Author Spotlight: Rachel Lynn Solomon talks You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone
Happy 2018! I'm so excited to be kicking off the year by hosting the lovely Rachel Lynn Solomon on the blog. In addition to being an all-around-wonderful person (and Pitch Wars mentor!), Rachel is a Seattle native who has written for newspapers, produced a radio show, and worked for NPR. Her debut novel, You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone releases TODAY from Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse. You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone has already been racking up some excellent reviews, and it's also been chosen as:
ABA Indies Introduce Pick for Winter/Spring 2018
A Top 10 Winter 2017-2018 Kids’ Indie Next List title
So check out my chat with Rachel below, and don't forget to go and wish her a VERY HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY!
Hi, Rachel! Welcome and congrats on your debut, You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone. Can you tell us a little about the story and what inspired it?
Thank you for having me! The book is about twin sisters who receive opposite results from a genetic test for Huntington’s disease. Thematically, it deals with sister relationships, Jewish identity, ambition, and first love.
The idea first sparked when I was browsing through Wikipedia and landed on a page about Huntington’s disease. I knew a little about the disease, and as I continued researching (beyond Wikipedia), I learned that a child of a parent with Huntington’s has a 50/50 chance of developing it themselves. It made me wonder: what if sisters—twins, even—received opposite results from a genetic test for HD? It was a staggering, heartbreaking thought, and I knew I wanted to explore all the complicated feelings associate with it in alternating POVs.
School Library Journal says Adina and Tovah have ‘distinct voices’. You’ve mentioned that Adina’s voice came more easily than Tovah’s—so how did you get into Tovah’s head, and what are your tips for writers who may be struggling to differentiate their POVs?
I think Adina’s voice came more easily because she’s a musician, and so am I (though more of an occasional musician these days). Tovah is more scientific and logical, and she’s not as in touch with her emotions, so it took a while to figure out her fears. Before I discovered she wanted to eventually become a surgeon, I did some list-making and free-writing in a journal to figure out what her interests might be and how she could contrast with her sister. I knew I wanted her to be more social but less confident, if that makes sense, because I thought that would be interesting to read and to write!
Dual POV can definitely be a challenge, especially with two female characters—and especially with sisters. I wanted Adina’s identity as a musician to influence her voice. Her voice is more lyrical, languid, with longer sentences and plenty of music metaphors. Contrasted with Adina’s, Tovah’s voice is more logical and to the point. I made lists of music- and science-related words for each character, which I referred to while revising. While I wrote the book chronologically, I tried to revise each character separately—as in, I worked on a few Adina chapters, and then a few Tovah chapters, and so forth—so I could stay in each girl’s head as best I could.
What part of the writing process do you find most challenging and how do you tackle it?
Time, honestly. I work full-time in addition to writing, and I’m constantly feeling crunched for time. It helps to set goals for myself even when I’m not on deadline and to set aside a few hours each week that I know (and everyone around me knows) are guaranteed for writing. People know that on weekend mornings, I’m in my favorite coffee shop with my laptop open. Any other writing time I get during the week is a bonus.
Do you listen to music for inspiration or while writing? What songs would we find on the You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone soundtrack?
Music is a huge part of my books; most of my characters are musical in some way, and I tend to give each character a chunk of my own musical tastes. I can’t listen to music while I write, but I do listen to my book playlists to get myself pumped up before writing! Some songs from my You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone playlist:
“Doll Parts” by Hole“Die Alone” by Ingrid Michaelson
“Anyone’s Ghost” by the National
“Troublemaker” by Camera Obscura
“About a Girl” by Nirvana
“I Wanna Love You” by Jessica Lea Mayfield
“Rocks and Water” by Deb Talan
“Wake Up Exhausted” by Tegan and Sara
“Rainy Days and Mondays” by the Carpenters.
I love how Adina and Tovah are ambitious in different ways, so even though they have a trait in common it still serves to put them at odds. Was this something you planned from the start?
It is, absolutely. I wanted both sisters to be ambitious, since a lot of twin narratives out there will have one twin going to Harvard and one who’s a total slacker. I wanted to put out a different kind of sister story.
What has been your most rewarding experience as an author so far?
Everyone says not to read reviews, and I’m sure I’ll stop at some point, but right now it’s a totally surreal, wonderful experience to see strangers connecting with the book. A few advance reviews on Goodreads have moved me to tears, and some are so smart that they’ve picked up things about the book I never thought about!
What are you reading, or otherwise currently infatuated with?
Reading: Farrah Penn’s debut 12 Steps to Normal.
Watching: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Loving: my dog, always.
And finally, what’s one steadfast piece of advice you’d like to share with other writers?
The path to publication is not a straight line. It’s probably not even a line at all. You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone was my fifth completed manuscript, and my agent is my second agent. Stubbornness—and always, always working on the next book—is crucial, and we have to be our own best advocates.
Many thanks go out to Rachel for taking the time to tell us more about You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone, as well as sharing some truly valuable tips on creating distinct voices for your POV characters. Be sure to add You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone to your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) order your copy RIGHT NOW from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local indie.
And, as always,