Q: What first inspired you to write a novel based on Jane Austen's Persuasion?
A: The idea came from a conversation with my agent. I love Persuasion and the second chance romance trope is a favourite of mine. Getting the chance to retell it and setting it in my home country was a lot of fun.
Q: What did you see as the right balance between your own modern-day version of the story and Austen's original Persuasion?
A: I wanted the iconic beats of Persuasion to be recognizable while still letting Where the Rhythm Takes You stand on its own as a complete novel. Even if someone hasn’t read the original, I’m hoping they can still follow along and feel like they’ve had a fulfilling reading experience.
Q: The novel is set in Tobago--how important is setting to you in your writing?
A: Tobago is my home, but I’ve never read a book set here. It also rarely appears in popular media. The island is so small and can sometimes feel isolated from the rest of the world, so when I didn’t see any representation growing up, it sometimes felt like wait – do we exist?
That’s why it was so important for me to set my debut novel here. In a way, I was writing the book I wanted to find when I was younger.
Q: The Publishers Weekly review of the book says, "Readers, even those unfamiliar with Austen’s work, will appreciate this cast of characters with believable motivations and fleshed-out ideas as they realize what they want and embrace second chances for love and for new adventures." What do you think of that assessment, and what do you hope readers take away from the story?
A: The book is very much about second chances. It deals with grief and regret, but also following your dreams and the potential for what could be.
I hope it’s ultimately an uplifting experience for readers, especially young adults who are still figuring out what they want from life.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: A Much Ado About Nothing retelling set in Trinidad. Please look out for it!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Just that I hope readers enjoy Where the Rhythm Takes You. That they have fun spending time with Reyna, her friends, and family. Also I hope that it inspires readers to check out more books by Trinidad & Tobagonian and Caribbean writers.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb