Sunday, July 2, 2023

Q&A with Alli Frank and Asha Youmans




Alli Frank and Asha Youmans are the authors of the new novel The Better Half. Their other novels include Never Meant to Meet You. They both live in the Pacific Northwest.


Q: What inspired you to write The Better Half, and how did you create your character Nina? 


A: Nina is a first generation, American-born child of Jamaican immigrants. She is a focused, driven woman with a step-by-step life plan that, she is confident, will ensure the sacrifices her parents made in coming to America were worth it.


As writers, the two of us are at an age where we have learned the hard lesson of detachment, to hold onto things a little more loosely. We have embraced the fact that even with the most scrupulous planning, some results are beyond our determination.


In this book, we wanted to explore a controlling, calculated protagonist living in the exact moment of her life when this lesson comes to light.


Q: How would you describe the relationship between Nina and Leo?


A: The relationship between Nina and Leo is not one that was ever supposed to become a leading factor in Nina’s life. Their affair began as a sidebar, a nice diversion to fill her free time after fulfilling her responsibilities to her professional life and her commitments to her father, her daughter, and her best friend Marisol.


For Nina, she has moved into a moment in her life where she can balance it all, but only if nothing changes. And if we know anything, it is that change is inevitable. Leo throws Nina’s life off balance, and she must decide if he is worth the upheaval their connection causes.

Q: How did the two of you collaborate on this novel, and has your writing process changed at all over the time you’ve been writing together?


A: Over the course of three books, our writing process has changed, morphed, transformed, and gone back to original methods that worked in the beginning.


With our first book, Tiny Imperfections, the phrase “ignorance is bliss” reigned supreme and we just hoped that what we were doing together would one day turn into a novel. 


Never Meant to Meet You, our second book, was written during the long stretch of Covid, so we were in a bubble together and we did a lot of writing side-by-side to fill our days.


While working on The Better Half, our partnership was challenged by the move of Alli and her family to another state. But we have figured out how to navigate that hurdle as well between Facetime, an insane number of calls, and getting together for intense writing and editing sessions by traveling back and forth about every six weeks.


Q: How was the book’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: We began chasing our literary dreams after wonderful careers in education, while raising children and dogs, and amidst the daily pursuit of building loving, happy lives with our spouses. With all that work, we still had a strong desire to put our minds to task and to connect with people in the world.


Middle age did not slow us down like social whispers claimed we should have. We are living proof that the second half of life can be the better half of life and our leading lady, Nina, becomes a believer as well. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Our fourth book that we are currently working on does not focus on schools and educators. We are stepping into a whole new landscape to explore generational themes and examine theories about what it means to be a success in America.


We are excited to escort our faithful readers and to welcome new ones into an arena we found compelling but which we had to research to accurately honor.


So far, we have found that there is another level of thrill to challenging ourselves in building characters that live in a world not intimately known to us. The teachers and students in us both are delighted to continue to learn and to take our writing to new heights.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: We are so proud to share that The Better Half will be brought to readers by Mindy’s Book Studio, an imprint of Amazon Publishing, to include books developed in conjunction with and curated by author, director, actor, producer Mindy Kaling.


With an eye toward celebrating emerging and diverse voices, the imprint has welcomed us along with a growing roster of talented women writers. Mindy herself had this to say about our book: “Charming, laugh-out-loud funny, and honest, The Better Half celebrates the absurdity and joy in life, and does so with an enviable grace and good heart.”


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Alli Frank and Asha Youmans.

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