Exclusive Interview with Renée Carlino

BEFORE WE WERE STRANGERS BANNER

I absolutely fell in love with everything about Matt and Grace’s story. Before We Were Strangers is a touching romance about second chances and a missed connection. The novel is out August 18th, and you can read my big 5-star review here, but for now, I’m so honored and excited to interview bestselling author Renée Carlino. Read below to learn more about this amazing forthcoming novel and what’s coming next!

Before We Were Strangers: Amazon | Amazon Paperback | Barnes & Noble | iBooks ✦
Read my review ✦

Synopsis

From the USA TODAY bestselling author of Sweet Thing and Nowhere But Here comes a love story about a Craigslist “missed connection” post that gives two people a second chance at love fifteen years after they were separated in New York City.
To the Green-eyed Lovebird:

We met fifteen years ago, almost to the day, when I moved my stuff into the NYU dorm room next to yours at Senior House.

You called us fast friends. I like to think it was more.

We lived on nothing but the excitement of finding ourselves through music (you were obsessed with Jeff Buckley), photography (I couldn’t stop taking pictures of you), hanging out in Washington Square Park, and all the weird things we did to make money. I learned more about myself that year than any other.

Yet, somehow, it all fell apart. We lost touch the summer after graduation when I went to South America to work for National Geographic. When I came back, you were gone. A part of me still wonders if I pushed you too hard after the wedding…

I didn’t see you again until a month ago. It was a Wednesday. You were rocking back on your heels, balancing on that thick yellow line that runs along the subway platform, waiting for the F train. I didn’t know it was you until it was too late, and then you were gone. Again. You said my name; I saw it on your lips. I tried to will the train to stop, just so I could say hello.

After seeing you, all of the youthful feelings and memories came flooding back to me, and now I’ve spent the better part of a month wondering what your life is like. I might be totally out of my mind, but would you like to get a drink with me and catch up on the last decade and a half?

M

Interview

Before We Were Strangers is a novel about second chances at love and a life-altering missed connection. What inspired this story?

My editor and I were looking for a story for a while. We were scouring Post-secret and Craigslist- missed connections for ideas, especially anything that took place in New York because I wanted to write about New York again. She found a missed connection that was different than most because it was a plea for a second chance. I built the story around the idea that it might be hard to ask someone in your past for a second chance, if you can even find that person to begin with. But for me, BWWS is also about how people, not places can color your experiences. So the twenty-one year old Matt sees New York differently than the thirty-six year old Matt, and it’s because someone is missing.

In your previous books, there has always been something… an external backdrop or passion, that plays into the story, adding depth and originality. In BWWS, there are several aspects of the novel that come into play as integral elements. New York City. Photography. Music. Does this approach arise from the characters or do you start with the elements you want to integrate?

I try to write about what I know and what will hold my interest for three hundred pages. So it’s usually subjects that I don’t mind researching further. With BWWS, I experienced college at the same time as Matt and Grace. It was also around that time that I first traveled to New York City and fell in love. Music somehow works its way into every book of mine because I’m a music junkie. The musician aspect of Grace’s character was inspired by a youtube video I had watched of Lori Goldston playing the cello and talking about her instrument. She played for some of my favorite bands like Cat Power and Nirvana. I was so moved by this video and the sounds in it, that I had to write a character who felt a connection to music in the same way. In my mind, despite Grace’s childhood and experiences, she was born to play. The photography component comes more from what I already knew. I had minored in photography and have a BA in film with an emphasis in cinematography, so writing about shooting and print making was easy, I just had to go back to my darkroom days. I didn’t mind doing that at all. Most of the time I have these pieces figured out. What usually arises from the characters themselves or the process of writing are the specifics, like mannerisms–the way Grace smells her food or how she’ll swing a door open wide to accommodate her cello case, even if she’s not carrying it.

Tell us a little bit about Matt and Grace.

I think when we first meet Matt, he has become a pessimist, someone who is always holding a half-empty glass. But when he reflects on a different time in his life, he remembers seeing a more vibrant world and being hopeful about it. Which, for a photographer is kind of key since he’s trying to capture life through the lens. Grace in the same way has lost her effervescent spirit –the bounce in her step. They’re both looking for what they found each other. In the beginning, Matt and Grace have surrendered to fate and have become complacent, but when they run into each other on the subway, they’re reminded of how inspired they felt in college.

Without revealing too much about what happens, despite these two people falling in love deeply, something happens and they split for a number of years. They have a second chance at love when they run into each other unexpectedly. And because we had already connected with them already, there are so many feels. I was even moved to tears (which rarely happens). Did you get emotional as the story developed? Were there any surprises?

I always get emotional when I’m writing. It is the best release for me. I don’t think I would do this if I didn’t feel something. It would just seem like work otherwise. While writing BWWS I was only surprised that I related to Matt’s character more than Grace’s. It became his story very early on, even though I had outlined it more from her POV. Both voices are there, but his came through easier for me than hers.

Were there any scenes that were particularly difficult to write?

The hardest scene for me to write would give too much away but let’s just say I’ve had a nightmare where I wake up from a coma and realize that years have gone by and that I had missed out on certain things. That idea is terrifying to me.

Matt and Grace seemed like soul mates. Destined to be together, perhaps. But in life, they also loved other people, a fact that raised the question in my mind on whether there is one person out there that is our other half, or perhaps many who we are able to love. What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you believe in soul mates?

