By Aleah Gornbein
Today we’re pleased to welcome Rachel Lynn Solomon to the WNDB blog to discuss young adult novel See You Yesterday, out May 17, 2022!
Barrett Bloom is hoping college will be a fresh start after a messy high school experience. But when school begins on September 21st, everything goes wrong. She’s humiliated by the know-it-all in her physics class, she botches her interview for the college paper, and at a party that night, she accidentally sets a frat on fire. She panics and flees, and when she realizes her roommate locked her out of their dorm, she falls asleep in the common room.
The next morning, Barrett’s perplexed to find herself back in her dorm room bed, no longer smelling of ashes and crushed dreams. It’s September 21st. Again. And after a confrontation with Miles, the guy from Physics 101, she learns she’s not alone—he’s been trapped for months.
When her attempts to fix her timeline fail, she agrees to work with Miles to find a way out. Soon they’re exploring the mysterious underbelly of the university and going on wild, romantic adventures. As they start falling for each other, they face the universe’s biggest unanswered question yet: what happens to their relationship if they finally make it to tomorrow?
Welcome back to the WNDB blog, Rachel! I’m so excited to get to interview again for your newest YA book. I’ll try not to ask the same exact questions as last year. 🙂
What was the spark of inspiration for this book, and because of the nature of a time loop, how much physics research did you have to do?
I love narrative structures that play around with time, and I’ve wanted to write a time loop book for a while. It wasn’t until after I saw the movie Palm Springs in summer 2020 that I thought about a time loop story with two people trapped together—and the idea spiraled from there. I did a bit of physics research, but without giving too much away, I wanted the book to land somewhere in the middle of science and magic. Although if I’m being honest, it’s probably much more magical than scientific.
Writing a YA novel set at college is a new venture for you. What was different and/or challenging about writing this setting and what freedom did it allow you?
It’s funny, because I think whatever freedom the college setting gave me, it was canceled out by the freedom that the time loop took away! Barrett and Miles are essentially living on their own for the first time, which gives them a lot of independence, but I had to work harder to incorporate their families. At one point, I was actually worried I wasn’t taking enough advantage of the college setting, so I paused my draft and spent some time brainstorming what might be happening on campus around them. One of my favorite scenes, when the two of them stumble across a freshman carnival happening in the football stadium, grew out of this!
Both Miles and Barrett have a passion that is also their intended major. Why did you specifically choose journalism and physics for each of them?
I studied journalism in college, and while I’ve written journalist main characters in my adult books, I wanted to explore it from a teen’s POV. When I started college, I was just as eager as Barrett to write for the school newspaper. If Barrett’s passion is steeped in “write what you know,” Miles’ is the opposite, given that I’ve always been more focused on the humanities. But it just made sense for this to be a major reason the two of them clash: Miles assumes the way out of the loop must be scientific, while Barrett wants to explore more magical solutions.
I love how much Miles and Barrett bond over being Jewish and they have a really important conversation about what being Jewish means over a Shabbat dinner (that doesn’t actually take place on Friday night). What does being Jewish mean to you and what are you hoping readers will take away from this discussion?
I’m so glad you felt that way about that scene because it was one I added much later in the revision process. I was trying to figure out how to include more of their Jewish experience on the page while they’re stuck on a single day, and when I thought about Miles creating a Shabbat dinner for them on a Wednesday because they can’t get to Friday, it just felt right. What I’m always trying to show with my characters is that there’s no wrong way to be Jewish and that we all have very unique relationships with the religion—all of them valid. My own relationship is constantly evolving, especially after moving to Amsterdam, where the city’s Jewish history is so clearly on display. And much of that history is tragedy. I’m not used to it at all, and it’s something I’m still actively processing.
You’ve mentioned how this is your first book where the two main characters meet for the first time on the page (so they don’t have any prior history). I could really feel the emotions shifting and growing throughout the story (I was basically crying from the cuteness the whole last quarter of the book). What was it like writing a wholly new relationship?
Thank you so much! One of the challenges was making sure the reader feels the animosity between them right away. Most of my editor’s notes revolved around amplifying the “enemies” part of enemies-to-lovers, so I had a lot of fun getting Barrett and Miles to push each other’s buttons early on, and then slowly seeding in tolerance, reluctant friendship, and attraction before Barrett acknowledges that she might be falling for this person she thought she couldn’t stand. This book also has my favorite first kiss scene I’ve ever written!
Barrett was raised by a young queer single mom who didn’t overly parent her and Miles was raised in a Japanese American family with a brother who is an addict. How did their parental relationships affect them and their behaviors?
I’ve wanted to write a Gilmore Girls-type relationship between mother and daughter for a while, and as soon as I started imagining who Barrett’s mom might be, the rest of the details came together pretty naturally. Barrett is so close with her mom that she’s spent most of her life thinking she doesn’t need anyone else. Miles has also isolated himself as a result of his brother’s addiction—he was so worried about going down the same path that he remained solely focused on academics for all of high school. At first, Barrett assumes she and Miles have nothing in common, and it takes a while to realize they’re both rather lonely.
All of your books include discussion of mental health and See You Yesterday is no different. Barrett experienced a lot of trauma in high school and I love how Miles helps her through some panic attacks that happen on the page. Do you have any advice for readers who want to be able to help support the people in their lives who are struggling with mental illness?
