Trish Doller is the author of the new young adult novel In a Perfect World. Her other books include Something Like Normal and Where the Stars Still Shine. She lives in Florida.
Q: Why did you decide to set your new novel in Cairo, and how did you come up with the idea for your characters Caroline and Adam?
A: It's been a dream of mine to write a romance set in another country, but I knew I wanted to step outside Europe. Early on, I decided that Caroline's mother would be going to work in another country, but it wasn't until after I looked at the Doctors Without Borders website, that I knew she was going to work for a humanitarian agency.
From there, Cairo presented itself as the perfect setting because it's accessible, plausible, and impossibly romantic. I could easily see Caroline falling for someone whose culture and faith were very different from hers.
And to be completely honest, I loved the idea of an Egyptian boy being cast as the romantic hero, instead of the villain.
Q: How was the novel's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?
A: The title came to me very early on because this is the story of two people whose faiths and cultures have collided throughout history.
In a perfect world, everyone who loves each other could be together, regardless of faith, culture, gender, sexual orientation, disability. But since the world will never be perfect, we have to make it the best we can.
Q: Given the current political climate, what do you hope readers take away from this book?
A: I hope readers will, like Caroline, fall in love with a sweet and charming Muslim boy who grapples with his faith, loves to cook, respects his parents, and improved his English by reading Harry Potter. I hope they'll fall in love with the culture.
But mostly I hope they'll see that most Muslims are ordinary people, just living their lives. More than one of my professional reviews has said the messaging in the book is unsubtle, but we don't live in subtle times and I want readers to open their hearts and minds, not the opposite.
Q: Do you usually know how your novels will end before you start writing them, or do you make many changes along the way?
A: I'm neither a strict plotter or a strict pantser. I have a general direction in my head, but sometimes things change as I'm writing. Unexpected characters might pop up or I'll discover something in research that leads to a new scene, and I like having room for those organic moments to happen.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: My current project is about Willa and Taylor, a pair of not-so-best friends who spend the summer after graduation sailing from Ohio to Florida, fulfilling a deathbed promise to their actual best friend, Finley.
Armed with a left-behind list of clues to destinations along the way, Willa and Taylor must work through their individual grief and decided if their own friendship is worth saving. I'm calling it Start Here and I hope that title sticks!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: If your readers want to see my inspiration board, they can find it here. And the playlist is here.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb