As you know Miss Print and I are wrapping up our synchronized reading – which is a semi-regular feature on both of our blogs – of Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr’s co-authored novel Roomies.
Today is an exciting day on the blog. Why? Because I get to reveal part one of the bonus content I mentioned a few days ago.
Since I knew I would love Roomies, I thought it would be fun to feature (once again) Tara Altebrando here on The BookBandit Blog! And fortunately for us, Tara was so kind and so awesome to take time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions.
As if that wasn’t enough, Tara also gave me the opportunity share some exclusive Roomies content with all of my readers.
So without further adieu ….
BookBandit Blog (BB): What was the inspiration behind Roomies?
Tara Altebrando (TA): Sara and I were already friends and fans of each others’ work when a few YA collaborations were announced in the trades. We thought it sounded like fun and talked about a few vague ideas. Then one day Sara said, “Just send me something.” So I sat down and thought about ideas that would work well for two voices and shot off an email to Sara. The content of that email was my character Elizabeth’s first email to a girl named Lauren, who was going to be her freshman year roommate at college. Sara wrote back with a scene about Lauren that ended with an email back to Elizabeth, and we were off and running. I’m not sure if I’d been in touch with one of my college roommates right around then—we’re all still friends—but I’d been thinking that the summer before college was interesting territory to explore.
BB: You wrote Roomies by e-mailing chapters back and forth. What was it like writing without really knowing how half of the story would turn out? How did writing in collaboration compare to your usual writing process? With that, how did co-writing change your writing process?
TA: It was really fun to get Sara’s chapters and be surprised by what she was doing with the Lauren character’s arc. Because we were basically writing independent, parallel stories, we didn’t have to talk much (or at all) about where we were taking our stories, so it was a really fun, relaxed process. I am definitely less relaxed about my solo books! Writing with Sara was just way more fun than writing alone. I am not sure it has changed my typical process, but I genuinely loved collaborating. Being a novelist can be lonely!
BB: Did any real locations in New Jersey or San Francisco inspire the places you mentioned in your part of the story?
TA: My character lives in Point Pleasant, which is a real town on the Jersey Shore. But as is often the case, I found that it was easier to fictionalize specific places on the shore instead of trying to document the specific town. I wanted to capture the flavor of the area, not get bogged down in details.
BB: What was your favorite scene in Roomies to write? What scene of Sara’s did you enjoy reading most?
TA: I especially loved writing the scene where Elizabeth and Mark go to the boardwalk amusement park, right before she leaves for college. Anyone who has read my novels The Pursuit of Happiness or Dreamland Social Club knows that I’m a sucker for boardwalk amusement parks. I also enjoyed writing the scene where Elizabeth does a Zumba class with her mom, because it felt like a big turning point for them both. As for Sara’s scenes, I loved the scene where Lauren and her mother talk about what life might have been like if Lauren had been their only child, if they hadn’t gone on to have such a big family. It’s a tough, lovely conversation.
BB: Where do you see Lauren and Elizabeth at the end of freshman year together?
TA: Good question! We’re THINKING about writing another book that would answer that question. Not sure yet, though. So stay tuned!
BB: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects? Are there any other collaborations in your future?
TA: I’m really excited about my middle-grade debut, The Battle of Darcy Lane, which comes out in Mary. It’s about toxic tween friendships. I’m also really excited about a new YA I’m working on, which is sort of a memory thriller.
BB: What advice can you offer aspiring writers?
TA: Write write write. Read read read. And learn the craft so that your stories are never bogged down by amateurishness.
THANK YOU! To Tara Altebrando – not only for such an awesome read – but for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for The BookBandit Blog and for being a part of mine and Miss Print’s synchronized reading!