By Niamh Mccreanor.
We are thrilled to welcome Camryn Garrett to The Reading Corner to discuss her upcoming release Friday I’m in Love, out January 10th!
Mahalia Harris wants.
She wants a big Sweet Sixteen like her best friend, Naomi.
She wants the super-cute new girl Siobhan to like her back.
She wants a break from worrying—about money, snide remarks from white classmates, pitying looks from church ladies . . . all of it.
Then inspiration strikes: It’s too late for a Sweet Sixteen, but what if she had a coming-out party? A singing, dancing, rainbow-cake-eating celebration of queerness on her own terms.
The idea lights a fire beneath her, and soon Mahalia is scrimping and saving, taking on extra hours at her afterschool job, trying on dresses, and awkwardly flirting with Siobhan, all in preparation for the coming out of her dreams. But it’s not long before she’s buried in a mountain of bills, unfinished schoolwork, and enough drama to make her English lit teacher blush. With all the responsibility on her shoulders, will Mahalia’s party be over before it’s even begun?
A novel about finding yourself, falling in love, and celebrating what makes you you.
This book contains lots of personal issues, such as coming out to family, and understanding feelings that can be confusing – were any of these things you experienced yourself?
I think that I’ve experienced the struggle about coming out! Mine is complicated in a different way because I really was unsure of my sexuality and didn’t know how I would come out when I didn’t really know what I was. But I understand Mahalia’s frustration at the idea that you have to come out, and I love that she wants to reclaim it.
Are there any characters in ‘Friday I’m in love’ that you feel you particularly relate to? And if so, was this deliberate?
I think I relate to most of the characters I write to some degree. I relate to Mahalia’s relationships with her parents and her sexuality. I relate to Siobhan’s own journey with her sexuality and sort of being surprised by it. I relate to Naomi not knowing how to discuss money around her friends because she has different circumstances. I don’t do it deliberately while drafting, but I think it subconsciously appears, if that makes sense.
One thing that I found really interesting was Mahalia’s relationship with her parents. Was it important to you to show the perspective of a teenager in a split household?
Yeah! It was something I was dealing with at the time that I wrote it, and it seemed really topical to me. A lot of my friends had parents who weren’t together, too. I wanted to write about this in a way that felt realistic and not stereotypical. I think there’s a lot of stereotypes about Black single moms, some that I actually played into in the first drafts, but I think this book shows that Mahalia’s mom loves her and tries her best for her, and a lot of the issues that they deal with are outside of their control.
Whilst reading Friday I’m in Love, I found myself really getting attached to the characters. I really felt like Naomi was my friend towards the end. How did you come up with these characters?
That makes me so happy! I had been wanting to write a character who was really into older music for a while, so that’s where I came up with Mahalia, and I didn’t really flesh her out until writing the first draft. It was a bit of the same with Naomi. I knew their backgrounds, but I didn’t have a personality sheet or a list of traits. I got to know them by spending time with them!
At the Reading Corner, we work with female, LGBTQ+ and BIPOC authors; what has your experience in the Publishing industry been like as a female author?
Ah! This is a complicated question! I think there are a lot of women in kidlit, especially in YA, so I haven’t felt singled out because of that. But I do think a lot of people don’t view kidlit (especially YA) as real books and don’t take what I’m doing that seriously. Most of the time that doesn’t bother me, but there can sometimes be a disconnect when interacting with people.
I think I think a lot more about being a Black author. I notice a lot of things, like the difference in the way that Black authors and white ones are marketed or even spoken about. I notice that a lot of popular TikTok books are written by white authors, for example. And I think it can be much easier to second guess yourself when it comes to race, since it’s not often talked about, and you’re always wondering if it’s just you making things about racism.
What would you like your readers to take away from this book?
I really wanted to write about coming out in a way that made it clear that it’s different for everyone! Like, Siobhan’s coming out experience is much different than Mahalia. For Mahalia, too, she doesn’t come out to everyone in her family or community, which I think is realistic for a lot of us. I think there can be such pressure or terror surrounding the subject, and I wanted readers to remember that it can also be really joyful to discover this aspect of your identity and share it the way you decide to.
Are there any books you would recommend to your readers with similar storylines to Friday I’m in Love?
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson definitely! It centers a Black queer girl and there are storylines related to coming out, family, and romance with another girl. I also comped Once Upon a Quinceañera by Monica Gomez-Hira. It’s a little different because it involves someone else’s party, but the main character is also stuck with a job she’s not super into, and there’s romance involved.
Where can people get their own copy of Friday I’m in Love?
Camryn Garrett was born and raised in New York. In 2019, she was named one of Teen Vogue’s 21 Under 21 and a Glamour College Woman of the Year. Her first novel, Full Disclosure, received rave reviews from outlets such as Entertainment Weekly, the Today Show, and The Guardian, which called a “warm, funny and thoughtfully sex-positive, an impressive debut from a writer still in her teens.” Her second novel, Off the Record received three starred reviews. Her third novel, Friday I’m in Love, will be released in January 2023. Camryn is also interested in film and recently graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. You can find her on Twitter @dancingofpens, tweeting from a laptop named Stevie.
Camryn’s Instagram: @camryngwrites
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