Today author Erik J. Brown joins me to chat all about his latest novel, Lose You to Find Me! I can’t wait to dive into this interview! When I read about this book, I immediately added it to my TBR!
Erik! Welcome! Tell us more about Lose You To Find Me.
Lose You to Find Me is a coming-of-age romcom about first love, second chances, and third courses. Tommy is working as a server at a retirement community to get kitchen experience for culinary school, and in the summer before his senior year, the first boy he ever crushed on but lost contact with starts working with him. It’s about cleaning as you go, finding out what’s important in life while dealing with all the mess related to it.
Obvious question—does the title of the book relate to Selena Gomez’s song?!
It does! The original title of the book was In the Weeds. It takes place in a restaurant over the course of the servers’ senior year of high school, which is such a high-stress time. There’s so much changing, and deadlines, and decisions and everyone is just trying to keep their lives together. However, if you don’t work in the service industry, that phrase isn’t as prominent.
Also, it could be misconstrued as talking about marijuana. I’m not sure which reason was more important, but my publishers asked to change it. We talked for months trying to figure out a title before my US editor mentioned she was listening to Selena Gomez and how appropriate the song was for the story. The line “I needed to lose you to find me” just works so perfectly for the theme of the book, and it was just a eureka moment. Plus, if I had to come up with one more title, I was going to rip out what’s left of my hair, and I really can’t afford to lose anymore as it is.
Who was the most entertaining character to craft?
I loved writing, James. He’s a side character with big-time himbo golden retriever energy. But I love how he doesn’t care if people think he’s weird. He’s probably the most popular person in their school, but not because he tries. He’s just a lovable weirdo who comes up with nicknames for every person he meets as a mnemonic device so he doesn’t forget their real name.
He just wants to know and connect with people. And it was also fun writing him when I got to put him with a new character he hadn’t interacted with on the page yet, and I then had to come up with a nickname he’d use. Some are easy—like Euthan-Ava because it rhymes with euthanasia—and some require a Rube Goldberg device in his head—Tommy he calls Bahama Mama because his mind went: ‘Tommy. Tommy Bahama. Bahama rhymes with mama. Bahama Mama.’
What inspired you to tell the story of Tommy and Gabe?
The uncertainty of the pandemic got me working on this book. It was April 2020, and I had just sold my first book, All That’s Left in the World—a romance about two teens who survive a superflu pandemic that wipes out most of the world’s population—and I was at home, unable to work in my second job and everything was so uncertain. I wasn’t sure if my book would even be published anymore, given what was happening, and publishing a book is always an uncertainty because you don’t know how people will react to it. So I started writing Lose You to Find Me to comfort myself. A rom-com where these teens are facing the uncertainty of their futures. Figuring out what their lives are going to look like and how to go on if things don’t go the way they imagined.
Why did you decide to set Lose You to Find Me in the culinary world?
The pandemic again. I was baking as a stress reliever and got into watching a lot of YouTube cooking channels—my favorite of whom are namedropped in the book. I knew the book was going to take place in a retirement community, but it was all the baking I was doing that had me make Tommy want to go to culinary school.
I love the cover! Were you involved in the design process?
Not at all! That cover is all the artist Alfredo Roagui and designers Chris Kwon and Alison Donalty at HarperCollins. I know some authors like to have a hand in designing their covers, but I love seeing another person’s interpretation of the book, especially as a visual. Also, I spend hours changing font colors when I’m making a graphic in Canva, so I do not need that stress for my own book cover. It’s something a couple of the characters in Lose You to Find Me could stand to learn: surrendering control can be very freeing!
Let’s talk about your writing process. How did you go about crafting this story? Did you do character sheets and chapter outlines or dive right in?
I usually dive right in on all of my stories. But it’s odd. I did more prep for this book than most of my other books. I drew maps of the dining room so I wasn’t mixing up table numbers, and the layout didn’t change by mistake over the course of many chapters. The book also has a huge cast of characters, so I didn’t want to mix them up or just mention the same characters over and over. So for each day in the book, I made “line-up sheets” that broke down who was in which sections in the dining room or doing other tasks, who the manager on duty was, and who the hosts were. The line-up sheets were actually part of the book at one draft, but I ended up cutting them out because they weren’t that important to the story. It was more for my own continuity.
Walk us through a day in your life when writing.
My writing days go one of two ways. The first and most often is I sit at my computer, and the words come out ten at a time over an hour, and it’s just a whole struggle bus. The other days—the ones I much prefer—I sit down and start writing, and by lunch, I have 4,000 words, and hopefully, if the afternoon continues the same, I could have 8,000 or more. But those are very few and far between. They usually hit when I’m working up to a big moment or a scene that’s been in my head since I started working on the book.
Will there be a sequel?
I don’t think so. But I also said there wouldn’t be a sequel to All That’s Left in the World because of the emotional trauma of editing it during a pandemic, and now that sequel is coming out in 2024. If anything, I’d like to have a romcom-shared universe where maybe a Lose You to Find Me character or location will pop up in another book. I know what happens to everyone when the book ends, but none of their stories have jumped out and demanded to be written. But who knows? That could change any day!
Anything else you want to add before I let you go?
Stand up to book bans and let kids read!
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