Interview with Liz Jacobs, author of Abroad duology

Liz Jacobs has lived in many places and has no idea how to respond to simple questions like “where are you from?” She has planted roots in Boston with her wife and hopes of a dog, and is doing too many things at once but enjoying the hell out of it. She reads voraciously, writes as much as possible, and has recently begun doing a truly alarming number of online puzzles while watching TV. She also spends a fair bit of time shouting at clouds on the Internet.

In terms of writing YA and telling a diverse stories, where does the inspiration come from, and who or what influences your stories?

That is really difficult to answer, because inspiration can come from anywhere, at any point. My debut is YA (of sorts – really, it’s probably more like NA!) but I’m not restricting myself to that genre (despite having another YA on the back burner!) ABROAD was definitely inspired by my own life, and the moment in time where people begin to self-realize and self-actualize. As for diverse stories, I believe all stories must be diverse, by the simple virtue of that diversity reflecting the world. We live in an enormously diverse world, and if you set your book in as diverse a place as, say, London, or New York, or Boston, you must reflect that diversity or it longer feels genuine or true to life, if that makes sense.

Your book is not only sexually but also racially diverse. When Nick popped into your mind, has he always been from Russia or did you decide first that you are going to have a Russian character?

Oh, Nick was definitely always Russian–as his life is so heavily based on my own! I wanted to tell a very specific story, one that I haven’t seen portrayed in a genuine way very much. I wanted to portray a Russian character who reflected what I knew of my culture, and not the caricatures you see in mainstream media.

Nick or Dex? And why?

Haha, I’m not sure what this is asking, exactly, but I’m gonna say “both” because I am genuinely fond of each of them for their own reasons. 🙂

We all know writing (and getting published) is not all fun and games. What one-liner advice would you give us aspiring writers?

Find other writers! I mean, there’s so much more to it than that, it’s impossible to sum up in any one piece of advice, but it’s helped me enormously to find other authors and connect with them, to get their takes on things, share our experiences. I find that invaluable.

What do you hope readers take away from Abroad?

Honestly, everything and anything–I just want Abroad to speak to people, and make them feel understood, seen, heard. Mostly I just hope they enjoy it! As a writer, that’s what you want–for people to enjoy your work and get a kick out of losing themselves in a story.

What are you working on now?

A few things, but nothing really set in stone or remotely ready for publication. I’ve got a YA novella that’s percolating in the back of my mind, and I’m actively writing a queer historical, though it’s giving me quite a bit of trouble at the moment. I’m just letting things come to me and seeing where they take me.

And finally, tell me three things about Liz Jacobs.

Oh, hmm! Let’s go with random things: Liz Jacobs owns an adorable 15lb dog who has enough personality for three hundred dogs and he features heavily on her Instagram. Liz Jacobs’ current favorite article of clothing is a romper that’s disguised as a dress and makes her feel absolutely fabulous. Liz Jacobs can do a perfect liquid eyeliner wing. 🙂

About Abroad books:

Nick Melnikov doesn’t know where he belongs. He was just a kid when his Russian-Jewish family immigrated to Michigan. Now he’s in London for university, overwhelmed by unexpected memories. Socially anxious, intensely private, and closeted, Nick doesn’t expect to fall in so quickly with a tight-knit group of students from his college, and it’s both exhilarating and scary. Hanging out with them is a roller coaster of serious awkward and incredible longing, especially when the most intimidating of the group, Dex, looks his way.

Dex Cartwell knows exactly who he is: a black queer guy who doesn’t give a toss what anybody thinks of him. He is absolutely, one-hundred-percent, totally in control of his life. Apart, maybe, from the stress of his family’s abrupt move to an affluent, largely white town. And worrying about his younger brother feeling increasingly isolated as a result. And the persistent broken heart he’s been nursing for a while . . .

When Nick and Dex meet, both find themselves intrigued. Countless late-night conversations only sharpen their attraction. But the last thing Nick wants is to face his deepest secret, and the last thing Dex needs is another heartache. Dex has had to fight too hard for his right to be where he is. Nick isn’t even sure where he’s from. So how can either of them tell where this is going?

A master of building tender and meaningful characters with heartbreaking stakes, Liz Jacobs deftly introduces audiences to the compelling, deeply personal narratives possible in coming-of-age and New Adult romance. ABROAD is an instant classic that approaches LGBTQIA+ and immigrant experiences from a powerful own-voices perspective.

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