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We LOVE Casey McQuiston’s romance novels as much as the rest of the world swooned over them. With top romances Red, White & Royal Blue and One Last Stop on the shelf, it was only a matter of time before we received a debut YA romance from McQuiston. We love I Kissed Shara Wheeler so much we have made it our YA Book of the Month for May; but don’t just take our word for it, discover more about this queer love story from Casey below. 

This is your first foray into YA literature, what are some of the books that influenced you most growing up?

CM: Probably the most formative series for me as a tween was Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicolson series. I loved how they captured all the weird, ugly, crass, imagined-as-glamorous realities of been a teenage girl with such a specific voice and sense of humour. I was also a fan of Meg Cabot, Ann Brashares, Sara Shepard, and anything saucy and soapy popping up on the recent YA releases shelf at the library.

Chloe has some incredible friends and discovers some unlikely new ones over the course of the novel. If you could pick one character to be your real-life BFF, who would it be?

CM: Honestly, while he may not have Georgia’s literary references or Smith’s emotional range, Ace would be the most fun to have as a BFF. He’s almost never fazed by anything, always has a good joke, will accept you for who you are no matter what, and can lighten up any situation. He’s one reliable, solid bro, and a great time too.

Casey McQuiston

Photo by Sylvie Rosokoff

The novel is set in Alabama in a town with a very Evangelical Christian background. How much did your own upbringing colour the world of False Beach?

CM: So much! I didn’t have to do much research to depict an Evangelical Southern community. Certainly there are things I embellished or added, and Willowgrove Christian Academy is not a direct portrayal of any particular school so much as an amalgamation of many of them, but I knew the best way to write something that would resonate with teen readers in that type of environment would be to draw from my own experiences growing up in one like it. I wanted those readers to know that the person telling a story like theirs could actually relate to it, and that they’re not alone in dreaming bigger while still feeling so many complicated feelings about the place that created you.

Chloe, Smith and Rory get up to some serious mischief in their final weeks of Willowgrove. Did you have a crazy senior class prank? If not, what would be your ideal farewell to high school?

CM: I personally didn’t, but I did know of a school where the seniors put glitter in the air conditioning vents so that the entire school wound up blasted with sparkles. That glitter stuck around for years, which seems like a great way to make sure you’ll always be remembered.

Read an extract from I Kissed Shara Wheeler

What did you find most challenging writing your first YA novel? What was your favourite scene in this novel?

CM: The hardest part was nailing down character motivations, because teenagers have so many big, messy feelings, and you can’t just apply the same logic to their actions that you would to adult characters. You have to keep the story clear while also allowing tons of room for mistakes and emotional choices and impulse. It was a hard balance to strike, but hopefully I got it! My favourite scene is a huge spoiler, so I won’t give too many specifics, but it involves one character jumping through a window to tackle another and yell at them about their choices. That one was so much fun to write, and it was a later addition to the story that helped so many other things snap into place.  You’ll definitely know it when you read it.

And of course we have to ask, what are you working on next?

CM: The most recent thing I finished was the bonus chapter for the collector’s edition of Red, White & Royal Blue, which comes out here in the States in October. I wrote more than 8,000 brand new words from Henry’s POV for that, and I can’t wait for people to read them! Beyond that, I can’t say too much about what’s lined up, but I can tell you that I’m starting on my fourth book soon, and it’s (obviously) another standalone queer rom-com.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler is available in store and online.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler
Casey McQuiston

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