Interview with K.L. Walther, Author of “If We Were Us”

K.L. Walther’s debut, If We Were Us, was released last year by Sourcebooks Fire — but I was late to the party, and didn’t get around to reading it until the start of 2021. You know those books that take you forever to pick up, and once you finally do, you’re mad at yourself for not reading it sooner? Yeah, that’s what it felt like reading If We Were Us. Even from the first chapter, I knew I’d have to have K.L. on the blog to talk about the book, and luckily she agreed to answer my laundry list of questions!

WAIT! Before you get to the interview, please be advised that it contains minor spoilers for the book — read at your own risk! (You can also read my review of the book here, and check out an excerpt here!)

What inspired If We Were Us?

K.L.: If We Were Us is a mash-up between Taylor Swift’s classic “You Belong With Me” music video (with which I will forever be obsessed), my father’s boarding school memories, and then my own experiences at boarding school. You collect so many stories while there—some you might have been a part of (I’ll never tell), others you might’ve just heard at hockey practice or in the dining hall. Boarding school is rich with tradition and campus lore, and inspired me to create centuries-old Bexley as the setting for my modern-day double love story. 

Can you talk a little bit about the title? 

K.L.: I adore the title, which I somehow came up with after days of brainstorming (I’m not particularly skilled when it comes to titles). One of the things I love most about it is that it is tightly weaved into the story and includes everyone—Nick, Sage, Luke, and Charlie. It is the beginning of a sentence with an invisible ellipsis. For example, Luke thinks, If we were us…we would be truly happy, while Sage has a very different interpretation. If we were us…our relationship could go up in flames. At his lowest points, Charlie even contemplates this when it comes to his friendship with Sage. If we were us…if it were possible to be us, my life would be so much easier.

But as we know, life is not meant to be easy!

Sage and Charlie have such a close friendship — after all, their friends and classmates are convinced that they’re endgame, which Charlie plays into. How does their friendship shift once Charlie gets in a relationship for good? 

K.L.: To be honest, I don’t imagine their friendship shifts much…except for the fact that Charlie is now much more relaxed, and that makes Sage beyond happy. He does not need to put on a “face” every day, and with their respective relationships out in the open, he and Sage definitely don’t keep major secrets from each other. If anything, Charlie and Luke being in a relationship brings #Scharlie closer.

Although the platonic PDA becomes less intense and any wedding jokes a thing of the past—a fond memory, but one that is not particularly missed. They have outgrown talk of coconut cakes and honeymoons in Hawaii.

Very specific question — does Luke have a photographic memory? 

K.L.: Well, he never seems to study much, does he? 😉

Can you explain Charlie’s thought process when choosing (or not choosing) what college to go to? Was there no universe where he continued to play hockey, even at UVA? 

K.L.: Sure! I think there were several factors when it came to Charlie choosing his college. First, what he talked about with Luke was true; he wanted a bigger school. All the schools recruiting him for hockey, while wonderful, have small student bodies and, in his mind, are too much like Bexley. For the most part, Charlie has enjoyed his time at boarding school, but knows it is time to explore uncharted territory. 

And of course, Luke. Charlie may question whether or not he is a romantic, but he absolutely is one…perhaps too much of one sometimes. UVA checks all his boxes, but he would follow Luke anywhere. They’ve finally found each other, and he wants their life together to start.

As for hockey, he continues to play! UVA has a casual club team that he joins, and soon begins acting like it’s as serious as the NHL (which naturally elicits a ton of eye rolls from Luke). While he may not love the weight room, he does love the sport!

What was the process of writing the book like? 

K.L.: Oh wow, where to begin? The book went through so many iterations before it was ready to query! If you can believe it, my first full draft was originally non-linear and only told from Sage’s point of view—it was so different (and a complete mess).

But then Charlie found his way in there, the timeline became linear, and everything slotted into place. I couldn’t type the words fast enough; in fact, I typed way too many. I’m far from a succinct writer, so a lot of cutting needed to happen before the book went on submission and after it was bought. It was difficult to cut certain sections and special sub-plots, and to alter various character arcs, but I honestly couldn’t be happier with the end result.

Were there any scenes that you loved that you ended up cutting? Can you tell me anything about them? 

K.L.: Hmm…I don’t want to say too much, but before my agent and I revised the manuscript together, there was no time-jump to graduation. I wrote all the way through the school year, and there were a few chapters set in the spring that I loved. They featured one of Nick’s and my favorite Bexley traditions, so I was sad to see those pages go. 

But again, I needed to drop my word-count!

If IWWU were to be adapted into a movie, who would be your fan casts? 

K.L.: Okay, this is going to be the most disappointing answer, and I apologize in advance! Unfortunately, I never reveal my personal fan cast because I don’t want to color anyone else’s ideas. Back in college, my roommate and I actually got into a friendly argument about who should play whom and our casts did not match up in the slightest. I’m laughing just thinking about it.

I love hearing about readers’ dream casts, though. It’s a very warm and fuzzy feeling to know that someone loves your characters enough to think about casting them in a film or TV adaptation.

Hit me up, Netflix!

Do you see yourself revisiting the characters or world of Bexley in the future, whether it be for books or bonus scenes? (Maybe see the characters visiting each other at college?) Will we see any of the characters from IWWU pop up in any of your other books? 

K.L.: Um…have you hacked into my laptop? Gone through my “Bexley” folder? I have written extensively about the If We Were Us foursome (even beyond graduation), and I do believe Bexley has plenty of stories left to tell. There are so many nooks and crannies of campus that I haven’t covered. There are so many other characters that I love dearly. Right now, they are just for me, but maybe someday!

I would definitely keep an eye out for some Easter eggs in the future. My next book, The Summer of Broken Rules, is set on Martha’s Vineyard, and we both know how much the Carmichael twins love it there…

What can you tell me about your upcoming book(s)? I know you have one releasing this May! Are you working on anything else that you can tease? 

K.L.: The Summer of Broken Rules does come out on May 4th, and I am extremely excited! It features a close-knit family, a big wedding, the ultimate game of Assassin, plenty of hidden Taylor Swift references, and a romance that kicks off with a not-so-meet-cute. It’s the summer book of my dreams.

As for my current project, all I’ll say is that it is a loose retelling of one of my favorite movies!

***

HUGE thanks to K.L. for answering all of my questions!! Make sure connect with her on Instagram (@klwalther9), on Twitter (@kl_walther), and on her website. Be on the lookout for her next book, The Summer of Broken Rules (or you can just order it now!) — which I’ll be posting an ARC review for soon — and pick up a copy of If We Were Us now! You can also read my review of If We Were Us here.

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