By Danielle Wilkinson
Today we’re pleased to welcome Tashie Bhuiyan to the WNDB blog to discuss A Show for Two, out since May 10, 2022!
All Mina Rahman wants is to finally win the Golden Ivy student film competition, get into her dream school, and leave New York City behind for good. When indie film star Emmitt Ramos enrolls in her high school under a secret identity to research his next role, he agrees to star in her short film for the competition…if she acts as his NYC tour guide.
As Mina ventures across the five boroughs with Emmitt, the city she grew up in starts to look more like home than it ever has before. Suddenly, Mina’s dreams—which once seemed impenetrable—begin to crumble, and she’s forced to ask herself: Is winning worth losing everything?
Please explain the incredibly unique experience you had that inspired this story.
Tom Holland went undercover at my high school. No one really knew who Tom Holland was because Spider-man hadn’t come out yet. He’d been in some movies by that point, but not the kind of movies a lot of teenagers would have watched. He had been assigned an Indian student to follow around to all of his classes, so that he knew where to go. And he was saying that he was related to him but obviously Tom Holland does not look remotely Indian. So, everyone was so confused.
Also, my high school is a special type of high school. You have to take an exam in seventh grade to be considered and you’re accepted in eighth grade. That’s the only way to get in. You can’t transfer to our school; it’s not a thing. So, all of my classmates and I were like, “Who is this guy who showed up in February?” That’s literally impossible. Nothing about it made any sense. So, at first, we were like, “What is going on?” And then I heard that somebody had been in the bathroom with him and asked if he was Tom Holland but he denied it. And apparently the person pulled up his Instagram and was like, “You literally look exactly like him.” But Tom kept saying it wasn’t him. Then the next day we all heard on the news that Tom Holland was going to our school.
But the love interest, Emmitt, is nothing like Tom Holland.
Emmitt is as far from Tom Holland as you can probably get, to be honest. Tom Holland is a cinnamon roll, so sweet, so wholesome. While Emmitt is a menace, a menace to society. He’s super flirty and really arrogant. He’s very, very different from Tom Holland, but I’d like to think they’d be friends.
Banter is my favorite thing ever. You wrote the banter between Emmitt and Mina so well! How did you make their relationship so dang cute?
I wrote Mina and Emmitt to have a hate-to-love dynamic and it was so fun! They don’t hold back their punches in the beginning. They both really dislike each other at first and they throw insults back and forth. Emmitt warms up to Mina a lot faster than she warms up to him. He starts being flirty and annoying and she’s just like, “Stop talking to me, I literally want you dead.”
I wanted them to also have similar kinds of struggles. Even though they are outwardly prickly toward each other, on the inside, they have a lot of similar struggles and emotions and not necessarily similar interests, but passion and determination. They realize they have the same kinds of desires in life. Once they find that out, they are able to connect with one another. And even though they got off on the wrong foot, there’s clearly a part of each other that they understand better than anyone else. And it’s so nice to feel seen and understood like that. And, I’m sure it helps that they’re both hot.
Your books have anxiety and depression rep. Is that cathartic for you? Why was that important for you to include?
I have both anxiety and depression, but I didn’t get to really focus on depression in Counting Down With You because Karina was very, very anxious about so many things. With this book, I wanted to focus on the depression side more and it was really cathartic to talk about what it’s like when you’re depressed in a household where you can’t really do anything about it. Mina is in survival mode; she struggles with finding that balance between getting through the day-to-day and moving forward, and also realizing how the people around her are affected by how she’s coping with these issues. She needs to learn to open up a little more and realize she doesn’t have to fight this by herself. There are people who love her and want to support her if she just gives them the opportunity. It was really important to me to write that as a teenager who really was struggling with depression when I was 16 and as a 23-year old still struggling with depression—but now I have better coping mechanisms.
I can go to therapy and take medication and stuff like that. But Mina doesn’t really have that yet. And most teenagers really struggle with talking about that with their parents, especially in immigrant households. Sometimes their family is not as supportive as they want them to be. So, I thought it was important to put that on the page and just let people who have similar experiences kind of see themselves and know that there’s hope at the end of the day. Because at the end of the day, this book is really about hope and perseverance, and knowing that one day it’ll be okay.
Similarly to Karina from Counting Down With You, Mina has to deal with parents who don’t really understand her or her dreams and are very concerned with success and appearances. What were you trying to say with these scenes?
I think a lot of the time in immigrant households, you feel like you owe your parents something because they’ve sacrificed so much to get you to a westernized country and get you a good education and a good lifestyle, and all of these things are only possible because of everything they’ve sacrificed. But at what point do you recognize that you don’t owe them for that? It’s not your responsibility to pay them back for that.
If you could go to high school with any celebrity and KNOW it was them who would it be?
Felix from Stray Kids. He’s a ray of sunshine!
What are some of your favorite romantic movies/books/TV shows?
I really like Set it Up on Netflix. I like that they’re forced to work together and how that forced proximity makes them grow closer. Tangled, of course! I love the Hidden Legacy book series by Ilona Andrews. I really enjoyed their romance and their journey as well as the main character and her family. It was a very enjoyable romantic story. I love These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong, 10/10 recommend!
What romantic trope would you like to write next?
So, I really like enemies-to-lovers. A Show For Two fits into the hate-to-love trope more than the enemies-to-lovers trope. Mina and Emmitt aren’t really trying to kill each other, even though they say they want to kill each other. But I really want to write it enemies-to-lovers where they for real want to murder each other. I think that’d be really fun to take the characters from that point of wanting to kill each other to really wanting to die for each other. I like really intense relationships like that. I think that would be really fun to write.