We couldn’t wait to sit down with Kaitlyn Hill after finishing her newest novel Not Here To Stay Friends. It has everything we love including childhood friends to lovers, witty banter, and a fun cast of characters. And it all takes place on the set of a teen dating reality show. Our Love Island hearts are swooning.
SUMMARY: Sloane McKinney often feels like a background character in her own life. But this summer she’s on a mission to put herself in the spotlight. (Figuratively speaking, of course.)
She’s finally reuniting with her childhood best friend, Liam, for the whole summer. But when he ends up having to work as a production assistant on his dad’s new teen reality show, their plans go south.
Sloane is more than happy to spend some time on set, especially when it’s based around her favorite television series. She might even get to meet some of the crew!
However, after a mix up with the casting, Sloane needs to fill in as a contestant at the last minute. (Talk about being the main character). Next thing she knows she’s trading her flip flops for heels and dating TV star, Aspen Woods.
Will she end up as Aspen Woods’s Future Leading Lady? Or is there more of a spark behind the scenes with her best friend?
Hello! Welcome to The Honey POP. To kick things off today and get to know you better, could you share three interesting facts about yourself?
Ooh, I’ll sure try!
1) I speak German! I’m out of practice, but sometimes I still dream in (probably rusty) German.
2) For most of my childhood, I wanted to be the first woman president. I think romance novelist is a better fit!
3) I love the Mamma Mia movies and ABBA music, and I walked down the aisle at my wedding to ‘Dancing Queen.’
Congratulations on the release of Not Here to Stay Friends! We’ve really enjoyed getting to know the characters and the story. Can you tell us what the publishing process has been like?
Thank you so much! It feels like every author out there says the second book is a struggle, and that was definitely my experience at first. I had the general premise–reality dating show, friends-to-lovers romance–figured out early on. I wrote an outline, summary, and pitch on which the book was sold. After that, it took what felt like ages, but was really the better part of a year, to figure out the specifics of the plot and put it all to paper.
There’s just something so different about writing a book that’s already under contract, versus writing a book you’re not sure anyone will ever read. The first draft took me the longest time, but once I got that to my editor, I had someone else in the trenches with me for the rest. She gave me a couple of rounds of feedback to work with, ideas of what needed to be enhanced and what could be let go, ways to bring more depth to the characters. And by the last round, line-level changes, like when certain jokes didn’t make sense or a reference felt a little outdated.
Revisions were when I really felt the story start to shine. This was a relief after sometimes wondering if I’d ever finish another book!
Before writing, you studied Sociology/Anthropology and German Studies at University and worked several different jobs, including at your local library. How has this led to where you are today?
I didn’t have writing in mind at all as a potential career path when I chose my college majors! But I was fascinated by people and their stories (sociology/anthropology), and by language and the ways we communicate (German). I loved what I learned in school. And even more than that, I loved that my school–like my parents had done my whole life–put such an emphasis on pursuing your passions. I was always eager to do that, it just took me a while to figure out what my passion was. Toward the end of college, I started reading for fun again, instead of for class, and I fell back in love with immersive, escapist fiction.
Things started clicking into place–that I’d always loved storytelling, entertaining, making people laugh, that writing books is an actual career that real people have. Maybe since I loved reading them so much, I could write a book of my own sometime. After that, I was always writing something, and gradually getting closer to the book world in my post-grad work life, from a bookstore to the library. Reading and knowing what books were popular was an important part of those jobs, and got me very plugged into what it actually takes to get traditionally published, in addition to the research I was doing in my free time.
I think everything I learned and every job I worked prior to getting a book deal still influences a lot of what I write and how I work. I’m super grateful for all of it.
Coming off the success of your first book, Love from Scratch, what was it like creating a new body of work? Did you find yourself competing with your previous work?
That is an interesting part of the second book process, for sure! I was fortunate in that for most of the writing of Not Here to Stay Friends, Love from Scratch was not yet out in the world. So I didn’t have all the feedback and opinions of readers, trade publications, etc in mind just yet. Still, I was very much aware, unlike when I first wrote Love from Scratch, that this one would eventually be read by (hopefully) many strangers. It’s hard not to let that get into your head and make you extra self-conscious about every word and how it’ll be received.
That’s affected me more so as I’ve written my third book, entirely after the first was out and I’d seen plenty of opinions on it. But at the end of the day, I think I’ve improved as a writer with each book, and I recognize that I can’t control what anyone thinks of the final product.
Even my all-time favorite books get scathing one-star reviews! So I just have to do what feels like my best work, put it out there, and let it go.
Not Here to Stay Friends includes many tropes including childhood friends to lovers. Do you have a favorite trope you enjoy reading or writing?
Gosh, so many – one thing I love most about romance is the way the same tropes can be used over and over, but so creatively and beautifully and uniquely to each story and author that they never get old!
