2014 Feature: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Today I'm so happy to have Robin Talley here on the blog to chat about her debut, LIES WE TELL OURSELVES. Though it doesn't have a cover yet, I'm still crazy excited for this one!

First, a bit about the book:
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley.

To be published: 2014
by: Harlequin Teen.

Official Synopsis:
In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept “separate but equal.”

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.

I am absolutely looking forward to this one. What a compelling time in history to set a book in, especially for a historical lover in general. Here's Robin with a little more about the book:

Jess: Welcome, Robin! First off, what kind of research went into writing this story?

Robin: Lies We Tell Ourselves was a research nightmare ― I spent three months doing research before I ever wrote a word. For a long time I spent every Saturday in the library, searching through books and old newsprint articles and vintage yearbooks for everything I could find about school integration and teen life in 1959. I also watched a lot of video interviews and listened to oral histories from the people who lived through this era. Most helpful to me, though, were the memoirs written by the heroic former students who were on the front lines of the school integration battles. I couldn’t have written Lies We Tell Ourselves without the help of books like Carlotta Walls LaNier’s A Mighty Long Way and Andrew Heidelberg’s The Norfolk 17.

J: Oh wow, that sounds very intense! All that research will certainly pay off though because that always seems to make historical fiction books so much engrossing. If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?

R: What a great question! I’d love for Sarah in Lies We Tell Ourselves to meet Dana from Octavia Butler’s amazing time-travel novel Kindred. Sarah could learn a lot from someone like Dana, who has immense wisdom and strength, and who knows exactly how important it is to be true to yourself.

J: What has been your favourite part of the writing and publishing process so far?

R: Working with professional editorial guidance. I love making books better ― all writers do, right? ― and the publishing process has exemplified that. My editor at Harlequin Teen, T.S. Ferguson, has brilliant insights on what a book needs to make it really resonate with readers. And my agent, Jim McCarthy has made every book I’ve submitted so much better than it was when I first sent it to him through his amazing editorial notes. It’s so wonderful to be able to trust T.S. and Jim to want to work with me to make my books as good as they can possibly be.

J: I can imagine how amazing people like that can make the experience so much better. That's fantastic! Can you share a favourite quote from LIES WE TELL OURSELVES?

R: I like this one, because as awful as the 1950s generally were, there are some things about that era that are still giggle-worthy:

“After dinner Daddy gives me a dollar, the way he always does before dates ‘in case the young man needs gas money.’ I’ve told him a hundred times no decent boy would ever take money from a girl on a date, even if it meant hitchhiking to the theater.”

J: Can you share a secret about LIES WE TELL OURSELVES?

R: Sure: It was originally supposed to have a different main character! LWTO has two main characters, Sarah and Linda. In the first few drafts, the main characters were Sarah and another girl entirely. It’s a good thing Linda decided to take over the story, because she really added a lot of interesting elements ― but making that change meant rewriting the book from scratch multiple times. These crazy characters and their wily ways…

J: The characters that surprise the authors are usually the most interesting ones, I find. I'm so looking forward to meeting them. Thank you, Robin! Definitely a book to keep on your radar for next year!

About the author: 
Robin Talley grew up in Roanoke, Virginia, writing terrible teen poetry and riding a desegregation bus to the school across town. A Lambda Literary Fellow, Robin lives in Washington, D.C., with her fiancee, plus an antisocial cat and a goofy hound dog. When Robin's not writing, she’s often planning communications strategies at organizations fighting for equal rights and social justice. You can find her on the web at www.robintalley.com, or on Twitter: @robin_talley.

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