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Q&A with Kate Goldbeck - You, Again

You, Again

By Beth Moore

We are thrilled to welcome Kate Goldbeck to The Reading Corner to talk about her new release You, Again released on the 12th of September 2023.

Ari, a free-spirited struggling comedian, likes to keep things casual, and never sleeps over after hooking up. Josh, born-and-bred Manhattanite, has ambitious plans to take the culinary world by storm, to find The One and live happily-ever-after.

After a confrontational first meeting (at the apartment of the woman they are both sleeping with), Ari and Josh never expect their paths to cross again, but years later, as they're both reeling from ego-bruising breakups, a chance encounter leads to a surprising connection: friendship. Turns out, spending time with your former nemesis can be fun when you're both too sad and miserable to hate each other.

And as odd as it seems, they become friends-without-benefits, finding comfort in late night Netflix binges, swiping through each other's online dating profiles, and bickering endlessly on their phones across boroughs. It's better than romance. Until one night, the unspoken boundaries of their platonic relationship begin to blur...

You, Again

Please could you provide us with a little introduction about yourself and your work, and without giving anything away give us a brief introduction to You, Again.

I’m a user experience designer currently living in Atlanta, Georgia and You, Again is my debut novel. It’s a modern, gender-swapped twist on When Harry Met Sally that explores the boundaries (or lack thereof) between friendship and romance in today’s dating landscape.

Firstly, I believe this is your debut novel. This is an incredible debut, and I can’t wait to see where this leads you. It must be such an exciting time in your life, can you tell us about how you’re feeling?

Relieved, excited, and profoundly terrified at the prospect of being perceived by so many people.

I want to say that it was an absolute thrill reading this book. I see so much discourse at the moment on social media about romance novels, and I am almost scared to take a peek into that world for fear of the obsession that would blossom. That being said, this was such a great place to start. Can you speak a little about that discourse, and how you think You, Again will fit into it?

Romance readers are a passionate group. Part of the fun of reading in a genre is talking about it as a whole: identifying trends and favorite tropes, comparing subgenres. It’s amazing how the genre has expanded because there are so many different ways to publish. Indie publishing reminds me a bit of the fanfic world, where there’s so much room for experimentation and taking risks. But for my own mental wellbeing, I try to stay out of romance discourse.

I was delighted after reading to discover that the homage to Nora Ephron’s film When Harry Met Sally was deliberate and that you are huge fan. As it’s maybe my favourite romantic comedy film, it was so fun picking up on the inspirations that weave their way into this novel. Can you tell us about the inspiration this film has had on the novel and your wider work and why you chose to pay homage to it in this way?

When Harry Met Sally is a film that’s been lodged in my subconscious since I was a child because it was a favorite of my parents. I think I simply interpreted it as an accurate depiction of adulthood. The thing I love about it is that it’s all about internal obstacles. And since the only kind of romance I’m capable of writing is about neurotic people who can’t get out of their own way, I had no choice but to use it as a jumping off point. I don’t consider my book a retelling as much as a love letter. At the risk of sounding pretentious as hell, it’s a conversation of sorts with a film that means a lot to me.

I think one of my favourite twists from Ephron’s classic is that you have sort of swapped the attributes of our romantic leads. Josh has Sally’s compulsive qualities and is a hopeless romantic and Ari has Harry’s commitment phobia. It’s quite refreshing to see the genders swapped as these attributes are often stereotyped, how did you come to this decision and was it a conscious one?

When Harry Met Sally is a pretty timeless film. Playing with the gender politics is almost necessary in order to give the story a modern twist. I used the Harry and Sally archetypes as a starting place for Ari and Josh, but there’s a lot of me in both of them as well. When I first started writing, I definitely identified more with Josh and it was such a fascinating experience to write a version of myself as a man. But today, I see myself more as an Ari. I loved writing an extremely bold, flawed woman as a romance heroine.

