Hi Everyone, earlier this week I posted my review of what I think to the summer read of 2018, The Summer of Us by Cecilia Vinesse. Today I'm so excited to interview Cecilia, I had such fun with this interview and her answers crack me up. She's so bubbly and adventurous you can tell that through her writing and this interview.
The Summer Of Us released yesterday and I urge you to pick it up. Here's a little more about the book...
Aubrey and Rae have been planning their trip around Europe practically from the moment they became BFFs in primary school. And, now, it ought to be the perfect way to spend their last summer together before university.
But things are more complicated at eighteen than they were at ten. There's Jonah, Aubrey's seemingly perfect boyfriend, and his best friend Gabe, the boy Aubrey may have accidentally kissed. And there's Clara, the friend Rae is crushing on, hard, even though there's no hope because Clara is definitely into guys, not girls.
Five friends. Ten days. Paris, Amsterdam, Prague, Florence, Barcelona. And a messy, complicated, can-this-really-be happening love story, or two ... because how could there not be?
Hi Cecilia, thank you so much for being on my blog today. I absolutely loved your book if you haven’t already guessed from the tweets and I had to ask you so questions about it.
What was your inspiration behind The Summer Of Us?
HI Emma! I’m so delighted to be here. Thanks very much for having me, and thank you for all your lovely words about The Summer of Us. They really mean a lot to me.
As for this book, when I first started thinking about it, the only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to write about friendship. Not just about two best friends (although definitely that, too!) but about a friend group and all the ways that different relationships within that group overlap. I decided to put them on an interrailing trip because I don’t think anything tests a friendship quite like traveling together! And I also love writing about places, so I was being a little sneaky and making lots of opportunities for me to write about different cities that I love. Once I had those elements together, the characters and their worlds started presenting themselves to me slowly—very, very slowly! But I think a lot of this book was about me taking separate elements of different things I wanted to write, putting them in one place, and seeing what happened.
What’s your favourite European country you’ve visited? And which one was your favourite to write about in The Summer of Us?
Ooooh, such a difficult question. I have a soft spot for Paris, because it has a grand, romantic feel to it, but it’s also quirky and cozy, which is such a lovely combination. And the pastries! I can never resist pastries, and why on earth would I want to?! I think my favorite city to write about might have been Prague. There was something hushed and fairytale-like about that city, and it felt like such a gift to be able to lose myself in that feeling while writing.
One thing I have to ask, why did Aubrey take Chamber of Secrets when she was packing for Columbia? (Ha-ha. I don’t know why I picked up on this but of all the HP books Aubrey picks the second?)
Ha! I love this! I love that you picked up on it. I guess it’s almost an inside joke with myself, which has to be the most niche form of inside joke, right? I moved around a lot growing up and the Chamber of Secrets was my favorite Harry Potter book, so I used to read it over and over again when I first moved somewhere new. I guess that book was almost like a safety blanket for me and I wanted to pass that safety blanket on to Aubrey. As for why the Chamber of Secrets was my personal favorite? Hmmm. I’m not sure. Maybe I just wanted a pet Basilisk.
Which character perspective did you enjoy writing more, Rae or Aubrey?
Aubrey is much more like me than Rae. Aubrey and I are both anxious over-thinkers, and we both struggle to move on from people and places we love. Rae is much more free-spirited—or at least, she tries to appear that way. Both their perspectives presented their own challenges. I’d sometimes catch myself getting a little too close to Aubrey. For example, if I was in a bad mood when I sat down to write, Aubrey would end up being in a bad mood, too. And Rae was difficult, because I shared fewer qualities with her. Although, in other ways, that did make her quite fun, because her perspective was almost like an escape for me. I think ultimately they both balanced each other well. And I mean, obviously I love both my children equally! 😂
Aubrey read The Waves in the book, what’s the story behind it and would you recommend it?
The Waves is a novel by Virginia Woolf that I read in university and it really stuck with me for years afterward. It’s told from six perspectives about a group of friends who meet while in school. I was re-reading it late at night while drafting The Summer of Us as a break from thinking about my own writing, and it struck me that this book is so much about the space between being in school and then leaving to become the person you’re going to be. I think that’s why it resonated with me so much in university, and it was resonating with me again as I was working on these characters who are in a similar time of life and facing similar questions. I would absolutely recommend it, although it’s deliberately quite difficult to comprehend because Woolf often doesn’t even draw boundaries between the different perspectives! Honestly, I’ve read it a few times now, and I still struggle with it. But if you’re willing to put up with that, I really think it’s worth it.
What is your next adventure? Both in real-life and your next writing adventure?
I’m going to travel around Scotland for a little while this summer, which I’m really looking forward to, because I lived in St Andrews for a few years, but I didn’t do much exploring in Scotland itself while I was there. As for writing, I’m playing with a lot of different ideas right now, which feels adventurous because nothing is as terrifying as a blank page if you ask me!
For someone like me who hasn’t been abroad before where would recommend I’d go first?
I’d say pick somewhere that already has some meaning to you—maybe a book or a movie you love is set there, or there’s a particular food or restaurant you want to try, or a museum you’ve always wanted to visit. The trips that have meant the most to me are the ones where I feel like I’m going to seek out some small connection I know already have to a place, even if I’ve never been there before. It can also make somewhere new feel a little less intimidating when I know I’m there to search for something in particular.
What would be your advice to those who are leaving college to start a new path in their life?
Please, please don’t feel discouraged if you have moments or days when it feels awful or overwhelming. I had so, so many of those moments when I started college, and one thing that helped me was remembering that this was just one moment. It didn’t define my whole experience. Homesickness and uncertainty really do pass, and you’ll be amazed by how quickly and sneakily a new place can start to feel—at least a little bit—like home. Also, make sure to create space for things that make you feel like you. Phone your best friend, read your favorite book, plug in your headphones and get lost in a Netflix show. It’s so important to take breaks and check in with yourself while you’re adjusting to someplace new.
Thank you so much Cecilia, this was so much fun and thank you for coming on my blog today.