I’m so excited to be a part of the book tour for Follow Your Arrow by Jessica Verdi that is hosted by TBR and Beyond Tours. I was really excited to also be able to interview the author for this book!
Congratulations on the publication of Follow Your Arrow! How has the publication experience been for Follow Your Arrow compared to your previous books?
Thank you! ☺ So far it’s been great—the online book community has been so supportive, and I’m thrilled it’s finally out in the world! This is my second book with my editor Aimee Friedman at Scholastic, and it’s been such a wonderful, collaborative experience from start to finish. This is also my first official #ownvoices book (regarding the bisexuality of the main character CeCe), so it’s been really exciting in that way as well.
How would you describe Follow Your Arrow in one sentence?
CeCe is a social media superstar, known for being #relationshipgoals with her girlfriend, but when Silvie breaks up with her and CeCe starts to fall for the new boy in town, things get messy.
Can you introduce us to the main character(s) of Follow Your Arrow?
CeCe Ross is the protagonist of the story. She’s fierce and independent, social justice-minded, a popular social media influencer, and an out-and-proud bisexual teen.
Silvie Castillo Ramírez is CeCe’s longtime girlfriend and internet co-star.
Josh Haim is the new boy in town, a skilled violinist, and clueless about social media.
Honest Abe is CeCe’s scruffy rescue dog—and, let’s be honest, the real star of the show.
In Follow Your Arrow, Josh is a musician and plays the violin. Do you play any instruments or did anything inspire the instrument choice?
I also play the violin! Only for fun now, and honestly not nearly as much as I should, but I previously played in the NYU orchestra and the Brooklyn Conservatory Orchestra.
If you could spend the day with CeCe, what do you think you would do?
We’d have lots of snacks—definitely donuts from Holtman’s!—and we would probably take our dogs for a long walk or to the dog park. And of course we’d be posting about it all on social media.
Do you know from the beginning how your books will end or do you let your characters decide their journey?
I usually have a vague idea of the ending, but the specifics are never set in stone. Most of the time I just sit down at my computer and see what comes out!
Was there anything that was cut from the book that you were sad to see go?
In an early draft of the book there was a whole scene where CeCe and her mom went to New York City for a weekend on influencer business. I liked getting that CeCe/Maggie time, but ultimately it didn’t really work for the overall story.
Do you have a favorite scene or quote from the book?
I really love the scenes toward the end of the book at Cincinnati Pride (no spoilers!), and I had a lot of fun with the social media posts that begin each chapter.
As someone who lives close to Cincinnati, I really felt like I was in many of the places I’m familiar with. Did you have to do any research on the setting during the writing process? If so, how was that process and how did you decide which locations to include?
Oh, that’s so great to hear! I did a ton of research on Cincinnati for the book—I wanted CeCe to live in a city, but a smallish one, and not on either of the coasts. Cincinnati felt right! And it was important to me to use real locations throughout the story to deepen the sense of setting. Each place I used was chosen based on its specific function and accessibility for the characters—so, for instance, instead of just inventing a random street corner for Josh to busk on, I used the real-life Procter & Gamble Plaza.
Social media is a huge part of Follow Your Arrow. What made you choose this to center your book around?
One of the main elements of the story is the subject of bi-erasure, and public image, and CeCe being forced to confront her own biases about whether she thinks dating a guy makes her any less queer. And when you’re someone in the public eye, someone who has given your critics and admirers power over your own self-worth, it can be really hard to break from that and be true to yourself, especially when you know that doing so may make people turn against you. So, to really “go there” in the book, I needed CeCe to feel that pressure from an external source—in this case, her followers.
What’s next for you? Anything you can share?
I’ve been working on quite a few projects this year in new (and exciting) genres, including adult rom-com and books for younger kids. I hope to have news to share on that front very soon!
ABOUT THE BOOK
For fans of Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera, this is a riveting and irresistible take on love, life, and identity — both online and off.
CeCe Ross is kind of a big deal. She and her girlfriend, Silvie, are social media influencers with zillions of fans and followers, known for their cute outfits and being #relationshipgoals.
So when Silvie breaks up with her, CeCe is devastated. She’s lost her first love, and now she can’t help but wonder if she’ll lose her followers as well.
Things get even messier when CeCe meets Josh, a new boy in town who is very much Not Online. CeCe isn’t surprised to be falling for a guy; she’s always known she’s bi. And Josh is sweet and smart and has excellent taste in donuts… but he has no idea that CeCe is internet-famous. And CeCe sort of wants to keep it that way.
But when CeCe’s secrets catch up to her, she finds herself in the middle of an online storm, where she’ll have to confront the blurriness of public vs. private life, and figure out what it really means to speak her truth.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jessica Verdi is an author of books for kids and teens about identity, family, acceptance, and love.
Though she’s always been a bookworm (her childhood was basically defined by the philosophy that working your way through giant stacks of library books is far superior to playing outside), she remained convinced throughout high school and college that theatre and music were meant to be her creative outlets. After nearly ten years in the NYC theatre world, she got an idea for a novel. While that first attempt at a “book” will never see the light of day—nope, don’t ask—it was the book that started her love affair with writing. Now she can’t imagine doing anything else.
Jess received her MFA in Writing for Children from The New School and is a freelance editor of romance and women’s fiction. She lives in New York with her family.