him. Then one blurry, heartbreaking night twists their relationship into something neither of them recognizes, leading them to question their past, their future, and whether their friendship is even worth fighting for.
More About the Author
Rachel Lynn Solomon writes, tap dances, and collects red lipstick in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of the young adult novels You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone and Our Year of Maybe, both available now from Simon Pulse. 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.
Excited for Our Year of Maybe?! I certainly am! Enter the giveaway through the Rafflecopter below where one lucky winner will receive a signed hardcover of Our Year of Maybe and a dandelion enamel pin!