Interview: Camryn Garrett talks about her new book, dresses, and music

Friday I'm In Love by Camryn Garrett. Image courtesy Penguin Random House
Friday I'm In Love by Camryn Garrett. Image courtesy Penguin Random House /

Camryn Garrett’s latest book is Friday, I’m in Love, a story about growing up, accepting who you are, the importance of good music and good friends, and the magic of falling in love.

The story revolves around Mahalia Harris who desperately wants a sweet sixteen party like her best friend Naomi. But with her 16th birthday already in the past, another idea comes to mind. A coming out party. A way to tell everyone exactly who she is.

She cuts back on spending and saves as much as she can, but with unexpected bills, her grades quickly falling, and her ever-increasing feelings for the new girl at school Siobhan, nothing is going as planned.

I was lucky enough to read this book early and it is just as amazing as it sounds. It’s fun, emotional, and a gift to queer teens everywhere. I was also lucky enough to interview Camryn Garrett. We talked about the new book, why dresses are important in her books, and the music that threads its way through this story.

Camryn Garrett shares her thoughts on her latest book

Camryn Garrett
Friday I’m In Love author Camryn Garrett. Credit Louisa Wells /

Culturess: Without too many spoilers, how did the scene in the gym come about in the writing process?
Camryn Garrett: It actually wasn’t in the first draft at all! We changed some of the plot around, and it ended up being one of my favorite scenes. I decided to go all in on sort of the corniness and the teen movie aspect.

Culturess: Why Friday, I’m in Love by The Cure? Is there something special about that song to you?
Camryn Garrett: I’m like Mahalia and basically only listen to “older” music. My dad passed away before I finished this book, but he liked a lot of funk and jazz, and my mom really loves New Wave. Friday I’m in Love really gets across the feeling of having a crush or first love. I also really love The Cure.

Culturess: Does Mahalia’s playlist for Siobhan come from the music you like or was it specific to her character and who she is?
Camryn Garrett: Both! I wrote the first draft of this during my senior year in high school, and Mahalia’s taste in music definitely came from my own taste. I also wanted her relationship to music to mirror the way mine is connected to my parents, so a lot of the music she loves is stuff she’d listen to with her father. But through edits, we also came to the idea that, as she learns more about Siobhan, she’d pick songs that Siobhan would like, too.

Culturess: Was there ever a point in writing the book where Mahalia didn’t have “old man” music taste?
Camryn Garrett: Ha! No, actually! I conceived of her as this character who always loved old music and was a bit pretentious about it.

Culturess: This is not the first time a dress has been important in one of your books. What is it about fashion or dresses that you think is necessary for characterization and plot?
Camryn Garrett: It’s weird because I didn’t plan it out this way! I think as I’ve gotten older, finding clothes that I really feel like myself in has done a lot for my self image and self esteem, and I feel like that should be a moment in a coming of age story, especially for a Black or plus-sized character who isn’t necessarily told they’re beautiful that often by society.

Culturess: How did the design for the dress come about? What was it like to see the dress once you saw the cover art?
Camryn Garrett: Casey Moses designed it and Erick Davila, who did the art for my last book, did the illustration! I basically just described the dress and they came up with the cover. It’s absolutely gorgeous. I get so many compliments on it and it truly highlights the happiness and joy I wanted to see.

Culturess: Mahalia’s relationship with her parents is quite complicated, to say the least. As you worked on the story, how did those relationships develop?
Camryn Garrett: At first, her parents were both pretty two-dimensional, but we worked to make her mother more relatable and understanding. She really does want to give Mahalia this party and other things she wants, but she simply can’t, and it really puts her in a tough spot. With the father, I think I’ve just seen and experienced so much of that disappointment that I wanted to show it, since it felt realistic. I just didn’t want it to feel like a stereotype, and I think it doesn’t. Mahalia does love both of her parents, but I think by the end of the story, she knows she has to meet them both where they are at. I think it’s something most of us have to figure out at some point.

Culturess: Despite her mom and Naomi being there for her, Mahalia doesn’t feel like she has a solid support system until the end of the book when she is fully living her truth. Was that intentional?
Camryn Garrett: Definitely! I think, especially when you’re a teenager, it’s super easy to feel like there’s no one there for you. I also think it’s a bit of a cliche at this point for teens in media in general to ignore all of the ways their mothers have been sticking out their necks for them. I don’t think Mahalia is actually ignoring this, but is just so caught up in everything she has going on that it’s hard for her to see just how helpful those close to her are.

I think that’s why we have cliches like best friends breaking up or kids getting mad at their parents. It’s almost like being a teen is standing really really close to your reflection, and you don’t get distance until you get older, and even then, it only happens bit by bit. I think writing this at 18 and looking back four years later helps with a lot of that perspective!

Culturess: This might be a little spoiler-y but because Mahalia is the sole point of view in the book, the reader is just as surprised by the party as she is. At what points in the book do you see Naomi and Mahalia’s mom planning it all out?
Camryn Garrett: Mahalia basically annoys both of them a ton about the party, to the point that Naomi is like, “Uh, can we talk about me a bit?” But I think the moment where she is really discouraged and down and doesn’t think it’s going to happen would probably be when they link up. I don’t want to get too into it so I don’t spoil, but I think Mahalia’s mom would notice that stuff was going on with Naomi as well, and that would lead to them talking about this.

Friday, I’m In Love is available on Tuesday, Jan 10, 2023 in ebook, paperback, and audiobook formats.

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