Sadly, I don’t believe in the idea of having one soulmate. It’s a romantic notion. I think that Grace and Matt were well matched. They inspired and supported each other when they were young until circumstances tore them apart. The relationships that they had in between were not as fulfilling to them. So soulmates? Maybe. I guess I think about the word more literally, like if our bodies can have many mates, then why not our souls? And I only think about that for people who have either lost a spouse or have been betrayed by someone they thought was their soulmate. But generally, I think a lot of people find someone who they really feel is their person and my response to that is “hang on for dear life.”

What’s coming next? Do you already have a next project in mind?

I actually have the next two novels finished. My publication schedule slowed down but my writing didn’t. So the next one, titled Swear On This Life is slated for a March 2016 release. And the novel to follow, tentatively titled Wish You Were Here is slated for fall 2016. So I’ve turned my focus on a few television writing projects until it’s time to start revisions on Swear and I’m enjoying the summertime with my boys.

Thanks so much, Renée! Already looking forward to your next books!

Thank you so much, Vilma!

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About Renée

Renée Carlino is a screenwriter and bestselling author of romantic women’s novels. She lives in Southern California with her husband, two sons, and their sweet dog June. When she’s not at the beach with her boys or working on her next project, she likes to spend her time reading, going to concerts, and eating dark chocolate.

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Review: Before We Were Strangers by Renée Carlino

My Thoughts

Compelling and evocative.
Matt and Grace’s story will pull at your heartstrings while reminding you that true love can conquer the most difficult challenges.
This is Renee Carlino’s best, most poignant work to date.

5stars

Synopsis

From the USA TODAY bestselling author of Sweet Thing and Nowhere But Here comes a love story about a Craigslist “missed connection” post that gives two people a second chance at love fifteen years after they were separated in New York City.
To the Green-eyed Lovebird:

We met fifteen years ago, almost to the day, when I moved my stuff into the NYU dorm room next to yours at Senior House.

You called us fast friends. I like to think it was more.

We lived on nothing but the excitement of finding ourselves through music (you were obsessed with Jeff Buckley), photography (I couldn’t stop taking pictures of you), hanging out in Washington Square Park, and all the weird things we did to make money. I learned more about myself that year than any other.

Yet, somehow, it all fell apart. We lost touch the summer after graduation when I went to South America to work for National Geographic. When I came back, you were gone. A part of me still wonders if I pushed you too hard after the wedding…

I didn’t see you again until a month ago. It was a Wednesday. You were rocking back on your heels, balancing on that thick yellow line that runs along the subway platform, waiting for the F train. I didn’t know it was you until it was too late, and then you were gone. Again. You said my name; I saw it on your lips. I tried to will the train to stop, just so I could say hello.

After seeing you, all of the youthful feelings and memories came flooding back to me, and now I’ve spent the better part of a month wondering what your life is like. I might be totally out of my mind, but would you like to get a drink with me and catch up on the last decade and a half?

M

My Review

A second chance romance has never sizzled so much. Spellbinding and sexy, romantic and tender, Matt and Grace’s story was easy to fall in love with. There was a certain vulnerability to this tale of star-crossed lovers who loved each other so profoundly and observed the world through a different lens. Their love felt so right, so destined, and yet, it still shattered under pretense and misunderstanding.

While exploring concepts of fate and chance, friendships and soul mates, the story captivated me from the very beginning until its tear-evoking end. Renée Carlino, who has steadily become one of my favorite authors, has woven a narrative that seeps into your heart and lingers long after you’re done.

“Once there was a you and me.
We were lovers
We were friends
Before life changed
Befor we were strangers
Do you still think of me?”

The characters were brilliantly developed. They were real and relatable. People who were bright, creative and spirited, embracing life in all its glory. People who sensed music all around them and captured the beauty in the every day between one shutter click and the next.

And because Matt and Grace seemed so real and vivid, their story impacted me in a way that made every word, every moment, more meaningful. As a result, their unexpected separation was all the more hurtful.

Graceland Marie Starr and Matthias William Shore met in college. He was an impassioned and talented photographer and she was a vibrant, gifted musician. They became fast friends with a soul-deep connection that would last a lifetime. Together, they took on New York City on a couple dollars a day, with verve and reckless abandonment. They fell fast and hard for each other becoming best friends. Soul mates.

“When I thought about what we had, it didn’t matter that it was just friendship. I loved her.”

Matt and Grace were inseparable. Their time together was beautiful. It felt predestined and inescapable. With their bright futures beckoning, however, diverging paths seemed unavoidable. But when Matt leaves temporarily to chase his ambitions, everything falls apart. Suddenly, what was temporary… inexplicably and heartbreakingly becomes permanent.

Fifteen years passed. Fifteen years in which both led lives without the other. Fifteen years of feeling confused… angry… betrayed.

“I had been closed off for a long time, and I hadn’t allowed myself to imagine the future because I was still stuck in the past. Thought it was impossible, I had tried to re-create what Matt and I once had. I wanted nothing else; he was all I could imagine.”

And then, a chance encounters brings back to life all those feelings each had tried to bury. A missed connection turns into a new chance at love. Unfortunately, their soaring elation quickly fizzles when unexpected truths come to light and feelings of hurt and abandonment resurface.

Before We Were Strangers is everything a second chance romance should be. It’s a love story that unravels over time, pushing and pulling as life twists and turns it in heartbreaking ways that make the beauty of it all the more treasured. This is undoubtedly my favorite Renée Carlino novel to date and one of my top reads this summer.

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About Renée

Renée Carlino is a screenwriter and bestselling author of romantic women’s novels. She lives in Southern California with her husband, two sons, and their sweet dog June. When she’s not at the beach with her boys or working on her next project, she likes to spend her time reading, going to concerts, and eating dark chocolate.

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