“I needed some help on the sex scenes between Will and Angus. I’ve never been a boy, much less a gay boy…” says Author Carrie Mesrobian as she talks about her novel Cut Both Ways. Read on this interview and find out more you need to know about her book.
Tell us something about your upcoming novel, Cut Both Ways and what shall we expect in your book.
It’s a book about a boy named Will who splits his life into lots of different compartments. His parents are divorced so he spends half his time in his mother’s giant house in the suburbs and his father’s crappy half-remodeled house in the city. The story opens with him unintentionally making out with his best friend Angus, who is gay, which is Will’s first kiss. Will has never thought of himself as gay, so when, around the same time, he starts seeing a girl named Brandy, he is totally confused about what he’s doing. Is he cheating? Is he gay? He doesn’t know.
What’s the meaning behind the title Cut Both Ways and how did you come up with it?
Titles are very hard for me! My editor was the one who came up with it, thankfully! I’ve resolved to try to make working titles for future books, but my mind doesn’t tend to work that way.
Your books seem to carry diverse themes. In Cut Both Ways, what message would you like the readers to grasp?
I don’t know if there’s a single message. Or any message. Maybe that life is messy and difficult. Sex is messy and difficult. Everyone you meet is carrying their own burden and the beautiful part of telling stories is that it opens you up to more empathy for those specific burdens.
Which character from Cut Both Ways can you relate to the most? Why?
I can relate to Will in one main way, in that a lot of my life is about negotiating lots of different friendships and alliances and places. I like to try to fit in with lots of different people and situations and sometimes it’s uncomfortable and sometimes it’s wonderful.
Share your experience in writing the character of Will and his relationship with both Angus and Brandy. Were there any struggles in creating these characters?
I needed some help on the sex scenes between Will and Angus. I’ve never been a boy, much less a gay boy, so I wasn’t sure where to place the focus on things. I had some help from friends who know those struggles well and I am very grateful that these men helped me through this, even though the scenes are quite vivid at times.
Describe each of the characters (Will, Angus & Brandy) in 1 word.
What’s the most difficult part to write in Cut Both Ways?
The ending. All YA books, if they’re realistic ones, at least, end at the beginning of a character’s life, in a sense. They haven’t won the prize or got the girl or figured everything out yet – they’re just starting on their journey. I don’t like tidy endings for this reason. Learning about good relationships and love, learning about sex and identity, learning about one’s family – these represent your life’s work. You never completely conquer all of those challenges and figuring things out at age 18 is even more unlikely. So ending it in a place where the reader isn’t totally left hanging but also isn’t completely comforted is what I aim to do.
You’ve mentioned that all your books’ narrators are male, is there a particular reason why? Will we be seeing future works with a female POV soon?
Yes! I want to try new things with each book, and with my fourth book, it felt time to explore the girl side of YA.
What other genres would you want to explore in writing YA novels?
I’m probably stuck in contemporary realism for the most part. Though I do like ghost stories. And horror is something I’d like to try at some point.
Any recent projects?
I’m in an anthology called The V-Word which comes out in February 2016. Right now I’m working on another YA novel, which I’m excited about because it features my first female narrator. It’s also in 3rd person, which is another new thing for me. That won’t be out until 2016, at least.
I can’t wait to read your book! Thank you so much, Ms. Carrie!
Carrie Mesrobian is an instructor at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Her debut novel, Sex & Violence was a finalist for the American Library Association’s William C. Morris Award and the winner of the 2014 Minnesota Book Award. Her second novel, Perfectly Good White Boy received starred reviews from Kirkus & Publishers Weekly and was a Tayshas Reading List Pick. Her most recent novel, Cut Both Ways, has received starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist. She is also one half of the The Oral History podcast with author Christa Desir. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and daughter.
Will Caynes never has been good with girls. At seventeen, he’s still waiting for his first kiss. He’s certainly not expecting it to happen in a drunken make-out session with his best friend, Angus. But it does and now Will’s conflicted—he knows he likes girls, but he didn’t exactly hate kissing a guy.
Then Will meets Brandy, a cute and easy-to-talk-to sophomore. He’s totally into her too—which proves, for sure, that he’s not gay. So why does he keep hooking up with Angus on the sly?
Will knows he can’t keep seeing both of them, but besides his new job in a diner, being with Brandy and Angus are the best parts of his whole messed-up life. His divorced parents just complicate everything. His father, after many half-baked business ventures and endless house renovations, has started drinking again. And his mom is no help—unless loading him up with a bunch of stuff he doesn’t need plus sticking him with his twin half-sisters counts as parenting. He’s been bouncing between both of them for years, and neither one feels like home.
Deciding who to love, who to choose, where to live. Whichever way Will goes, someone will get hurt. Himself, probably the most.