Empathy is the biggest thing, along with understanding that mental illness looks different for everyone. Sometimes that means simply asking, “how can I best support you?” and realizing the person may not have an answer yet. I learned about functional depression and high-functioning depression just a few years ago, and that has been so much of my experience. So it’s very possible someone is hiding their mental illness—or in Barrett’s case, her brain has done a lot of work to hide it even from her. Every journey is just so, so different, and there is no one-size-fits-all treatment. But I’m so glad we’re seeing more positive discussions of mental health on the page in both YA and romance.
Barrett and Miles both struggle with self-confidence. How do you view body positivity in light of these characters?
I think most of my characters struggle with this because it’s been a lifelong process for me to find comfort in my own skin. In See You Yesterday, Barrett is plus-size and Miles is self-conscious about his ears that stick out, and both of them express these insecurities to each other at different times. And then I love it when characters show affection for something their partner feels insecure about—I find those moments quite beautiful.
Using college as a fresh start or self-reinvention is very common and expectations for success in college are high, but Barrett and Miles are both scared of the unknown. Tell me more about the character growth that happens around this idea (because there is so much!).
This was what initially drew me to setting this book on the first day of college. Barrett felt like the perfect protagonist because she wants so badly for college to change her—only she finds herself literally unable to move forward. So most of that growth happens on an incremental level as she pushes herself outside her comfort zone, finds herself connecting with (and falling for) the last person she expected, and confronting some of the difficult truths about her past.
Miles and Barrett do some pretty adventurous and fun things in the time they’re stuck. What antics would you get up to if you were stuck in a time loop?
Travel, definitely! I’d try to go as far and see as much as I could, within the time constraints. And I must admit I’m partial to what Barrett and Miles do on one of their loops: adopting a bunch of dogs to give them the best day ever.
I asked in the last interview, “What’s one question you wish you were asked more often (and the answer)?” and you said, “What common themes run between your adult and YA novels?” With two new books out since We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This (Weather Girl and See You Yesterday), is there a new answer or does your response remain the same?
Lately I’ve been thinking about what I want my career to look like in the long-term. So I think I’d want to be asked, “What are your long-term author goals?” At the top of the list is always, always being able to keep publishing books. I’d also love to write a nonfiction book about writing/craft at some point. And then I’d weep if one of my books had a special edition one day!
As a published author of both adult romance and young adult romance, what is the difference in writing romance for teens versus adults?
The biggest difference is the amount of independence that my adult characters have. They don’t have to answer to their parents, they have (some) financial freedom, they can simply get in a car and drive without telling anyone where they’re going. And when it comes to romantic relationships, they’re thinking about bigger questions of marriage and children, if they’re interested in those things. Although I would say Barrett and Miles have the most freedom out of any of my YA characters!
When it comes to sex scenes, my adult books are open-door and considerably more graphic. With my YA, even when sex is on the page, I’m more focused on emotions than body parts or graphic descriptions. Not that I’m less focused on emotions in adult—just that in YA, every new experience, whether it’s romance or something else, feels so incredibly massive. That’s what I love the most about YA—the depth of emotions I can explore with my characters because everything feels so high-stakes.
How do you maintain your publishing schedule (you seriously write so fast!), and do you have any ideas for a YA set abroad now that you’re living in Amsterdam?
I’m fortunate to write full-time, and I have a handful of tricks to keep myself focused during the day—word count trackers, color-coded calendars, pomodoro method, etc. This is my dream job, and I’m endlessly grateful I get to do it every day. And I have a couple ideas for YA and adult books set in Amsterdam! I’ve wanted to wait until I know the city a bit more, but there’s one idea in particular I can’t let go of that I’m hoping to write next year.
Which books do you think See You Yesterday is in conversation with? Can you recommend any recently published or forthcoming YA books?
That’s a great question! I purposefully didn’t read any time loop YAs while I was writing this one because I didn’t want anything to subconsciously influence me, but the first one I ever read was Before I Fall, many years ago. I also have to shout-out Justin Reynolds’ wonderful Opposite of Always, a time-loop love story from 2019.
Thematically, I think See You Yesterday would pair well with A Disaster in Three Acts by Kelsey Rodkey (out in July), a hilarious YA rom-com with a complete mess of a main character who Barrett would definitely be friends with. I also love Seoulmates by Susan Lee (out in September), an upper YA that deals with some weighty topics with heart and humor. And finally, I can’t stop thinking about How to Excavate a Heart by Jake Maia Arlow (out in November), a queer Jewish rom-com with a flawed, relatable protagonist and a phenomenal voice. It’s my favorite YA novel in recent memory.
Thank you so much for having me!
Rachel Lynn Solomon is a bestselling author of love stories for teens and adults, including Today Tonight Tomorrow, See You Yesterday, The Ex Talk, and Weather Girl. Originally from Seattle, she’s currently navigating expat life with her husband in Amsterdam, where she’s on a mission to try as many Dutch sweets as possible. Learn more at RachelSolomonBooks.com.
Aleah Gornbein currently works in publicity at Holiday House, the first American publisher founded with the intent of only publishing children’s books. She liked school so much she went back to get a Master’s in Publishing a year after graduating college. As someone who has yet to read a story with all of her identities represented, her goal is to help put diverse books into the hands of kids. You can find her shouting about books on TikTok, Twitter (@bookworm613), and Instagram (@jewishyabooks) or at Books of Wonder events sitting in the back row (when we’re not in a pandemic).