Las Musas is celebrating the release of Laura Taylor Namey’s brand new young adult novel WHEN WE WERE THEM, which comes out November 2, 2021!
WHEN WE WERE THEM has been described as “[a]n intimate portrait of friendship at the cusp of adulthood” by Kirkus Reviews and a “lovely, lush, and poignant story that begs to be read again and again” by New York Times bestselling novelist Kathleen Glasgow.
Today fellow musa Reina Luz Alegre interviews Laura Taylor Namey for the blog about her writing process, but first more about this emotional, beautifully written novel:
From New York Times bestselling author Laura Taylor Namey comes an exquisitely crafted, heartrending novel about friendship and the bittersweetness of growing up and growing apart.
When they were fifteen, Willa, Luz, and Britton’s friendship was everything.
When they were sixteen, they stood by each other no matter what.
When they were seventeen, they went through the worst.
And when they were eighteen, Willa ruined it all.
Now, it’s the week of graduation, and Willa is left with only a memory box filled with symbols of the friendship she destroyed: A book of pranks. Corsages from a nightmarish homecoming. A greasy pizza menu. Greeting cards with words that mean the world… It’s enough to make Willa wonder how anything could tear her, Luz, and Britton apart. But as Willa revisits the moments when she and her friends leaned on each other, she can’t avoid the moments they leaned so hard their friendship began to crack.
As Willa tries to find a way back to Luz and Britton, she must confront the why of her betrayal, and answer a question she never saw coming: Who is she without them?
Reina Luz Alegre: Your last novel A CUBAN GIRL'S GUIDE TO TEA AND TOMORROW was a YA romance, full of baking, loving family and the adventure of leaving Miami for England. Your new book WHEN WE WERE THEM is suspenseful and focuses primarily on close female friendships, secrets and a big betrayal that comes to a head the week of high school graduation. What was it like writing such different books? What inspired both stories?
Laura Taylor Namey: When We Were Them is definitely my most challenging project so far. I went into this story with the desire to stretch my wings and attempt something a little meatier, with a more complex structure and slightly darker tone. Although this book contains many of my beloved personal tropes and brand elements, I had a lot of fun (and maybe a few headaches) going for something a little more ambitious this time around. While A Cuban Girl’s Guide To Tea and Tomorrow was inspired by my Cuban family and my mother’s history as a Cuban immigrant, When We Were Them explores the other half of me, which is a California beach girl who grew up in Crown Point, the San Diego neighborhood that became the setting.
RLA: WHEN WE WERE THEM is full of page-turning plot twists. But, without giving anything away, I was especially captivated by the insightful way this story addresses big, bad things that *almost* happen, and how even near misses with tragedy may result in trauma or repercussions. Can you discuss?
LTN: Thank you so much! My goal in this story was to unpack the many aspects that make a ride or die friendship and the ways, when teens are pressed, that boundaries can become blurred––due to trauma, anxiety, and grief––even with the people we love and rely on the most. But there is another aspect at work here, which fights against the betrayal hinted at in the first chapter. And that’s the strong roots of a loving relationship in the heart, mind, and soul of a teenage girl (in this case) and how love really does win out in the end, despite life altering consequences.
RLA: You capture emotions and especially teen angst and tension so masterfully. What's the secret to writing suspenseful teens and scenes?
LTN: Those penultimate scenes really take time. I spend so much time revising those scenes until they do more than move the plot along, but truly resonate with readers. I feel that those big, big scenes are best when they invoke earlier aspects of plot and character and revisit them, assign and illuminate meaning, and them twist or amplify them in some way. That’s how I try to infuse emotion into a pivotal scene. An interesting happening paired with emotion and weaving in earlier important details or symbols is what creates a sense of resonance.
RLA: WHEN WE WERE THEM toggles between the past and the present. What was it like writing the dual timeline? What is your writing process like in general? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
LTN: Let’s just say that any sort of successful writing for me only comes from so much rewriting. This was my first dual timeline book and when I turned in my first draft, I had it almost right, but not quite. In edits, I deepened the arcs in the present timeline and added a few more pivotal happenings in the past timeline to make the entire story feel bigger and, again, resonate more. My writing process hinges on creating compelling and complex characters. I spend a lot of prewriting time developing my story people and plot is usually secondary. My plots serve to bring my main characters through the prescribed arcs I’ve developed for them, and not the other way around. What that gives me at the start of a book is a good idea of where I’m going in my story, but every scene is not plotted out in order, all at once. I call this method “Plantsing."
RLA: Swimming, the pool and the ocean are a big part of the story. What inspired you to weave water into the narrative?
LTN: Willa’s Crown Point house is my real neighbor’s home where I learned how to swim. That house had, as the book notes, one of the only swimming pools I knew of in all of Crown Point. This image has stuck with me since early childhood. Crown Point is surrounded by water, and I grew up on the beach that’s drawn so beautifully on the cover. I began to see how water in this story was more than setting, it was symbolic. And when that took flight, let’s just say I was drowning in ideas of how to utilitze water as a metaphorical and plot element that carries all the way through the book.
RLA: What's up next for Laura Taylor Namey?
LTN: I’m working on a secret young adult project right now, so watch my social media for more soon!
RLA: We’ll stay tuned! I can’t wait! Thank you so much for this inspirational interview!
Get your copy of WHEN WE WERE THEM today!
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