Kosoko Jackson on Writing Romance and I'M SO (NOT) OVER YOU
Valentine's Day is drawing near, and love is in the air. One of the very best ways to celebrate, in our opinion, is with a fresh stack of literary rom-coms for your side table or nightstand. And one of the best of those that you can read this month is I'm So (Not) Over You by Kosoko Jackson. It's funny and fresh, sassy and steamy, and was on *everyone's* "most-anticipated rom-coms" list heading into the year.
We're uttery delighted to be hosting Kosoko for a fun virtual event on February 24. (He's appearing in conversation with the incredible Leah Johnson, which makes the whole thing even better.) The book doesn't come out until the 22nd, so you'll have to wait until just after the holiday to fall in love Hudson and Kian... but you can tide yourselves over by checking out our Q&A with Kosoko below!
Kosoko Jackson, welcome to the blog! We are big fans of romantic comedy around here. Without giving too much away, can you tell us about I'm So (Not) Over You?
Thank you so much for having me! I love Blue Willow Bookshop so much and it’s such an honor to be doing this with you all. And of course, always happy to talk about my boys. I'm So (Not) Over You follows Kian Andrews, who is down on his luck. No job, student loans hounding him, and he’s single; which might be the worst offense of them all. Out of the blue, he gets a call from his ex, Hudson Rivers, the heir to the Rivers and Valleys brewery empire in Georgia, who needs his help. Hudson’s parents think him dating Kian was the only good thing he’s ever done, and with them coming to visit him in Boston, they can’t know he broke up with Kian roughly 3 months ago. So, Hudson proposes a deal; Kian helps him with the lie that they are still dating, by joining Hudson for dinner, and Hudson will put in a good word with an old friend, the owner of Spotlight, my version of Buzzfeed, Kian’s dream job.
Of course, in typical rom-com fashion, everything goes wrong, they fall deeper into the lie (and in love) and must grapple with their feelings for one another. It's cute, light, fresh, fun, but still holds true to my writing style; which is to include some commentary about being Black and queer in America. I adore it.
You've written a number of wonderful YA novels. What drew you to writing a romance for adults?
Oh, shucks! Thank you so much! I really wanted to do something lighter and airy. I love science fiction, and it's where my younger heart lies, but I always try to push myself. In 2019 I told my agent, I wanted to try something new, rom-coms. It just came to me one night! We worked on 5 different book ideas before settling on I'm So (Not) Over You. And then, about nine months later, went on sub. That was 2 years ago and now we’re here!
I love writing rom-coms. The romance in Yesterday Is History was some of my favorite scenes to write. As a writer, especially a queer writer of color, I really want to show positive representation of queer Black men, and I feel we lack that in rom-coms. I wanted to be a part of changing the diversity conversation, and show that queer Black men deserve light books, and love, too!
Having written for both audiences, did you find any differences writing for adults rather than teens?
One of the biggest differences is the focus on emotional vs. physical. When I first write a rom-com draft, and my editor will cosign this, I focus so much on the emotional, because that’s how we show love in YA. It's important to have that in adult too, but there’s also the physical steam factor we can’t forget in many books; not all. I’m still getting used to writing those scenes, and I often put them off for later.
I also think the pacing is different because of the emotional journey. In YA, oftentimes, teens are experiencing these strong feelings for the first time, and coming to terms with understanding the ramification of their emotional choices, both good and bad. Adults have this knowledge, so they are more navigating and weighing the pros and cons of their impending actions. It's a different step in the human journey, and I love exploring it.
The secondary characters in I'm So (Not) Over You are so well drawn! How did you develop them? Do you have any tips on character development?
This is such a compliment! I adore side characters in books! I don’t really write books with women-identifying main characters (YET!), but I always enjoy writing them. I have a lot of women-identifying friends and I try to do them justice. I don’t model my women-identifying characters off of any one person, but I do think “what type of character shell works best for this specific character?” and then build someone badass and funny around them.
When it comes to males, like Kian’s brother, I try to think who complements my character best, and then build off of that. Sometimes I like writing side characters more than main characters!
We loved I'm So (Not) Over You — please tell us this won't be your last adult romance! Are there new Kosoko Jackson rom-coms on the horizon that we can look forward to?
Sure! My next book comes out this December. It's called A Dash of Salt and Pepper and is a new standalone that follows a 20-something and a “seasoned” single father who owns a restaurant in a Stars Hollow-esque small town, who decide to work together. Cue plenty of butting heads, sizzling banter, and hotness that tops the Scoville scale. If THAT wasn’t enough, the love interest looks like Milo Ventimiglia with tattoos. You’re welcome.
Since we love hearing recommendations from our favorite authors, we have to ask: What books are you excited for that are coming in 2022?
I’m super super excited for Nisha Sharma’s Dating Dr. Dil and Denise Williams’ Do You Take This Man! She pitched it to me on an Instagram Live and I FELL IN LOVE.
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