Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.
Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town's most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept "separate but equal."
Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.
Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.
Title: Lies We Tell Ourselves
Author: Robin Talley
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: September 30, 2014
Today we welcome author Robin Talley for an interview!
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer or did you want to be something else?
I’ve always loved writing. It’s not my only job, though ― in addition to writing fiction I work in online communications for a nonprofit women’s rights organization.
How long does it take you to write a book from start to finish?
That depends on the book, and what counts as “finished”! Could be anywhere from six months to three years.
How do you come up with themes for your stories?
I usually start with a character or topic and the theme evolves naturally from there. My characters and topics often come from bits and pieces I read in news stories or hear about from people I know.
Do you have a schedule of when you write?
Since I have a full-time day job, the bulk of my writing happens at night and on the weekends. Basically, any time I can get a couple of hours in, I’ll be writing.
How are you able to balance other aspects of your life with your writing?
It’s pretty tough! I have to make sure I carve out enough time to write – which means that when I’m on deadline, I often have to say no to invitations to fun social things. My poor wife is often stuck going to parties without me.
What elements do you think make a great story line?
I think it’s all about the characters. If I’m reading about a complicated character with a fascinating voice who feels so real to me I’d recognize her if I saw her on the street, I’d be glad to read anything about her, even if it’s just a narrative of her loading and unloading the dishwasher all day.
What was the hardest thing about writing a book?
Realizing three-quarters of the way through a first draft that you made a terrible mistake early on and will have to go back and redo it completely. (That happens to me with almost every book.)
How many books have you written so far? Do you have a favorite?
I’ve written five, and my favorite at the moment is Lies We Tell Ourselves, though I suspect that will change as I move through the editing process on others.
Do you have a favorite character?
My favorite in Lies We Tell Ourselves is Ruth, the younger sister of the main character, Sarah. She’s incredibly smart, brave, passionate ― so many things I admire.
Where do you write?
Usually in a tiny windowless room on the second floor of my house, with my cat sleeping on my feet. It’s quite nice actually.
When deciding on how to publish, what directed you to the route you took?
I don’t have anything close to the business and marketing skills required to self-publish, so for me it was an easy choice to go the traditional publishing route.
Have you gotten feedback from family about your book(s)? What do they think?
Lies We Tell Ourselves is my first book, and my family is over the moon for me. They know I’ve always dreamed of having a book out. My parents sent me a picture they took on my release day of them standing in Barnes and Noble next to my book on the shelf. Both of them are grinning ear-to-ear. It was pretty cool.
What kinds of things do you like to do outside of writing?
I love reading, of course! There’s also a lot of fun to be had in sitting with good friends sipping good wine. And when I get a chance to watch TV, my current obsession is The Americans.
What kinds of advice would you give to someone who wants to start writing?
Don’t wait until you have a perfect idea ― just pick up a pen or open up your laptop and get started. Don’t be afraid to write something terrible, either. All first drafts are terrible. The first round of revision is when you make something terrible into something passable. On the second round, you might actually make it into something good. But you’ll never get there until you’ve gotten that first draft down.
What is your favorite book? favorite author? Do you have an author that inspired/inspires you to write?
My favorite YA author is E. Lockhart, and although I love all her books, I always come back to The Boyfriend List series. I’d love to write characters as strong as hers and voices as compelling.
Do you have any go to people when writing a book that help you with your story lines as well as editing, beta reading and such?
I have several amazing writer friends who I will often ping for help with ideas and beg to read drafts when I’m stuck. My wife is also awesome at helping me work through problems.
Are you working on anything now?
Yes! I’m revising my next book, tentatively titled Unbreakable, which will be out next fall. It follows a so-in-love-they-might-as-well-be-married high school couple ― Toni, who’s genderqueer, and Gretchen, who’s a lesbian ― who are being separated for the first time when they start their freshman year of college. It’s about the strains distance and finding yourself and can put on even the most rock-solid relationships.
Thanks so much for stopping by today, Robin. It's been so great to have you here!
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Although the characters aren’t real, what kids went through during integration certainly is. Talley does an amazing job of giving voice to both sides the civil rights movement in the 1950’s, using the point of view of two strong, female characters.
Chosen by the NAACP for their high marks in class and their potential, Sarah is among a handful of black students to be the first to attend Jefferson High – a previously all white school. Sarah, her little sister, and the other black students are met with violence and abuse the moment they step on to school grounds. The horrific things these children endured broke my heart. I kept hoping against hope that it would improve for them, knowing deep down that it wouldn’t. And it didn’t.
Right away I loved Sarah for her strength and bravery as she walked the halls being spit on, ridiculed, and verbally and physically assaulted. Her poise and self-control when faced with horror after horror were admirable. As if this isn’t enough for any teenager to deal with; Sarah is gay and finds herself attracted to Linda, a popular white girl and the daughter of a well-known, outspoken segregationist.
Sarah and Linda are paired together for a school project. Working in secret so that Linda’s father doesn’t find out, Sarah and Linda learn more about each other and themselves than they ever expected. Sarah’s quick wit and intelligence is a direct contradiction to everything Linda thought she knew about black people. Linda is everything that Sarah finds infuriating about white people. And their growing feelings towards each other adds more confusion and conflict.
Lies We Tell Ourselves is a book that stays with you. It’s the kind of book that makes you look at little harder at yourself. It masterfully tackles some serious issues that, although we’ve come a long way, are still being dealt with today. Talley is clearly an experienced writer, able to trigger every emotion in her readers. I am wholly impressed.
My first novel, Lies We Tell Ourselves, will be released Sept. 30, 2014, by Harlequin Teen. It's set in 1959 Virginia, and it's about a black girl who's one of the first to integrate an all-white high school, and the white girl with whom she ultimately falls in love. My next book, Unbreakable, follows a high school couple -- Gretchen, who identifies as a lesbian, and Toni, who identifies as genderqueer -- whose relationship is tested when they're separated for their first year of college.
My website is at http://www.robintalley.com. You can reach me on Twitter at @robin_talley or by email at robintalley678 at gmail.com.