By Alaina Lavoie
Today we’re pleased to welcome Rachael Lippincott and Alyson Derrick to the WNDB blog to discuss their young adult novel She Gets the Girl, out since April 5, 2022!
Alex Blackwood is a little bit headstrong, with a dash of chaos and a whole lot of flirt. She knows how to get the girl. Keeping her on the other hand…not so much. Molly Parker has everything in her life totally in control, except for her complete awkwardness with just about anyone besides her mom. She knows she’s in love with the impossibly cool Cora Myers. She just…hasn’t actually talked to her yet.
Alex and Molly don’t belong on the same planet, let alone the same college campus. But when Alex, fresh off a bad (but hopefully not permanent) breakup, discovers Molly’s hidden crush as their paths cross the night before classes start, they realize they might have a common interest after all. Because maybe if Alex volunteers to help Molly learn how to get her dream girl to fall for her, she can prove to her ex that she’s not a selfish flirt. That she’s ready for an actual commitment. And while Alex is the last person Molly would ever think she could trust, she can’t deny Alex knows what she’s doing with girls, unlike her.
As the two embark on their five-step plans to get their girls to fall for them, though, they both begin to wonder if maybe they’re the ones falling…for each other.
She Gets the Girl was adorable and I loved it even more knowing it was written by a married couple! You’ve hinted at the fact that parts of Alex and Molly’s story are inspired by your own. What can you tell us about that inspiration?
Alyson: The very first thing we did when we sat down to try to write this thing is basically write an outline of how our own relationship got started. That was a real treat to be able to dig all those memories up and giggle and swoon and cringe at some of the things that happened along the way. After we had that down, we basically decided (with the help of our mentor, Siobhan Vivian), that 80% of it had to change if this was going to be a story people actually wanted to read. There was a lot of walking around campus after dark, eating fro-yo in real life. It needed more drama, more friction, and tastier scenes. The bones of SGTG remain pretty close to how things actually happened though. Me thinking I was in love with someone, Rachael helping me get with her…and then…well, you know the rest.
What was it like writing as a co-author team? Rachael, you’ve written other co-authored books as well as standalone. How was writing with Alyson different?
Rachael: It was an absolute blast. I’d write a hundred more books together if we could! I remember one day in particular where we were both cry-laughing at our kitchen table because Alyson wanted Molly to do like a triple-axel on roller skates over Alex when she fell at the roller rink. I feel like moments like that perfectly sum up the experience. We had a lot of fun working together to come up with the story, and it was really interesting to see how our relationship shifted and found a new dynamic compared to our everyday, personal life. I feel like Alyson is usually the rock and the tether, but with three books under my belt, and prior experience with the uphill battle of revisions, I was the one that kind of took that role in this new space and helped guide her to the finish line in one piece.
I had fun co-writing the other books, too! This one was just a tad bit more special.
One thing I loved was how much this book not only focuses on the romance but really treats Alex and Molly as individual people who grow and change. How did you develop their individual journeys and make them intertwine so seamlessly?
Rachael: Molly and Alex exist, on the surface, as polar opposites, but when you peel back the layers they’re able to connect on a deep level. They seem really different, their issues seem really different, but when you dig down deep enough, like Alex and Molly do, they really aren’t. I think one part of it intertwining so seamlessly is that these characters, from almost the very start, challenged each other in a way that brought out the best in the other, and because of that, they’re able to grow and change.
Molly is able to get out of her shell, and find power in being herself, with the help of Alex’s influence, just like Alex is able to trust someone and allow herself to be open and vulnerable, because Molly gives her the space and the ability to do that.
Rachael, I loved how you wrote Alex’s relationship with her mother and the role that her mom’s alcoholism plays in her life. How did you tackle the more challenging parts of this storyline in a YA romance?
Rachael: I feel like this is something I’ve hit on in all of my books, to varying degrees. I think the YA space is one where a lot of challenging issues are tackled, some more so than others, and there’s something so special about this genre that allows it to speak to people of every generation, young and old.
I think in the case of Alex and her story, her relationship with her mother and her mom’s alcoholism, and her ability to be in an intimate relationship with someone, were deeply linked. If Alex didn’t reckon with this part of herself, there could be no romance in this book. For her to tackle this part of herself, and truly believe that despite all of this she not only has the capacity to love, but the belief that she can be loved, is what’s at the core of Alex’s story. And, really, her budding romance with Molly.
Not saying she doesn’t need some therapy, because she CLEARLY does, but she’s taken a really strong step forward by the ending page of the book.
Alyson, I similarly loved the way Molly and her mom struggle with their closeness and finally address Molly’s mom’s internalized racism as a Korean adoptee. How did you tackle writing that in a YA romance? Was it intentional for Alex and Molly’s mother/daughter relationship to be somewhat foils of each other, where Alex’s is strained because of a lack of closeness and Molly’s is strained because of a lack of autonomy?
Alyson: Initially, it wasn’t something I considered writing about. I’ve always shied away from writing Asian American characters, because it’s a part of my identity that I was very uncomfortable with for a long time. I saw people like Jenny Han and Mary H.K. Choi and Maureen Goo, and I didn’t feel like it was my place to put myself into the same category as them. I mean those were real Asian Americans, I was just someone who happened to look the part on the outside, the daughter of a transracial adoptee. I felt a bit like an imposter.