Despite the inspiration from Ephron and the romcom genre, this book feels very fresh, original, and most poignantly modern. One of the main elements that provided this feeling for me was the clear importance, focus and normalisation of female pleasure in this book. It was so refreshing to hear women talking so casually and freely about their bodies and pleasure. Can you tell us about why tailoring the dialogue and action in this way was perhaps of importance to you?

Centering women’s desires and needs is part of the appeal of the romance genre. If I’m going to write sex scenes, I also want to write conversations about sex. It’s something I’m pretty open about in my own life, so it makes sense for me to write a scene where two women are discussing vibrators. And I’ve always been drawn to characters who aren’t coy or demure. Vickie—the Janeane Garofalo character—in Reality Bites is one of my favorite examples. When we meet her, she’s struggling to remember the name of the guy who just rolled out of her bed and that little moment always struck me as charming and relatable.

I have to talk about the comedy in this novel. This book has a very charming humour to it that makes you fall in love with it, but what was of particular interest to me was that our leading lady, Ari, is a stand-up comedian. Along with writing, I do stand-up comedy, so it was so rewarding to read about a fellow woman on that journey and realise how much of a metaphor that scene is for life, the exhilarating highs and crushing lows. Was this a conscious decision, what made it click for you that that Ari should be a comedian, and do you have any experience in the stand-up comedy world yourself?

I’ve never done standup, but I’ve definitely dated improv men! In an earlier version of the manuscript, Ari had a completely different career. I got some feedback, I think from an editor who passed on the book, that Ari was “too funny.” As I was revising Ari’s story arc, I realized that her demeanor and quick wit would make a lot of sense for a performer. If she’s a comedian, I thought, no one could question her sense of humor. And Ari cobbling together a living just felt so true to her personality and to the reality of how people manage creative careers, in general. I will say, though, that I’m not sure I would have gotten that “too funny” comment if Ari were a man.

I also really enjoyed the narrative style of this novel. I really liked how Ari and Josh almost had their own narrators, and how human that narration felt. It was so vital to helping you as a reader bond with the characters. Is this a style that you typically write in or was it something that blossomed during the writing process?

This is the first thing I’d ever written that wasn’t a screenplay. I love writing dialogue. If I could just write conversations, I’d be happy. Describing things doesn’t come as naturally to me, so I had to take a very subjective view of every scene, where we see everything through the lens of Josh or Ari. It’s not first-person, but I wanted it to feel like the reader is in each of their heads.

In the novel, the phrase “cultural literacy” is used a lot to describe things from media that have become engrained in our culture that we should all know. Can you for fun please tell me what you believe to be the three defining elements of ‘romantic comedy cultural literacy’?

Nancy Meyers’ kitchens, montages, and the Mr. Darcy hand flex.

If people enjoy You, Again do you have any recommendations of books they could try next, or perhaps there are some novels that inspired you that you’d like to recommend?

How much time do you have? In the romcom genre, I love Ava Wilder’s books. A fave this summer has been You, With a View by Jessica Joyce. And I adored Talia Hibbert’s YA book, Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute. But I read a lot of other fiction, too, and a couple of my favorites from last year were Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily Austin and Anna Dorn’s Exalted (one of the funniest books I’ve read).

Finally, just for fun if you had to pick one song to describe You, Again what would it be?

Doing the Unstuck by The Cure. I’m a huge fan of The Cure (I may write romcoms, but I’m extremely morose!) and this is one of their uplifting songs. I think most serious Cure fans hate it but I love it!

You, Again

Kate Goldbeck grew up in a literal village and dreamed of living in New York, even though her parents warned her that the apartments on Friends were not realistic. In college, she studied film and art history—limiting her employment prospects to “film museum.” Since earning a master’s degree at an engineering school, she’s designed award-winning museum exhibits and immersive experiences all over the world. She adores bantering with her partner, falling asleep to British audiobook narrators, and scratching dogs behind the ears.

Kate's Instagram: @kategoldbeck


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