Looking for your next hot summer read? Rebecca Serle’s debut YA novel When You Were Mine is the perfect vacation get-away, beach/ poolside, and even backcountry camping book. Although you may have to stay up all night to finish it since once you begin, it’s impossible to stop reading. To learn more about Ms. Serle, read on fair friends.
Nicki Richesin: Congratulations on your heartbreaking first novel When You Were Mine. I found it exquisite torture turning the pages fast enough to find out what happens next. The book is largely about Rosaline’s journey finding confidence and happiness for herself. Do you believe in choosing to be happy in this way, that we’re not ruled by fate, but we make our own destiny?
Rebecca Serle: Well first of all thank you so much! I believe that life is a dialogue between fate and free will. As Charlie says we can’t always choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we react…we can choose happiness. Joy. Love. Too many books for young women show love as destiny. You are fated to be with this person! He is the only one for you! Quick! Die on his behalf! I just don’t buy that. Choice is an incredibly powerful force. Choosing to be with someone is also extremely romantic. Not because of fate. Not because of destiny. But because you want to. Of your own free will and accord, this is the person you choose.
NR: You indicated in your Acknowledgments that Stephen Barbara had encouraged you to pursue writing YA novels. How did you first begin writing for a YA audience?
RS: My first love is really picture books and Stephen was a wonderful advocate of my work in that arena. It’s something that I hope to come back to! So my introduction to children’s literature really sprung from the very beginning—from picture books. But I had two shelved novels and a short story collection, as well. I found that YA really suited my voice. I loved it, and felt a lot of freedom doing it. But I’m a curious writer by nature. I drive my agent crazy because I’m always looking for the next thing—I want to do it all.
NR: Rosaline is a teenage A+ student with dreams of one day attending Stanford. She has always dutifully checked off items on her to-do list, but learns along the way to live in the moment and not plan her whole life before she’s twenty. How did this character first appear to you?
RS: At a very young age…maybe birth? Because, well, she is me. I was Rosaline in High School. Paranoid about college, grades, doing the right thing. I have learned over time to let go a bit. Writing is so good for that. It teaches you how to surrender to what is.
RS: You know, honestly, no. I wasn’t a huge Romeo and Juliet fan. Don’t get me wrong—I was IN LOVE with Leonardo Dicaprio and everything that went along with that movie—but I don’t think I read the play until I was in college, maybe even after. When You Were Mine was born out of my own heartbreak. It was really a case of putting two and two together. I wanted to tell Rosaline’s story—and I knew what it felt like to be her.
NR: Could you tell us a bit about your work with Nurturing Narratives?
RS: Absolutely! I founded an organization to bring storytelling to groups of young children—helping them create their own narratives. I’d love to develop it as a non profit someday, but for now with writing it’s really a passion project.
RS: Without saying too much—I think the people they are considering are pretty perfect.
NR: Dreamy southern California is the setting and almost a second character in When You Were Mine. You must feel a special kinship as a USC grad. How important is the setting to you when you’re writing?
RS: It’s important because it’s what I can call on. Geography plays a major role in a novel—what you need it to represent and also just logistically. Where do these people spend time? What elements can I call on for my story? I draw a lot from the setting. It’s kind of like a pantry. You can pull from it.
NR: If you could be reincarnated as any character in children’s literature, who would you choose and why?
RS: Hermione Granger. Because I’d get Harry as a best friend and Ron as a soul mate. Can you imagine a better world?
NR: Which projects are you working on now?
RS: A few things! My next YA novel will be out sometime in late 2013. It’s darker than When You Were Mine, and it takes place in Manhattan. Other than that, you’ll just have to wait and see!
Thank you for your time, Rebecca and best of luck with When You Were Mine!
Thank you! This was fun!
Nicki Richesin is the editor of four anthologies The May Queen, Because I Love Her, What I Would Tell Her, and Crush. She is a regular contributor to Huffington Post, Daily Candy, 7×7, Red Tricycle, and San Francisco Book Review. Nicki has been reading to her daughter every day since she was born. For more information, visit: https://nickirichesin.com/.