Between The Lines is a sporadic feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which authors and other industry professionals provide further insight into the writing and publishing process in the form of interviews, guest posts, etc. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy as we read between the lines.
Hi everyone! Today is a very special day on Pop! Goes The Reader as I’m thrilled to have been given an opportunity to speak with the phenomenally talented Nina LaCour as I host the latest stop on the blog tour for LaCour’s recent February 14, 2017 release, We Are Okay. In truth, I was only meant to ask Nina one question, but I was so inspired by her latest work I ended up asking three and she was gracious enough to answer them all for me. (Thanks, Nina!) As readers who also follow me on Twitter are already no doubt aware, I’ve spoken often about We Are Okay since reading it back in December 2016 and would now list it among my favourite books I’ve read in four years as a book blogger. Please read on to learn a little more about this sensitive, stunning, unforgettable novel and to enter to win one of five available copies!
About Nina LaCour
Nina LaCour is the author of the award-winning Hold Still and widely acclaimed The Disenchantments. Formerly a bookseller and high school English teacher, she now writes and parents full time. A San Francisco Bay Area native, Nina lives with her family in Richmond, California.
One of the things that struck me most when I was reading We Are Okay was that, despite the difficult and momentous subject matter the book often explores (death, grief, mental illness, loneliness and disconnection), how the novel was ultimately a hopeful and optimistic story about the power of love, even in the wake of unimaginable trauma and tragedy. The novel embraces the notion and importance of found families and celebrates a love that transcends biology, geography, and many of the other obstacles that seem to stand between Marin and Mabel in the present day. If there was one thing YOU would like readers to take away from We Are Okay, what would it be?
Wow, thank you so much for this beautiful reading of the themes! I think one of the best parts of reading is how personal it is, and how what someone is going through or feeling or wrestling with when they encounter a book shapes what they take away from it. One of the main takeaways from the novel for me is the difficulty and the importance of relying and depending on others. Marin is very much alone in her grief, which is part of the human condition. We are alone in ourselves. But another thing that is true and amazing about being human is that we often rise to the challenges of helping others. It takes Marin the whole book to accept the kind of support that she needs and to know that she can rely on someone.
One aspect of We Are Okay that I sincerely enjoyed was the enchanting potter’s studio that Marin discovers when she first relocates to New York, and then visits again when Mabel comes to stay with her over the Christmas holidays. Marin’s original purchase from the studio, her beautiful, sturdy, cheerful yellow bowls, were like a ray of sunshine in an otherwise largely colorless existence and I found it interesting that she drew such comfort from an object that was, by its very nature, forged in fire (pottery having been created in a wood-burning stove). Can you speak a little about this element of the story? The setting was vivid and extremely well-rendered, as was the creation of the mysterious and gentle potter herself. Was this location inspired by a studio you’ve visited in your real life? What is the symbolism of the yellow bowls or the etched bells, that Marin eventually purchases as a gift for Mabel? Was the potter’s studio meant to hold some greater significance?
The simplest answer is that the things that I love or that interest me often sneak into my books. I really love a good piece of pottery and am lucky to live within driving distance of the Heath Ceramics studio where they make such gorgeous vases and dishes. The bowls are very much inspired by Heath bowls, and the bells are inspired by a local artist’s bells, one of which my family has in our house.
But once the pottery appeared in the story, it did take on more meaning for me. Much about Marin’s future is left unresolved in the novel, but there is the promise of the job at the pottery studio after the New Year. I like the idea of her continuing to heal from her trauma in that warm and artistically rich environment, with the potter as another caring person in Marin’s life.
We Are Okay follows the relationship between Marin and Mabel, a connection that seamlessly flows from friendship to romance and back again, and was one of the most beautiful, natural and touching I’ve encountered in fiction in recent memory. Was there anything in particular that inspired this aspect of the story? What are some of YOUR favorite LGBTQ+ novels? We Are Okay is certainly now one of mine!
Oh, I am so glad you feel this way! There was no specific inspiration for it, only a feeling of yearning and loss that came through almost palpably for me as I made my first notes about the girls alone in the dorm room together. I wanted to explore what love and loyalty would look like in a relationship that was being tested in so many ways, and I knew that at its core, their bond — regardless of the form it would take — was resilient and lasting.
Thank you! There are so many LGBTQ+ novels that I love and I could go on and on…so I will limit myself to three that I have loved for years now. Ash by Malinda Lo is a beautiful and romantic retelling of Cinderella. Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz is a gentle and beautiful novel of self-discovery. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan is, quite simply, a masterpiece.
Title We Are Okay
Author Nina LaCour
Pages 240 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance,
Published February 14th, 2017 by Dutton Books for Young Readers
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon.com ● Chapters ● The Book Depository
Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.
Don’t forget to visit all the wonderful stops along the We Are Okay blog tour for a variety of reviews, interviews, and much, much more!
Enter for a chance to win one (1) of five (5) copies of We Are Okay by Nina LaCour (ARV: $17.99 each).
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on February 13, 2017 and 12:00 AM on February 27, 2017. Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about February 29, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.