Q&A With Best-Selling Author Renee Carlino

If you love a good New York City love story, you will fall in love with Matt and Grace. Before We Were Strangers (Atria Books, August 18, 2015) by Renee Carlino is a complicated love story of missed opportunities and the influence that outside factors have on a couple's journey...or is it all really just part of their journey? I pulled Renee away from her writing desk to answer a few questions for her ever-growing fan base.

Renee Carlino, Author

HH: What was your inspiration in using New York City as the backdrop to Grace and Matt's story?

RC: When people normally ask me what BEFORE WE WERE STRANGERS is about, I say it's about a guy who sees "the girl who got away" on a New York subway fifteen years after they last saw each other. But I think BWWS is really about how people, rather than places or things, can color our experiences. I thought Matt and Grace would fall in love with New York together. Through their exploration of the city, they got to know each other, so NYC made for a great backdrop. There is an undeniable energy there, but I also thought it could be a place where one might feel extremely isolated among the masses, which is how we find an older Matt at the beginning of the book. I've been to a lot of cities in the US, but every time I visit New York, I get a sense of vitality and togetherness, yet at the same time I feel extremely small. I see New York City as a versatile character that I can use in many different ways to help tell a story.

HH: Both Grace and Matt are complex, deep characters...do you spend a lot of time character sketching before writing?

RC: I usually know the big pieces before I start the book. Through the writing process other characteristics will develop, like the way Grace smells her food or swings a door open wider than the average person to accommodate her cello case, even when she's not carrying it. They are alive in my head and not based on a real person, so I suppose I am sketching them but not necessarily on paper. I do flesh the characters out much more in revisions so I enjoy the editorial process and find it extremely beneficial and rewarding.

HH: On a Saturday night would you rather be home in sweats or out in a LBD and heels?

RC: I love my sweats and being a writer allows me to be in them an awful lot. I don't know any writers who get ready, do their hair and put on make-up to sit at the computer for six hours, so on a Saturday night I enjoy getting dressed up and going out when I can.


HH: Explain the muse of music as a prominent theme in your novels.

RC: I just cannot live without music, so it finds its way into all of my books and it is the best food for my imagination. For BBWS, I remembered watching Nirvana Unplugged on MTV and thinking about the cello player. I wished that I could play like her. When I started researching this book, I found a more recent youtube video of Lori Goldston, the same cellist. She was playing in a station in Seattle. As soon as the music began, I got chills. The way she describes her instrument in the video is inspiring.


HH: If you could meet one of your characters in person, which one would it be?

RC: I would want to meet Matt from BEFORE WE WERE STRANGERS. He's closer to my age, he and I share a passion for photography and I think I would have a lot of questions about his work for National Geographic. He seems like he would be a great conversationalist, which is high on my list of good qualities.

Thank you, Renee!

Click here to read my New York Journal of Books review for Before We Were Strangers.

This post originally appeared on Heather Hummel's Blog.