Riya and Abby are: Best friends. Complete opposites. Living on different continents. Currently mad at each other. About to travel around Europe.
Riya moved to Berlin, Germany, with her family for junior year, while Abby stayed behind in their small California town. They thought it would be easy to keep up their friendship—it’s only a year and they’ve been best friends since preschool. But instead, they ended up fighting and not being there for the other. So Riya proposes an epic adventure to fix their friendship. Two weeks, six countries, unimaginable fun. But two small catches:
They haven’t talked in weeks.
They’ve both been keeping secrets.
Can Riya and Abby find their way back to each other among lush countrysides and dazzling cities, or does growing up mean growing apart?
In our last interview, you said your titles change a great deal over the course of writing a novel. Is this still true, and in what ways do the titles tend to adapt?
This has been true for all but one of my novels. Songs for a Teenage Nomad kept its title the whole way through – it was so deeply linked to the structure and heart of that novel that I can’t imagine it with a different title. With my other novels, different considerations went into the title decisions. As I wrote, each book changed shape on me. I discovered things about it, about its characters and tone and overall mood and these shifts changed the titles. Of course, then other important people chimed in: my agent, the editor, the publisher. It’s key that each book ends up with a title that feels like the best fit for the book that’s going out into the world.
Indeed it is. You also mentioned that THE WONDER OF US has multiple points-of-view. What was the most challenging part of weaving different narratives into the same timeline?
With this novel, my editor and I knew from the start that this book needed both Riya’s and Abby’s perspectives. This is the story of how a life-long friendship started to fall apart and why. It proved more powerful told from both perspectives since the truth rests somewhere in between these two girls and their perceptions of things. Much of this novel explores how our distinct personalities and dreams impact our friendships. It’s obvious, but anytime there are multiple people involved, there can never be only one lens. It’s my favorite part about fiction – all these different world-views chiming in to tell a story. It’s also the biggest challenge as an author because it’s easy to let our own preferences and personalities slip in; you have to be vigilant about remaining true to your characters.
You definitely are--and Abby and Riya have unique, distinct voices. I also love how the WONDER OF US explores rebuilding what's been lost. If there was anything you could rebuild, real or imagined, what would it be and why?
When I allow myself to think about regret, it’s mostly things I haven’t said (although, sure, there are things that have been said that are regrettable, of course. Anyone who knows me well knows my filter misfires sometimes). But mostly, I wish I had said certain things to certain people who mattered to me, who impacted me powerfully in some way. Sometimes we don’t know things have shifted or changed until we deem it too late. That’s tough, because you might not even have an opportunity to remedy something. I think, though, that rebuilding something takes honesty and self-awareness and time –things that aren’t always in wide supply.
Very true. If you were stuck on a desert island with only four books, what would they be and why?
The Complete Works of Shakespeare (is that cheating?), a Richard Russo novel (probably Bridge of Sighs), The Humans by Matt Haig, and some sort of survival manual, preferably with a title like How to Survive on a Desert Island with only Four Books.
Ha, I love it! And Shakespeare definitely isn't cheating.