Gilly Segal and Kimberly Jones are the co-authors of I’m Not Dying Here Tonight (Sourcebooks Fire). I was fortunate enough to hear them speak at the ALAN Workshop last year and to arrange this interview with them. Their debut novel is a 2020 NAACP Image Awards nominee and was selected as the September 2019 book club pick for the Barnes & Noble YA book club. Gilly and Kim are hard at work on their next co-authored novel and will be making appearances this year at the North Texas Teen Book Festival, Teen BookCon and the Gaithersburg Book Festival.
It’s a book you’ll definitely want to share with teen readers in your life.
EC: You both belong to the Not-So-YA Book Club. What draws you to young adult literature?
Gilly: I have a fancy, serious answer about how young adulthood is a time of enormous possibility and overwhelming uncertainty, when you’re crafting the person you are and want to be and discovering how you connect with and bounce off of your family and wider society, about how I believe in books as spaces for teens to explore themselves, situations and perspective and how books transformed by own introverted and awkward and lonely youth and kept me company. All of which is true. But also, I just love YA – I love the voices, the immediacy of the narrative, the thrilling plots, and the cutting-edge story telling happening in the genre.
EC: Were you two friends before you started writing this book? How did you know you’d be able to write this particular story together?
Gilly: We were absolutely friends first. Beginning the writing process as friends helped us to write a manuscript based on very difficult topics coming from a place of love, from a desire to understand, and no ego to disrupt the conversations. Part of our process was listening, understanding, and being honest about vulnerable moments. As much time as we spent plotting, drafting, editing and editing again, we spent talking and listening to each other. And as much as we value our creative collaboration and our business partnership (since writing is as much about the business as the creative, once you publish), our friendship still comes first!
EC: You both went from being book club members to debut authors. What were some critical steps in there that got your book published once it was written?
Kimberly: Relationships! We had lots of friends who helped us along the way. Years of forming relationships via book clubs, festivals, conferences, and meetups resulted in great friends, willing to offer us guidance, and connections.
EC: I finished I’m Not Dying With You quicker than most books it’s size and others have also mention what a compelling, fast moving read it is. I’m curious to know how you both were able to maintain an equal level of intensity. How intentional were you about that? What techniques did you use to make that happen?
Kimberly: Although we each initially took responsibility for our respective characters we edited side by side, wrote within each other’s chapters for voice consistency, and intentionally managed pace together. I’m a filmmaker by trade so I do bring a more cinematic plotting style to the table which pushes the story along quickly.
EC: The story is definitely constructed to incite dialog. What are some things you’d like readers to ponder while reading the story?
Kimberly: We hope that people see themselves in the characters and use the story as a tool to have hard conversations. They should ask themselves if they have showcased the implicit bias they see on the page, no matter how hard that self-reflection is. As we like to say, growth comes from discomfort.
EC: I’m just going to throw this out there and let you respond at will: This is a girl’s story.
Gilly: INDWYT is emphatically and particularly and intentionally a girl’s story. We always challenge readers to answer for themselves this question: if either character had been male or male presenting, would the book even take place? We’d argue no. The danger the girls are in and the need they feel to seek safety in one another, though they are strangers, is a uniquely female experience.
Kimberly Jones is a former bookseller, and currently writes YA novels and directs feature films. Kim’s book roots run deep. She served on the Selection Committee for Library of Congress’ National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and the Children’s Choice Illustrator Committee for The Children’s Book Council. She has been featured in Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, and was Book Brahmin in an issue of Shelf Awareness. She resides in Atlanta and is the proud mother of a gifted boy.
Gilly Segal grew up in Florida and came of age in Israel, where she served in the IDF and graduated from Hebrew University. After college, she attended Emory School of Law. By day, she’s legal counsel for an advertising agency and has lectured on a variety of topics related to advertising and privacy and the law. When not writing, Gilly enjoys cheering on the Tampa Bay Lightning, exploring Decatur with her three kids, and sampling flavors of French macarons.