Today we are very excited to share an interview with Author Carol Dines (The Take-Over Friend)!
Meet the Author: Carol Dines
Carol Dines writes novels and short stories for adults and young adults. Her latest YA novel, THE TAKE-OVER FRIEND, will be published by Fitzroy Books in October 2022. She’s also written two additional YA novels: Best Friends Tell the Best Lies (Delacorte) and The Queen’s Soprano (Harcourt), as well as a collection of YA short stories, Talk to Me (Delacorte.) Her collection of short stories for adults, This Distance We Call Love, was published by Orison Books in 2021. Additionally, her fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals including Ploughshares, Narrative, Colorado Review, Salamander, Nimrod, as well as anthologies Someone Speaks My Language, Love and Lust, and Voices of the Land. Carol Dines is a recipient of the SWCA’s Judy Blume award and the Eric Hoffer Award, as well as Minnesota and Wisconsin State Artist Fellowships. She’s a graduate of Stanford University and has an M.A. from Colorado State University. She was born in Rochester, Minnesota and currently resides in Minneapolis with her husband and standard poodle.
About the Book: The Take-Over Friend
Award-winning author Carol Dines is passionate about writing characters who find greater meanings in small, everyday moments. Her novels and short stories are authentic and moving narratives that illuminate how the relationships we forge and sustain both connect and challenge us. This fall, Dines explores the power and the pitfalls of young female friendships in her novel for young adults, THE TAKE-OVER FRIEND, which Fitzroy Books will publish October 4, 2022.
The story centers on the instant and intense friendship bond between shy and introverted Francis and witty, outgoing newcomer Sonja when they meet on the second day of their freshman year of high school. The two teens are euphoric about their blossoming relationship; Frances is charmed by Sonja’s energy and worldliness, while Sonja adores Frances’s sense of calm and dependability. She’s also taken with Frances’s close-knit family, especially her older brother, Will. Family crises impact both girls—Sonja’s parents are caught in a bitter divorce, and Frances’s father suffers from bipolar disorder. When Sonja’s mother attempts suicide, Sonja temporarily moves in with Frances and her family. Sonja’s dominating personality begins to overwhelm Frances, causing her to doubt herself and her own talents. And when Sonja’s infatuation with Will becomes obsessive, Frances feels manipulated and attempts to set some boundaries. For Sonja, there is no middle ground, and she sees Frances’ efforts to regain her independence as the ultimate betrayal. Carol Dines shares the real-life inspirations for her book: “When my daughter went through a devastating break-up with her childhood friend, I recalled my own pain over having to end things with my best friend when I was her age. We knew each other so well that we could intuitively read each other’s feelings, but then it became difficult to give each other the space to grow independently. I tried to set boundaries but loosening expectations in a friendship is a difficult task, and she felt hurt and angry.”
THE TAKE-OVER FRIEND powerfully explores themes of guilt, jealousy, possessiveness, and the difficult task of staying true to oneself. In the same vein as Hayley Krischer’s The Falling Girls and Anne Fine’s The Tulip Touch, Dines’ new novel weaves together the beauty and pain of friendship and growing up. I urge you to include the novel in your fall book coverage and will be in touch soon to discuss the possibilities.
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
The book was inspired by a very painful break-up with one of my closest friends. Around the same time, my teenage daughter was also going through a break-up with her best friend. What I realized in that moment was how common this experience is, of losing a friendship, and how no one seems to talk about it. With romantic partnerships, there is an understanding that two people can grow apart or meet someone they like better or decide they’re not ready for a commitment, but with friendships, the break-ups can be just as traumatic, but we don’t acknowledge them. I don’t think we talk enough about how and why friendships fall apart, and I realized this was an important topic to present in a novel. No one prepared me for breaking up with a friend, and since then I have made changes in my friendships. I work harder at maintaining healthy boundaries. I thought this was fertile ground for a YA novel.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
Truthfully, I love all my characters, even Sonja with all her complications, but my favorite character is Frances because she is creative, sensitive, and tries to assert herself with good intention. She is also courageous because even when the friendship struggles, she still reaches out and tries to talk about what isn’t working in the friendship. As the youngest in the family, she doesn’t know who she is yet, and she has a deep love for her father that is enmeshed with his mental illness and the fact that he has been the stay-at-home parent during her growing up years. She has grown up in the caretaker role of supporting her father, and that has spilled into her friendship with Sonja, where she also feels like a caretaker later in the novel. As she learns to create boundaries around her own needs to protect herself, Frances goes through the biggest transformation in the novel.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
The novel came first. I actually had two other titles: Gone and Away. But this one is so straight forward, I thought it would be easy to remember, and as I described the book to friends, a couple of friends have said to me, “I have to read it. I had a Take-Over friend too.”
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
I’m very proud of the scene in which Frances and Sonja are filming Will and Gravy in the backyard while they’re having a zucchini fight, calling out girls’ names each time a zucchini breaks. But then the father (who is bipolar) joins the fun but takes it too far—humiliating his son, daughter, and wife by calling out women’s names, including Frances’s favorite teacher. What started out as a playful, funny scene, segues into a painful scene in which Frances feels her father’s mental illness exposes her family’s fault lines to her new best friend.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
I love the color scheme. I’m also glad the publisher put the school bus on the cover. Frances and Sonja initiate creating a poetry-mobile from Frances’s father’s old band bus for a homecoming float. They all write lines from their favorite poems on the bus, a huge bonding event for both their friendship and the homeroom class. The bus is a symbol of their friendship and how together they feel visible; it’s a wonderful image for the front of the book.
YABC: What new release book are you looking most forward to reading this year?
The Sky We Shared, by Shirley Reva Vernick
YABC: What’s a book you’ve recently read and loved?
The Complicated Calculus (And Cows) of Carl Paulsen by Gary Eldon Peter
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?
Perseverance. Some writers are really gifted and they get momentum early in life which paves their way in publishing. But for most of us, we write for long periods, revise for long periods, and writing requires a great deal of steadfast practice and also patience. I’ve also learned that for me it’s best to write about something I am grappling with in my own life. I have also learned that transformation in my characters’ lives is the key element to my writing.
YABC: What is the main message or lesson you would like your reader to remember from this book?
Friendships are complicated, and sometimes it is necessary to end a friendship. Most of us imagine friendships end when we drift apart. But sometimes we have to end friendships when they get too close, too, and expectations for each other and the friendship cannot change.
It is sometimes necessary to have a hard conversation with a friend asking for a reset, giving each other more space in the friendship, but if the friend isn’t okay with that, it may be necessary to end the friendship. A friendship should make you feel supported for who you are and who you want to be; it should not feel like a duty or obligation.
YABC: What’s up next for you?
I have two books in the works, one for adults about a family that is torn apart politically.
My next YA book will hopefully be about a young Italian girl coming to the US in 1850 as a nanny for a famous writer who has married an Italian Marquis. When the ship goes down in a storm off the coast of Long Island, she is able to save the couples’ baby.
Book’s Title: The Take-Over Friend
Author: Carol Dines
Release Date: 10/04/22
Publisher: Fitzroy Books
~ Giveaway Details ~
One (1) winner will receive a copy of The Take-Over Friend (Carol Dines) ~US ONLY
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