Enemies to lovers is always a fun one to write and read. You get to see these two silly geese go from thinking they hate each other to realizing that crackling tension was actually always something else entirely. I also love fake dating and marriage of convenience, because they’re both such funny premises that don’t often (as far as I know, I guess) happen in real life.
I love the wide array of reasons that authors make up for why these two people must pretend to be in love or get married because there is no other way out of their predicament. I’d love to write a fake dating YA one of these days!
We loved getting to see the story unfold from both Sloane’s and Liam’s perspectives. What was the process like for crafting two different points of view? Was one character easier than the other?
This was my first time writing two points of view in one book, and it was a fun challenge!
One of the tricky parts is figuring out which events of the story to depict from each character’s perspective. In the case of this book, I wanted to try to have each chapter alternate between Sloane’s and Liam’s POVs.
So if I wanted a group date on the show to be experienced through Sloane, I’d then figure out what I wanted Liam to be doing the next day that would hit the right beats for the story and move the plot along. It was even trickier in edits. If I wanted to move scenes and events around, because this would sometimes require changing the point of view to keep the chapters alternating as intended.
I think I found Sloane easier to write because I’m so accustomed to writing from a teenage girl’s perspective. Her voice came more naturally to me. It was fun to push myself to write Liam’s side of things, though, and to fill him out enough as a character to hold up half of the story when in the past I’ve written boys as the slightly less complex “love interest” to the main girl character.
If you could assign a Taylor Swift Era (i.e Fearless, Reputation, Lover) to each of your characters in Not Here to Stay Friends, what would they be?
Ooh, I love this question and may have spent more time thinking about it than any of the others.
I think Sloane would be 1989. She’s kind of breaking out of the mold of her childhood for the first time, (temporarily) moving to a big city with big dreams, and finding what she wants in life and love. Kind of ‘Welcome to New York’ meets ‘Wildest Dreams’ vibes.
Liam is Lover, a romantic softy who’s been dating around, not realizing he’s had it bad for his best friend all along–’It’s Nice to Have a Friend’ meets ‘Lover.’
As a bonus, Aspen, star of Aspen Woods’s Future Leading Lady, is Reputation all the way. ‘Look What You Made Me Do,’ ‘I Did Something Bad,’ ‘Don’t Blame Me,’ all of it.
Throughout the novel, Sloane describes herself as a background character in her own life. She’s often comparing herself to various television storylines. Which television show would you most like to be a part of?
I would love to be a part of either Schitt’s Creek or Ted Lasso! They both exist in the most wholesome fictional worlds. I love the humor, the relationships, the ensemble cast. Neither resembles my real life much at all, but hardly any of the TV I watch does, so better those than something like The Bachelor! Being a lead or contestant on that show would not be good for my health. 😂
As a romance lover yourself, do you have any 2023 releases you’re looking forward to?
So many! In YA, I’m really excited for Give Me a Sign by Anna Sortino, about a Deaf girl figuring out her place and falling in love at a summer camp for Deaf and blind kids. Also The Name Drop by Susan Lee, a love story between two teens with the same Korean name who end up in a mistaken identity mix-up at their summer job.
In adult romance, I can’t wait for Will They or Won’t They by Ava Wilder. It’s scratching the celebrity, “co-stars who hate each other…or do they?” itch, and Thank You for Sharing by Rachel Runya Katz, about childhood summer camp friends turned enemies who get pushed back together as adults by work projects and airplane seat assignments.
It is clear that The Bachelor and other reality dating shows inspired Not Here To Stay Friends. Do you have a favorite season of the show? Why?
I almost always enjoy The Bachelorette more than Bachelor! There’s a number of reasons for that, including the power dynamic of a woman being in charge while a bunch of men vie for her attention and affection, as opposed to the other way around.
There have been a lot of great Bachelorettes, and two of my favorites are Kaitlyn Bristowe and Rachel Lindsay. Kaitlyn was so quick-witted and funny, unabashedly sex-positive even in the face of a lot of viewers’ criticism. I really respected her strength and vulnerability. Rachel was not only beautiful and charming, but a super smart lawyer who clearly had her life together before ever going on the show. She came in knowing what she wanted and deserved out of a relationship, and cut through a lot of the show’s BS to find it, while also carrying pressures I can only imagine as the first woman of color to be Bachelorette. I’ve loved following both of their paths since their seasons!
Thank you so much for talking with us. We are super excited about the release of Not Here to Stay Friends and your future projects! Is there anything you can tell us about what you’re working on?
Thank you so much for the wonderful questions! Lately, I’ve been working on revisions for my next YA romance, Wild About You, which comes out in 2024. It’s the last of my reality TV showmance trio. It follows a side character from my first book, Love from Scratch, as she gets her own love story while on a wilderness survival competition show. I’m having the best time working on it, and can’t wait for everyone to read it!
You can pick up your own copy of Not Here To Stay Friends on April 4th, right here!
What about you? Would you sub in on a reality dating show? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @TheHoneyPOP.
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT KAITLYN HILL:
INSTAGRAM | TWITTER | WEBSITE