To all my old friends:
So here you all are. Nice to see you can show up for a person once he’s dead.
When Ruby St. James returns to her hometown, it is to the grave of her old friend Danny, a member of a group that was, ten years ago, Ruby’s whole world. The crew made a pact back then: stay together, stay loyal, and stay honest. But that was before all of the lies.
Because even friends keep secrets. They just don’t stay secret for long.
Now Danny has left behind a letter for each of them, issuing one final ultimatum: share your darkest betrayal to the group, or risk it coming out in a trap he has created. When past mistakes resurface, the lines of friendship blurb, and four old friends are left trying to understand what it means to lie to the ones you love best.
I met Kaela Coble a few years ago on Twitter when we were both writing our novels and querying agents. We hit it off and I was lucky enough to read Kaela’s debut, Friends and Other Liars, when it was still a million drafts from finished. You can imagine how happy I was when Kaela (a) found her agent and (b) sold her book and (c) when it started racking up amazing reviews on Goodreads because (a) she deserves it and (b) there was hope for us all!
Writers write with blind hope through draft after draft hoping it’ll someday be the viable thing we always believed it would be. I’ve already seen some of Kaela’s next projects and trust they’ll pack the same punch as Friends and Other Liars. There are no spoilers below, so read on!
What inspired the story?
I grew up in a small town in Vermont with a super tight group of friends of both girls and boys who had a huge influence on who I was and who I came to be. I, like Ruby, moved away from home for college, and although I didn’t cut off communication from them completely there was that natural growing apart that often happens. After I moved back to Vermont, a friend of mine had a pretty major life crisis, and that was the catalyst to bringing me back into the fold and even the rest of the group who stayed in Vermont closer together. So from the time I started writing, I knew I would want to write about a group of friends like mine and explore how the childhood friendships can wax and wane, but how that “family” type friendship is always there.
What did you learn about yourself as an author/person in the process of writing it, especially looking back on the younger version of yourself/group of friends the story is based on?
I think this book (and books I’ve written since) has really honed my style – that is to write from different perspectives and alternate between past and present. I’ve tried to compose stories differently in my next finished book and my current work in progress, but somehow I gravitate back to it. It’s just what feels naturally to me, and I’ve learned to go with my instincts when it comes to writing rather than trying to torture it into something else. I think I just get bored writing linear stories and through one person’s eyes!
What helped me learn more about myself and my friends (both then and now) was writing through different perspectives. I didn’t plan to do this when I began writing, but I found when I sat down to write a scene one day, Ally’s voice just came out instead of Ruby’s. And it felt right to do that – since it was based loosely on some of my experiences I knew the story would be more whiney and one-sided if it was only told through my eyes. That’s why I had to make Ally so critical (and hilarious). I think it balanced out the way Ruby kind of took herself and life so seriously. Of course, one of my guy friends told me that I still “made Ruby the best” which made me laugh. He’s probably right.
If your teenage daughter considered dating Danny, what would you tell her?
Oh jeez am I thankful that I don’t have a teenage daughter like I was, because I actually did date someone similar to Danny. My poor parents who had to watch that! I think my mom’s approach was right, though. She hated what that relationship did to me, but she was careful not to intervene or criticize. She knew if she did, it would only push me closer to him and away from her. I think if I could say anything to make a difference, I would tell my daughter that it’s not her job to save anyone, and that someone who doesn’t love himself isn’t going to be able to love her the way she deserves. But I would also be careful not to tell her to stay away from him, that she could be his friend without allowing herself to be dragged into a relationship that would bring her down.
Vermont is such a central piece of this story (and others of yours!). Why set your stories in Vermont and how do you feel it shapes your characters?
With the exception of my freshman year of college and a four-month backpacking trip in Australia, I have lived in Vermont my entire life. Every time I leave, I miss it dearly and know for sure that Vermont is my home. Ha – so I guess you could say I set my books in Vermont because that’s what I know. But really, I love the friendly culture here, (saying hello and holding the door for strangers, pulling over to help someone stuck in the snow), the four seasons, the beauty of the lake and the mountains and the rolling green hills. I get a daily email with the seven biggest news stories happening in the state, and sometimes number seven is something like “Moose Eats Woodstock Woman’s Mail,” or “Monkton Man puts ‘Very Mean’ Turkey up for sale – but not to eat.” I love that! Not to say the place is perfect though…there are downsides to growing up in a small town like Chatwick, especially as a teenager. There isn’t as much to do, so you often get into things you shouldn’t. People always know your business, and you can get pigeonholed and find it hard to explore who you are and grow beyond the stories of your childhood. But that’s what makes the story interesting – if the town was jolly and lovely all the time it would be pretty boring to read about!