Welcome to Under the Covers, Renee! You’ve recently written SWEAR ON THIS LIFE and I have to admit the premise of the book definitely caught my eye because it’s different. Tell us about this story and how you were inspired to write it.
Thank you for having me. This book was partly inspired by my own childhood in a rural area where I had to take a long trek up a dirt road each day to get home after school. The idea for the story was incepted in a moment with my friend, when I jokingly said that I wanted to be someone’s muse. The idea that Jase essentially writes a book for Emiline was always the most romantic element of the story for me. I also wondered why I hadn’t written about writers yet, since they’re the people I know best. SWEAR ON THIS LIFE was a great joy for me to write.
How would you describe Emiline? What is her greatest strength and her greatest weakness?
Emiline is a typical young woman despite having gone through many childhood hardships. She’s put the past behind her, which is her greatest strength, but it’s also her greatest weakness. She’s neglected a lot of her own feelings to mask the pain she felt during her early childhood with Jase. If she can learn to accept his help and not reject his encouragement, then she can grow into the writer she wants to be.
This story is essentially a best friends to lovers story. What is your favorite book with this trope?
I’m not sure that I can think of one book, but I do love a ‘friends-who-become- lovers’ story. That kind of romance is a strong theme in a lot of my books: Sweet Thing and Before We Were Strangers as well as SWEAR ON THIS LIFE. To me, there’s just something more intimate and special about a friendship that led to romance than a typical romance.
Do you find yourself putting real life stories (yours or someone you know) into your books at any time? If so, can you give us a non-spoilery example?
Yes, for example, the road in the book is based on a real road from where I grew up. As a kid, there were always plenty of boys ready to tease us girls, but there were good boys too—like Jase—that I formed lifelong friendships with.
What was the hardest thing you had to overcome while writing SWEAR ON THIS LIFE?
I wanted to be able to be honest and write certain things that I had experienced instead of always looking outside of myself. I think I was able to do that in this book to a degree. This book is a lot about forgiveness.
What’s your ritual to get in the writing mood for each book, and for this one in particular?
My ritual is always coffee, low music and solitude. I sometimes go for drives or take long baths to help me plot. For this book, I took a lot of drives down the old dirt road.
Is there a particular character you’ve written that you most identify with? And why?
I most identify with Emiline in this book because I didn’t have a super easy childhood. I had always wanted to write about it so badly, but something was always holding me back. Writing about topics that are close to home is still very difficult—that’s why this book was challenging to write.
When you’re not writing, what could we find you doing?
I love reading and going to concerts but more than anything you can probably find me chasing my two little boys around, doing their laundry, making their meals, and all the other fun mommy stuff.
What’s next for Renee Carlino?
I have a book titled Lucian Divine that’s slated for January 2016 and then after that a book tentatively titled Wish You Were Here that’s slated for August 2017. But for now, it’s all about SWEAR ON THIS LIFE. It’s been a long time coming and I’m thrilled that it will finally be out in the world.
Thanks so much for sharing with us today!
Thank you so much for having me.
From USA TODAY bestselling author Renée Carlino (Before We Were Strangers), a warm and witty novel about a struggling writer who must come to grips with her past, present, and future after she discovers that she’s the inspiration for a pseudonymously published bestselling novel.
When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J. Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn’t thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.
Yet from the very first page, Emiline is entranced by the story of Emerson and Jackson, two childhood best friends who fall in love and dream of a better life beyond the long dirt road that winds through their impoverished town in rural Ohio.
That’s because the novel is patterned on Emiline’s own dark and desperate childhood, which means that “J. Colby” must be Jase: the best friend and first love she hasn’t seen in over a decade. Far from being flattered that he wrote the novel from her perspective, Emiline is furious that he co-opted her painful past and took some dramatic creative liberties with the ending.
The only way she can put her mind at ease is to find and confront “J. Colby,” but is she prepared to learn the truth behind the fiction?