Happy Friday, friends! This morning I was so excited to share my review of If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin. I couldn’t stop myself from prattling on about the million and a half reasons I loved Laura’s story. It’s lovely and so beautifully written — I just wish I had a smidgeon of her talent.
Right now, however, I’m giddy because Laura stopped by to answer a few in depth questions for us about If He Had Been With Me (available for purchase on April 1, 2013, published by Sourcebooks Fire).
Please join me in welcoming theÂ Ã¼ber talented Laura Nowlin!
Magan: If He Had Been With Me is such a beautiful story full of friendship, family, and love — some of my favorite characteristics of any book. Autumn struggles to find herself, to strike a balance between loving Finn and not being an active part of his life anymore, and grappling with her parentâ€™s marriage. Everything felt so authentic and well-balanced. What was your favorite part of the story to write and what caused you the most difficulty?
Laura: I suppose that if I have to choose a section of the novel as my favorite, I will tentatively say itâ€™s the summer after Autumn graduates from high school. I also really loved writing the scene with Autumn and Finny on the front porch the day after Thanksgiving. Really, any part of the novel that has Finny and Autumn in the same room was a joy to write. The parts of the novel that were the most difficult to write were the ones where I had to keep them apart. At the end of the book it was hard for me to follow through on the promised tragedy. I sat slumped over at my desk and cried out to my husband, â€œI donâ€™t know if I can do it, I love him too much!â€
Magan: As a reader, I knew from the very beginning chapter that there would be a tragic ending. (I was personally very thankful to know something big was going to happen, even if I didnâ€™t know when. And I may have held my breath a lot anticipating it.) What inspired you to write a tragic love story and how do you think (or hope) your readers will respond to the ending?
Laura: I dreamed the premise for If He had Been with Me. One night, towards the end of a particularly dark depression, I woke up from a dream and went to my computer. I wrote the first chapter, and then went back to bed. In the morning I was stunned by how much I loved what I had written, and starting this story was instrumental in helping me recover from that period of my life. I hope readers enjoy going into the darkness with me, and I hope this story will help them to remember that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
Magan: Autumn and Finnâ€™s distance and separation as they went through high school was so heart-breaking, yet I still felt such a strong sense of hope that they would find their way back to one another. Itâ€™s natural for us grow apart from friends, but like Autumn, I never forget those people. What do you hope your readers gain or learn from their friendship?
Laura: I very much hope that readers will look at Autumn and Finnyâ€™s friendship and understand what real love looks like. Autumn loves Finny for who he is as a person, not just for what she can receive from him. Finny encourages Autumn, he doesnâ€™t try to set limits for her. Real love isnâ€™t about holding or controlling a person.
Magan: Autumn was a strong character that paved her own way and struggled when people told her a Creative Writing major wasnâ€™t a very wise choice. She was an avid reader that loved to burrow away in her room with a book. Who are some of your favorite authors and inspirations (present day and when you were in high school)?
Laura: I cried when I heard of J.D. Salingerâ€™s death, because it meant that I had to give up on the dream of ever telling him what his work meant to me. Hopefully Iâ€™ll someday get to tell Catherynne Valente that I think she is a living Literary Saint.
Magan: Reflecting on If He Had Been With Me, do you feel pieces of yourself are reflected in your characters? Who are you most like and why?
Laura: Full disclosure: Autumn and I share the same birthday and I totally rocked her blue-jeans-and-tiara look in high school. I also still rescue worms like Finny, and I give my husband odd love tokens like Jamie gave Autumn. In the end though, I am in all of the characters in the story. I canâ€™t just create a new person from scratch, I have to take a piece of myself and let it grow in a new direction. Thatâ€™s partially why I found your first question so challenging, there is just so much of me in this book.
I really enjoyed your questions. Thanks so much for letting me participate in Rather Be Reading.
Laura, thank you so much for stopping by!
I hope all of you will add If He Had Been With Me to your to read lists (really, go do it now!)
and purchase a copy on April 1st. You won’t be sorry, I promise!
Have a lovely weekend!