Happy Monday & welcome to Rather Be Reading. I’m thrilled debut author Juliana Romano is stopping in to talk about her book: FIRST THERE WAS FOREVER — a book about two best friends going through a lot of changes. It’s one of my top reads this year, and Publishers Weekly liked it too: “Fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han won’t want to miss this sensitive exploration of romantic and platonic relationships in flux, and young women coming into their own.”
Truth be told, I grabbed Juliana’s book for my recent trip to Disney World to meet Magan and was thrown into a rare moment where I would “rather be reading” than prancing around the Magic Kingdom. This is pretty much the best endorsement I could ever give a book. Anyway, check out what Juliana (who is also a painter) had to say about friendships, her awesome setting, and what she is working on next!
Estelle: Friendships are so complicated, and you did a wonderfully heartbreaking job of showing the highs and lows in Lima and Hailey’s relationship. They loved each other so much and that’s what made how each of them were changing so hard to read about. What do you think is the key to lasting friendship? Is it possible to get through high school unscathed?
Juliana: I’m so happy you connected with Lima and Hailey’s ups and downs. It’s hard to say what makes a friendship last, but in my experience, its trust and sharing a sense of humor. The friendships that I have that have lasted since high school or college, are ones where no one ever crossed the line into territory where one of us got really hurt. But the friends who I lost because either they hurt me or I hurt them, like Lima and Hailey, those friendships were really important, too. I learned a lot about myself and about love from those relationships. I think it’s important to remember that friendships that end aren’t bad friendships, sometimes it’s just how it goes.
Estelle: In so many cases, Lima’s curiosity made her a stronger person. Did you know how much you wanted her to grow when you started the book?
Juliana: No, I really didn’t! I knew that I wanted her to learn to make choices, but I felt very connected to her and very open to her journey while she was on it. I didn’t totally know where she was going to end up until she got there.
Estelle: I loved so much about the book, but one detail I thought was particularly awesome (especially because it was young adult) was the exploration of sex. It was so honest. When you set out to write this book, did you know it was going to be a YA? Did you have a barometer for how far you wanted it to go?
Juliana: Yes, I definitely knew I wanted to write YA. I didn’t think about whether or not that meant there could be real sex, but I assumed it would be OK because there is sex in a lot of YA books. Sex in this book was really important to me because its one of the ways that I think Lima tests her own boundaries and surprises herself. I feel like parting of growing up is stepping into new roles and seeing how they feel, and that can be really scary.
Estelle: California is like its own character in your book; the setting was so alive. What’s one spot in your book you would recommend your readers visiting?
Juliana: Ahh so hard to say! In LA, I think the beaches are great. I’d go to the Santa Monica Pier and ride the Ferris Wheel and then just walk along the sand. It’s touristy and kitschy but that kind of adds to the romance. The charm of LA is about things being not-quite perfect.
Estelle. Can you tell us one secret about the book you’re working on now?
Juliana: There’s a boy in it with very green eyes. And it takes place in another city with a whole other set of characteristics than LA. Think: skyscrapers and yellow cabs and bridges 😉
Big hugs to Juliana for answering my questions!