Rebecca Serle is a full-time writer, which means she gets to wear pajamas to work. She went to the University of Southern California, then got her MFA from the New School in NYC. (She likes New York much more than LA, but don’t tell anyone that.) Rebecca loves shiny hair, coffee, yoga, and pretending to be British. She, too, experienced heartbreak once. It worked out okay, though, because she turned the experience into this book. When You Were Mine is her first novel.
Maybe you want to know…
How did you come up with the idea for When You Were Mine?
I was over at my friend’s house watching Bridget Jones’s Diary. It was a Friday night in late January and she was trying to convince me to go out but I didn’t want to— I was getting over a break up, and was feeling pretty mopey. We started talking about love stories and, of course, Romeo and Juliet cropped up. I can’t remember who said “whatever happened to Rosaline?” but one of us did, and I looked at her, and she looked at me, and that was pretty much that. I started writing the next morning.
It says in your bio that you too experienced heartbreak once and you turned the experience into this book. Are you Rosaline?
That bio is going to get me in trouble! In short, no, I’m not Rosaline. Rosaline is very much a character and in that way, very different from me. But the emotion in the book in a lot of ways is my own. At the time I wrote When You Were Mine I was trying to make sense of a few break ups, and a lot of the first draft probably looked more like journal entries than anything else. It was me working out what had happened. But the book has always been its own story. Some details I borrowed, I’m sure, but most of them are made up.
There is one scene, though, that is taken pretty directly from my own life and that’s the school dance scene. I won’t say what happens, but I threw a holiday party about three years ago and what happened to Rosaline that night happened to me. It was awful, and the turning point for a lot of things (as it is for Rosaline in the book). More on the story behind the story: When You Were Mine
Where do you get your inspiration?
Gosh, if I knew that I’d probably be a far better writer. Or at least a calmer one! The truth is I never know when an idea is going to pop into my head. Ideas are not a dime a dozen for me, but when they come, they tend to be pretty sturdy, and I’ll usually see them through. The book I’m currently working on fell into my head after a conversation with my agent. I usually have a concept idea “what if XYZ happened?“ and then I’ll build a world around that— character, setting, etc. It’s rare a character comes before a concept. I’m trying to think if that’s ever happened to me before, I don’t think it has!
Do you believe in fate and destiny?
What’s interesting about this book is that I got to explore a lot of what I believe by writing it, and I think my viewpoint changed from when I began. In many ways Rosaline’s exploration on fate, destiny and free-will mirrored my own. I think ultimately I’d have to choose the conclusion Rosaline settles on, although I still wrestle with a lot of these ideas— what is up to us and what isn’t? It’s one of the great questions of the human experience, I think.
Were you a big fan of Romeo and Juliet when you decided to write When You Were Mine?
Of course! Who isn’t a fan of Romeo and Juliet? It’s the defining love story. I loved the movie growing up, too. I must have seen it like 100 times. I was so in love with Leonardo Dicaprio it was silly.
What are you currently working on?
My next book is also a YA novel. It’s very different from When You Were Mine, and has been a lot of fun to write.
What is your advice to young writers?
First I’d say to own the identity. You’re a writer if you write. Period. A book deal doesn’t make it official. If you’re putting words down on a page every day, you’re a writer.
I cannot stress how important reading is— read all the time. Read everything.
And consistency is key—write every day. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but make it a part of your routine.
And have fun with it! Writing is a lovely way to spend one’s time. Enjoy it.