Thursday, June 29, 2023

Q&A with Cat Sebastian




Cat Sebastian is the author of the new historical novel We Could Be So Good. Her other books include The Queer Principles of Kit Webb. She also has worked as a lawyer and as a teacher.


Q: What inspired you to write We Could Be So Good, and how did you create your characters Nick and Andy?


A: The idea of coworkers turned best friends falling in love with one another had been in the back of my mind for a while, but it wasn’t until I hit upon a newspaper as a setting that the characters materialized. A somewhat hardboiled reporter is such an archetype, especially when paired with someone rich and a little out of touch (this is the basis for at least three screwball comedies, and probably a lot more).


Once I had that in mind, the story fell into place. I keep telling people that this book basically wrote itself—I’ve never had a book take shape this quickly, and it was such a joy to write.


Q: The Popsugar review of the book says, “The 1950s is a dangerous time for queer people, and Nick and Andy will do anything to save their love from the potential harm of those around them.” What do you think of that description, and why did you choose that time period?


A: The ‘50s were, obviously, a dangerous time for a lot of marginalized groups, including queer people, and this is a fact of life that the characters in this book are dealing with. But at the same time, this isn’t a story about the dangers of persecution—it’s about thriving despite those dangers.

I wanted to write about queer people being domestic at a time when a certain type of home life was, at least in the United States, held up as both the most a person could want out of life and also was restricted to white, straight, upper-middle-class people.


Both main characters in We Could Be So Good want that kind of safety and stability. They want someone to share a pot of coffee with in the morning and to come home to after work, someone to pick up cough medicine when they’re sick. And they both realize they aren’t supposed to have it, that they aren’t allowed to have it.


In that context, the decision to have it anyway—to insist on it—is a kind of rebellion.


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


A: I didn’t even have a working title for the book (the file name was “newspaper book”) and had no useful suggestions at all for an actual title, so my editor suggested We Could Be So Good because it captures the wistfulness of these two people who want something but aren’t sure whether they can have it. It’s from a Halsey song.


Q: Did you know how the story would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: The book as it exists is almost exactly the story I envisioned when I started writing. That isn’t always the case—I’ve had books take hard left turns—but this one worked out that way.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m finishing up edits for another book set in the same universe as We Could Be So Good. It’s about another reporter who works at the same paper as Nick and Andy. I’m having a lot of fun with 20th century historicals right now!


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: In a fit of procrastination, I made a map of the major locations in We Could Be So Good. It’s on my website here:


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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