Robin Talley is taking the YA world by storm with her beautiful characters, realistic settings, and covers that leave you with hearts in your eyes. We were thrilled to chat with Robin about her latest book, Our Own Private Universe. Check out what it was like to write Our Own Private Universe and what LGBTQIA+ reads Robin recommends!
“Talley realistically explores first love and first sexual experiences against a backdrop of faith, family, prejudice, and social justice… a valuable portrait of teenage girls learning to be honest with themselves and others.” - Publishers Weekly, Our Own Private Universe
Interview with Robin Talley - Our Own Private Universe
In Our Own Private Universe, you explore sexuality from multiple experiences. This is such a positive and needed thing within YA. What was it like writing the experiences into Our Own Private Universe?
It was SO much fun. My inspiration was Judy Blume’s classic YA book Forever, which was one of the first books that featured teen characters who had sex and whose experiences were represented positively. I loved that book when I was in middle school, but growing up, I always wished there were another book like Forever but about queer teen girls. So I decided to take a stab at writing that book myself, with a bisexual character at its center, and Our Own Private Universe was born.
Were any parts of the book influenced by experiences you had as a teen?
Kind of, but not directly. Like the characters in Our Own Private Universe, I was very involved with my church growing up, and I went on a lot of youth group trips. But I was a teenager in the 1990s in Virginia, and my church was a lot more conservative than the churches Aki and Christa go to in the book. And I never met a future girlfriend through any of my youth group activities, sadly!
Your cover! It’s so refreshing to see a lesbian couple sharing a close moment on the cover. Was this the original cover or was there some work to get to the final product?
Thank you! I LOVE this cover. This was actually the second version I saw ― the first one was similar but it had a different photo with different cover models. I loved that first photo, but I actually like this one even more because I love how warm it is and how happy the girls look together.
You’ve been part of several anthologies. What’s that experience like?
At first it was nerve-wracking ― when I sat down to write my short story for A Tyranny of Petticoats, the amazing historical fiction anthology edited by Jessica Spotswood, I hadn’t written a single short story since my fanfiction days, and I was terrified of screwing up. But now, I love it. I’ve got stories for three more anthologies in the works right now (Feral Youth, a collaborative novel inspired by the Canterbury Tales, which comes out this September, plus two 2018 releases ― the LGBTQ historical collection All Out and an awesome feminist anthology all about witches called Toil & Trouble), and I’ve loved writing for all of them. I spend most of my time writing novels, which are so all-consuming that it’s wonderful to get to dip for a few weeks into a fresh new project with new characters and new worlds to explore.
There are so many it’s hard to pick just a few! I’ll start out by sending folks to Dahlia Adler’s website, where she has an awesome list of recommendations broken down by genre, etc.: https://lgbtqreads.com/young-adult/
My personal all-time favorites ― the books I wish I’d had when I was a queer/questioning teen ― are The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth and Ask the Passengers by A.S. King.
I also highly recommend the upcoming Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy and the just-released We Are Okay by Nina LaCour (which I’m reading right now ― I’m obsessed). Also definitely check out everything ever written by Malinda Lo and Sara Farizan.
OUR OWN PRIVATE UNIVERSE
by Robin Talley
Published: January 31st 2017
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Grab Your Own Copy
Fifteen-year-old Aki Simon has a theory. And it's mostly about sex.
No, it isn't that kind of theory. Aki already knows she's bisexual—even if, until now, it's mostly been in the hypothetical sense. Aki has dated only guys so far, and her best friend, Lori, is the only person who knows she likes girls, too.
Actually, Aki's theory is that she's got only one shot at living an interesting life—and that means she's got to stop sitting around and thinking so much. It's time for her to actually do something. Or at least try.
So when Aki and Lori set off on a church youth-group trip to a small Mexican town for the summer and Aki meets Christa—slightly older, far more experienced—it seems her theory is prime for the testing.
But it's not going to be easy. For one thing, how exactly do two girls have sex, anyway? And more important, how can you tell if you're in love? It's going to be a summer of testing theories—and the result may just be love.