Today we are very excited to share a special interview with author Maxine Rae (Cold Girls)!
Read on to learn more about her, her book, and a giveaway!
Meet the Author: Maxine Rae
Maxine Rae attended Tulane University where she was taught and singled out for commendation by two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward. While working on Cold Girls, Maxine received feedback and mentorship from National Book Award Finalist Charles Baxter. She later revised and workshopped the manuscript in the selective Novel-In-a-Year program at StoryStudio Chicago, whose artistic director is Pulitzer Prize in Fiction Finalist and Andrew Carnegie Medal winner Rebecca Makkai. As a young, queer woman from the Chicago area, Maxine has written a debut molded by personal experience and emotional truth.
About the Book: Cold Girls
Eighteen-year-old Rory Quinn-Morelli doesn’t want to die; she wants refuge from reality for even a minute: the reality where she survived the car crash eight months ago, and her best friend, Liv, didn’t. Yet her exasperating mother won’t believe the Xanax incident was an accident, and her therapist is making it increasingly hard to maintain the detached, impenetrable “cold girl” façade she adopted from Liv. After she unintentionally reconnects with Liv’s parents, Rory must decide: will she keep Liv’s and her secrets inside, or will she finally allow herself to break? And if she breaks, what will she unearth amid the pieces?
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
I’ve always been really interested in coming-of-age stories. Every author’s first novel is at least somewhat autobiographical, and so for my first novel, I drew from two very formative experiences of my own coming of age: losing one of my best friends quite suddenly, and accepting my queerness. Although these two things weren’t related in my own life, Cold Girls came together in a fictionalized weaving of these two experiences.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
Well, Rory and Liv—my protagonist and her best friend—feel like my kids at this point, and I love them dearly. But besides my girls, I really love Eve Quinn, Rory’s mom. She arrived fully formed in my head before I started writing the first draft, and I love her and actively want her to be my aunt. Parent characters in YA novels often fall flat, because the book is so much about the teens and not the parents. But I wanted to make Eve as three-dimensional as I could— she’s an atheist, British, tattooed biology teacher with the mouth of a sailor—and she has her own emotional arc in the book.
YABC: How do you know when a book is finished?
Beats me. Just kidding—but I had no idea until I started taking classes with other writers at my homebase, StoryStudio Chicago. After a few years of revisions, receiving my classmates’ critiques, and meeting with my teachers, I was able to recognize when Cold Girls was as pristinely polished as it could get before starting to query for an agent. But I wouldn’t have gotten to that stage, or understood that I was there, without the guidance of my classmates and teachers.
YABC: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
There are many moments in childhood that come to mind. My dad taught me how to use Microsoft Word when I was six, because I loved writing lists and letters. In fourth grade, I had an amazing teacher who gave us “writer’s notebooks”– I still have mine. I got in trouble because I was plotting and writing stories during math, science, recess, everything. (I’m a Capricorn, so I love an organized plot.) My freshman year of high school, I attempted my first novel—it was chaotic, saccharine, and pretty much an exact replica of a Jodi Picoult book, but I persisted for about a month. But I didn’t consider writing as an actual career until the last semester of college, when I got to take a fiction-writing course with Jesmyn Ward. I wrote sections of an anthology about girlhood for her class, and it was like I unlocked something within myself that I didn’t realize I had. Jesmyn gave me wonderful advice, and she told me it didn’t just have to be a pipe dream. And when Jesmyn Ward tells you to not be a quitter, you don’t quit! PS: My pal from that class, Rachel Marsh, followed the same path and is on track to publish her debut middle grade novel, ROUGAROU. J
YABC: How do you keep your ‘voice’ true to the age category you are writing within?
Writing with a young voice is so earnestly fun for me, and I think that’s partly because I still talk like a teenager with my friends, and still feel young in a lot of ways. (I’m only 29, okay??) To get myself in the groove of really writing a teenage voice, I inundate myself with YA novels and shows. There are parts of writing that I really struggle with—describing a setting in beautiful language is my personal hell—but dialogue is one of my strengths, and I can mimic and adapt into different voices pretty naturally. I also work with teens in real life, so sometimes I’ll hear snippets of their conversations and realize, “Oh, everyone’s saying ‘deadass’ now.” “Oh, this isn’t cool anymore.” They probably think I’m colossally uncool, though, which is totally fair.
YABC: What type of scene do you love to write the most?
I love writing dialogue, especially between friends and family members. Group scenes, especially when it’s comedic. Friends bouncing off each other. I also really love writing emotional scenes, but I have to be in a specific mindset and physical place, listening to specific music or white noise, to get there.
YABC: What word do you have trouble overusing?
I don’t think it’s cool anymore, but I still say “tea” all the time with my friends, and it slips into my writing. I’m also very sarcastic, which sometimes doesn’t come off as clearly on the page. I’ll write something like “Thankfully, there was bumper-to-bumper traffic that made me seventy-nine minutes late.” And someone reading it will underline it twice and add a lot of question marks.
YABC: What hobbies do you enjoy?
I love reading, of course, and I journal every day to check in with myself and flex the writing muscle. (That’s where I practice those dreaded descriptions.) I go on walks around my neighborhood in Chicago, running all my errands while listening to albums and podcasts. Also, I grew up doing ballet, and still take adult classes, and I’ve recently gotten into climbing with friends.
YABC: What’s your least favorite word or expression and why?
I hate the overuse of fragment sentences, and I hate run-on sentences. I do both.
YABC: What do you do when you procrastinate?
Literally everything, all the time. I’m a huge procrastinator. I go down YouTube rabbit holes about European royals in the 13th century; I play my old Harry Potter computer game from 2003 that barely works. I snuggle and play with my cats who are just trying to nap, create unaffordable interior design boards on Pinterest, and I especially love annoying my friends and sister while they’re at work, even if I’m also at work. One positive procrastination technique that has arisen is cleaning: if I don’t want to sit at my computer to work, I will aggressively clean my apartment. At least something’s getting done.
YABC: What other age group would you consider writing for?
I want to write for people in college and in their 20s. There are not a lot of books about that age—especially college. Why? College in the US is such a strange social experiment, and it’s a blip of life that rarely gets represented accurately. I’m also interested in writing “new adult.” Your twenties are an interesting time because all your friends could be in entirely different life stages, and there are such big ups and downs. I think there’s a lot of writing potential there. I’ve also considered writing some poetry and/or narrative nonfiction through exploring my journals and crafting a project out of them.
Title: Cold Girls
Author: Maxine Rae
Release Date: August 22, 2023
Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction
Age Range: 14-18
~ Giveaway Details ~
Five (5) winners will receive a paperback copy of Cold Girls (Maxine Rae) ~US Only!
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*