But embracing that part of my identity (with the help of my wife) has been a huge part of my early adulthood. It’s been just as life-changing for me as discovering I’m attracted to women. I had to put it in there. The thing I love about this book is that it can be silly and cute and fun just like a romcom is supposed to be, but the more serious subjects we tackle really offer an opportunity for Alex and Molly to form that very deep connection. Without those parts, it just wouldn’t have felt realistic. Romcom characters have some real-life stuff going on too.
It’s funny, neither of us realized the parallels between the two mother/daughter relationships until after we got our first round of edits back and our editor pointed it out in her letter. And once we saw it, of course, we ran with it even more through each draft we wrote.
How has your adorable dog helped you promote this book?
He’s been making a few TikToks in his down time. You know, in-between playing ball and long luxurious naps. He’s been a real asset to the marketing team lately, and I’m pretty certain he does a better job than either of us do!
From reading this—and your bios—I can tell you both have a connection to Pittsburgh. What drew you to Pittsburgh as a setting for this book? You did a phenomenal job making me fall in love with a place I’ve never visited!
Rachael: Pittsburgh is a really special city for us. It’s where we met, where we live, and where we plan to raise our children. But even more than that, it’s just a great place with so much character, and we really wanted to capture that on the page.
There’s this viral TV interview from a few years back of a guy from Pittsburgh who is about as angry as can be over having to clean up ash after a controlled burn across the Monongahela River blew some debris onto his front lawn. After voicing his complaints for a whole minute, he insisted on getting the final word, and with a big grin on his face said: “Pittsburgh’s the best place to live, I don’t care what anybody says. If we gotta do some cleanup, eh, it is what it is, but we’re still number one out here, alright?”
I feel like that perfectly captures the heart of this city, and I hope people find a glimmer of that while reading She Gets the Girl.
Alyson, one of my underrated favorite parts of Molly’s story was her realization over time that you can’t be in love with someone, in her case Cora Myers, if you don’t even know them. But we all idolize people we have crushes on and put them on pedestals sometimes. How do you think Molly coming into her own identity and forming strong relationships helped her see this?
Alyson: Gosh, it can be SO easy to mistake lesser feelings, or infatuation, for love when you’ve never truly been in love. Instead of spending her young adulthood figuring out who she is as an individual, Molly has been searching for validation from other people. Her life has been on hold for the past four years, because she’s stuck in this mindset that if Cora reciprocates feelings…THEN the rest of her life will come together. As a lot of us come to find as we grow up…that’s not a very healthy way of moving through your life.
Then Alex comes along and even if she does it unconsciously, she serves as Molly’s wake up call like, “Hey! You are perfect just as you are.” It’s not about Alex validating her in any way. That’s the last thing Molly wants from her. It’s about Alex showing her that she doesn’t need validated.
The romance in this story is a slow burn, which I love. The two start as practically enemies who judge one another without knowing each other, and the Alex-as-a-love-coach dynamic really kept me reading. Why did you want this to be a slow burn and how do you think that choice impacted the characters’ journeys?
Alyson: First of all, there is nothing more tasty than a slow-burn sapphic romance. I think the media has trained lesbians to savor the buildup, because unfortunately, we don’t always get the payoff. Nothing like a good back of the hands brush or a longing stare from across the room to get our hearts pumping. And second, it was the only way to do it realistically. Alex and Molly really butt heads in the beginning. The way they see it, they have nothing in common, the other person could never understand them, and honestly I don’t think they really trust each other at all. So we needed to give them plenty of time to break down each other’s walls and open up.
You probably can’t answer this, but will you ever co-write another book together? (I’m dying for you to but also to read Alyson’s standalone work.)
Absolutely. We’d really love to.
What other books do you think She Gets the Girl is in conversation with? And do you have any recommendations for published or forthcoming YA?
I think She Gets the Girl is in a space that rides the line between YA and adult. People figuring themselves out after the graduation caps are thrown and they move out of their hometown. Books like Honey Girl or One Last Stop.
In terms of recommendations for forthcoming YA, there are SO many great books coming out this year. Definitely put Blaine for the Win by Robbie Couch and Home Field Advantage by Dahlia Adler on your radar.
What’s one question you wish you were asked more often (and the answer)?
What is your favorite thing to do in the whole world?
Alyson: Sit around a campfire, talking to my family.
Rachael: Playing board games with family.
Rachael Lippincott is the coauthor of All This Time, #1 New York Times bestseller Five Feet Apart, and She Gets the Girl and the author of The Lucky List. She holds a BA in English writing from the University of Pittsburgh. Originally from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, she currently resides in Pennsylvania with her wife and their dog, Hank.
Alyson Derrick was born and raised in Greenville, Pennsylvania, a town where burn barrels take the place of recycling bins. After making her great escape to Pittsburgh, where she earned her bachelor’s in English writing, Alyson started her own food truck, but soon realized she much prefers telling stories over slinging cheesesteaks. Alyson currently resides in Pennsylvania with her wife and their dog, Hank.
Alaina Lavoie is a Program Manager at We Need Diverse Books and a reviewer for Booklist. She has worked with WNDB since 2015, beginning as a volunteer and joining the staff in 2019. She also teaches in the MFA, MA, and BA programs of Writing, Literature, and Publishing at Emerson College. In 2017, she was awarded a Bookbuilders of Boston scholarship for her dedication to amplifying marginalized voices and advocating for an equitable publishing and media industry. Her work has been published in the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, The Boston Globe Magazine, Refinery29, The Oprah Magazine, Bitch, Glamour, The Chicago Tribune, and more, under the byline Alaina Leary. Alaina lives in Boston with her wife, their three literary cats, and a rainbow bookshelf. She is almost always covered in glitter.