Have I written before how much I love Dahlia Adler? If you’re not familiar, she’s a force in the YA/queer space and someone I would trust ANY book recommendation from. When she’s not championing queer books and reminding authors to update their websites, she’s also an author and has written many novels such as Cool For The Summer, Home Field Advantage, and Just Visiting and edited anthologies such as At Midnight and The Way Madness Lies. We caught up with her before the release of her her latest YA novel, Going Bicoastal, a dual timeline rom-com about a teenage girl’s alternating summers in LA and NYC and the decisions she hopes will lead to happily ever after.
While parallel lives have been explored before in novels, I don’t think I’ve encountered one that is so delightfully queer. What made you want to tell Natalya’s story this way?
Honestly, around the time I came up with this idea, I was so new to knowing I was bi that all I wanted to do to stories I read was to queer them up. So I read a really fun parallel lives story in YA called Two Summers by Aimee Friedman, and I loved the idea of a girl navigating two different summers in two different places, but of course, make it bi!
Going Bicoastal is both a sparkling rom-com but also a book that explores a lot of things teens might be experiencing–divorce, mental health, indecision about the future. How did you balance both themes of the book?
It’s funny because I think I usually balance that stuff more heavily than I did in Going Bicoastal, where I was aiming to be particularly light, but I don’t think it’s possible to write a book that feels remotely true to life without acknowledging that we all carry some heaviness with us. Some of it is more objectively difficult, but we all have our stuff, and we all have our ways of coping. And some things you can power through, and some things you can avoid, and some things just have to be lived, and I think each of those categories exists in Natalya’s world for how she and the people around her handle their Stuff.
In each timeline, Natalya practices the Jewish religion in different ways. Why was it important for you to show different types of observance?
One of my favorite phrases about Judaism that I’ve read in a novel comes from Echo After Echo by AR Capetta (who, ironically, is not Jewish, but is a fantastic and empathetic author), and I’m poorly paraphrasing here, but it’s something like “There are a million ways to be Jewish and I am only one of them,” and that’s exactly what I want to express about it. There are so, so many ways to be Jewish, and each of us is only one of them. But in Going Bicoastal, Natalya is one of them, and her mom is one of them, and her friend Adira is one of them, and her dad is one of them, and and and. I will never get to show all the ways, but between all my different Jewish stories and novels, I love getting to show readers a whole bunch of them.
Which timeline or version of Natalya came first? How did you start to put the pieces of each story together?
Because Natalya is pretty true to herself as a person, there wasn’t really a “First” with her; to me, she maintains the same values and persona in both timelines, and that’s part of why I love her. I would say I had a clearer idea of her romance in NY and her occupation in LA, though.
You’ve spearheaded a few anthologies, written series and standalone novels. Is your creative process different for each project?
Oh yes; no two books really come about the same way, and a lot of that is just due to what time I have to give. I’m definitely flying more at the seat of my pants these days with novels than I used to, but still, some of them come so much easier (Cool for the Summer) than others (Home Field Advantage.) And then anthologies is practically another universe, with all the different moving parts.
Did you have a favorite timeline to write?
The NYC timeline was really, really fun and nostalgic for me because I went to high school and college in Manhattan and a lot of the things Natalya does there or even are just simply referenced are major throwbacks for me. Even when Elly just offhand mentions a tiny show she’s planning to go to, I had a specific show I went to in high school in mind for that. So on that level, that was a pleasure. But LA has this running thing that’s actually heavily borrowed from my adult life, and so that was fun to interweave too!
You’re such a helpful and friendly voice for authors and I love reading your threads on social media. What advice do you wish an established author had given to you when you first started out?
Thank you! It isn’t so much advice I wish I’d had (other than “stop rewriting your work 50 times – just write forward and revise later”) as certain professional realities I wish I’d known, like that there are agents who can be super excited about one of your books but aren’t in it for your career at large, necessarily. Or that as you and your friends come up, things like critique group circles may fall away as you all get consumed by deadlines. There are some changes I just wanted to prepare for or be told were normal before I had to find out the hard way.
What are you reading these days?
I’m actually really enjoying reading more adult these days, especially thrillers and queer litfic, especially if the latter is a coming-of-age story, like Body Grammar by Jules Ohman, or Old Enough by Haley Jakobson, which is one I read recently and really liked, and comes out very soon. Of course, I do still read romance and YA, especially of the queer variety, but because I do so much of that for work and for blurbing, I find that more and more I need to read outside those boxes to feel like I’m still getting to make some choices and not having my entire TBR dictated by circumstance.
You’ve actually recommended two of my favorite books and so I will trust any book you recommend. So, I have to ask: What’s a book that you recommend to a reader looking for good Bi rep?
Oh, now I’m dying to know what those books are! Well, if you’ve read Cool for the Summer, it won’t surprise you to know that I’m a big fan of work that tackles comphet, so I love Imogen, Obviously by Becky Albertalli. I think Miel Moreland and Zack Smedley, each of whom has two books out with bi MCs, are two of the most underrated authors in YA, and I recommend their books so highly. Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust easily remains my favorite bi YA fantasy. And in adult romance, I love The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan and Mistakes Were Made by Meryl Wilsner so much.
I know you have an anthology with Jennifer Iacopelli called Out of Our League about girls in sports coming out in January 2024. Can you share what else you have coming up?
I do! And I’m also working on my next novel, My Name is Everett, which is a twisty little boarding school-set sunshine-grump romance between two teens who make a deal–she’ll teach him how to be good if he teaches her how to be bad. And of course it explores the BS concepts of “good” and “bad” and all the mistakes we make when we’re trying to become someone we’re not meant to, and I just love these two boneheaded kids so much. It’s actually going to be my first work in almost a decade where the main characters are neither queer nor Jewish, and I’m weirdly nervous about that, even though the majority of books are neither, but I hope people like it!
Going Bicoastal is available for pre-order and arrives on shelves June 13 — check here for purchasing options.
Author Photo credit: Maggie Hall, Cover image courtesy of Macmillan.