I’m so excited to share my interview with these debut authors, and my thoughts on their contemporary YA novel, I’m Not Dying With You Tonight. First, let me say Gilly & Kim are absolute gems! These women are passionate about writing for kids and sharing their experience with writers. As an educator, that hits me straight in the heart. Pair the enthusiasm for kids with the story they wrote, and one can’t help but be moved by the story. I was given an ARC the day we met for the interview, and I devoured the book in less than 24 hours. Once the action got started it kept me engaged. I. Could. Not. Put. It. Down! Lena & Campbell are not friends, and couldn’t be more different. They are both teenage girls who find themselves in the middle of an escalating riot and police violence stemmed from racial conflict, and the only way out, the only way to evade the threats to their lives, is to depend on one another. It isn’t easy for either girl. But readers will find themselves cheering the girls on through tough situations. In the end, the message is clear; girls can be heroes too.
This book is set to release on August 6, 2019, and is available for pre-order everywhere books are sold. Pre-order your copy today!
What inspired you to write your novel, I’m Not Dying With You Tonight?
G: I remember reading about/seeing on the news a civil protest happening in Baltimore in 2015, and the protest happened near a high school. The authorities decided to close schools to try and stamp it out, and shut down public transportation-two decisions that led to a lot of kids & adults not being able to get home. Kim and I are both moms, and we saw coverage about a school bus of kids stranded there-but never heard what happened to the kids. Violent riots and police brutality began in the area, and it made us think; how would kids survive that kind of violence? Two girls, one black and one white, and NOT friends. How might they navigate the situation having to depend on one another for survival?
What do you hope is the biggest take-away for your readers of this book?
K: We hope that the book is used as a tool to help facilitate hard but good conversations. There is a planned teacher guide and book club question in the works too. We also chose female protagonists to show that girls can be heroes too. If our main characters were boys, the stakes would not have felt as high. The main characters, Lena and Campbell, find common ground through their feminism, and draw strength from it-from each other.
How did the two of you meet and decide to team up to co-write?
G: We were both members of “Not so YA”, a young adult book club that met in Decatur. We became friends through this experience, as well as while attending a few writing retreats together. When I saw the news coverage in 2015, I wrote up a proposal for Kim with all the ideas and presented it to her one night in the book shop she used to work at. She stopped me halfway through my pitch and said, “You had me at will you write with me.” It was a very Jerry McGuire moment, LOL.
What was your hardest scene to write?
K: My toughest scene came in the editing process. The riot scene was really tough for me due to my own personal experience as a victim of abuse with a cop. You feel the emotional trauma still. Gilly had to frequently check on my emotional strength, and helped make sure I talked about it.
What do you like most/least about co-writing?
K: It is hard for us to get together, and yet we write best when we are together. It makes deadlines tough, but you have to wait for the other to do part. It is a longer process. The best thing is having someone to take all the ebbs and flows of writing together. We got the rejections together, we could process that together. Also, we absorb each other’s anxiety and help each other through times when we feel overwhelmed. The biggest lesson? Don’t think that a “NO” means that there isn’t a yes around the corner. We had lots of rejections before we got our yes.