Thursday, January 25, 2024

Q&A with Emma R. Alban




Emma R. Alban is the author of the new novel Don't Want You Like a Best Friend. Also a screenwriter, she lives in Los Angeles.


Q: What inspired you to write Don’t Want You Like a Best Friend, and how did you create your characters Beth and Gwen?


A: Don’t Want You Like a Best Friend came to me mid-pandemic. I was trying to come up with my next historical romance concept, but something was missing. My idea about an earl and a widowed countess just didn’t spark.


And then I thought:

“What if they both had daughters?” 

“Wait, what if it was the daughters’ story?” 

“What if it was a lesbian Bridgerton x The Parent Trap?” 


And I was off to the races.


Beth and Gwen came to me relatively fully formed. I knew Beth would be shyer and more demure, a bit of a wallflower playing by the rules. I knew Gwen would be bold, and brash, and would speak her mind without hesitation. I knew Beth would need to get married, and Gwen wouldn’t need to get married, and therein would lie the main conflict.


I got to know their voices as I mapped out the story. As I built up their individual relationships with their parents, and therefore their backstories, I learned more about how they would react to the world, their circumstances, and each other. 


Q: Did you need to do any research to write the novel, and if so, did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: I did a lot of research as I wrote. I’m what I consider an inverted pyramid researcher, where I start with my idea, and go from general to specific research as the story necessitates.


This method tends to take me down a lot of interesting research rabbit holes, and as I learn more and more about the period, I’m able to build out the world of the story, and the specifics of how my particular characters would interact with the world and the setting. 

One of the most interesting things I continued to learn as I wrote was how functional historical clothing actually was.


There’s a lot of lip service given to the discomfort of historical feminine fashion, particularly when it comes to corsetry. However, corsets were incredibly practical garments, and women did just about everything in them.


“Tight-laced” corsetry tends to be where media focuses, but everyday corsets were standard undergarments that supported both the body and fashion, and were far from the torture devices modern society likes to suggest they were. 


Q: The writer Amalie Howard said of the book, “Sweet, angsty, and ingeniously subversive, Don’t Want You Like a Best Friend will have you turning the pages and rooting for Beth and Gwen to finally get the happy-ever-after they both deserve.” What do you think of that description?


A: I’m absolutely thrilled that Amalie enjoyed Don’t Want You Like a Best Friend. Her quote is everything I hope readers take from the story and experience while going on Beth and Gwen’s journey with them. I’m truly honored by her words. 


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: Don’t Want You Like a Best Friend was my happy book when I started it in 2021. Through Beth and Gwen I found a sense of belonging, fun, heart, and hope. Writing this book was a safe, warm place to come home to each day, and I found a lot of solace in it. 


I hope that when readers go on Beth and Gwen’s journey, they find a sense of belonging too. I hope readers are able to see themselves in some of the characters. I hope readers laugh, and maybe cry a little.


I hope that this story shows that queer people have always loved, always made happy lives for themselves, and always found safe and kind people to support them. 


Q: What are you working on now? Will Beth and Gwen reappear?


A: Book 2 of the Mischief & Matchmaking series, You’re the Problem, It’s You, comes out Aug. 27.


It follows Bobby (Gwen’s cousin) and James (Beth’s cousin) through their season in 1858, as they try to navigate the ton and politics as queer young men, searching for a sense of belonging, purpose, and peace. Unbeknownst to them, Beth and Gwen have other mischievous, chaotic plans. 


Beth and Gwen are important characters in You’re the Problem, It’s You, and I hope that readers enjoy seeing them as they go on Bobby and James’ journey. 


Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Don’t Want You Like a Best Friend is available in print, ebook, and audiobook (narrated by the wonderful Mary Jane Wells and Morag Sims). It is also available in ebook and print in the UK and bookstores selling English-language books internationally as More Than a Best Friend.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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