inspirations / memories / writing

Pub Day Special Guest: A Real Girl Behind IMAGINARY GIRLS

Someone special is on my blog today to help me celebrate my novel Imaginary Girls—which you will find on sale in the US and Canada RIGHT NOW, today, June 14, yay yay yay!

If you’ve read Imaginary Girls—and even and especially if you haven’t—hearing from this special guest is a peek into the heart of the book. It’s a story about two closely entwined sisters called Ruby and Chloe, about protectiveness and loyalty and love and secrets and deeper secrets and all things in between, and here today to help me celebrate pub day is my very own little sister, Laurel Rose. You’ll find her name on the dedication page, and you should know that she has been an enormous support to me, not just during the writing of this novel, but before, when I was struggling, and pretty much ever since the day she was born.

Please welcome my sister! She’s an incredible person—she’s strong, she’s brave, she loves good food and her cats and dogs and writes poems and bakes and rides her bike through the city of Philadelphia and she can make me laugh till I about fall off my chair—in fact, on numerous occasions, she has. Here is a photo of the two of us when we went to Paris together on her spring break in college (she’s the cute one on the left):

And here is a very old photo of me holding my baby sister many, many years ago (she’s the cute one in my arms):

Today I’ve asked my sister some questions about Imaginary Girls and I’m excited to share our interview with you:

ME: You were one of the very first readers of Imaginary Girls. It was so important to me that you read this book. What did you think of it? Was it weird to read a novel about two sisters that’s written by your big sister?

ROSE: I want to say it wasn’t weird. But looking back on the reading experience, I guess it was, but only because I was weird about it. I wanted to tear it up. I wanted to devour it and finish it in one day. But I wouldn’t let myself. I’d read it in patches, to make it last. I made sure that I could read the last page right before I could see you in person and tell you that I loved you. It was only weird because of me.

Other than that, it was so much more than I expected it to be. It built itself into something so overwhelmingly beautiful and surprising and twisty and suspenseful and I want to say so many things about what happens, but I’m not going to spoil it for those out there who haven’t read it. There is a heartbeat inside of that story. That it came from you, and it speaks to me and us so much, is the reason why I cried nearly every time I opened it. The reason why I cried the entire time I watched you read from it.

ME: So, I have to know: What is it like being the little sister? You can be honest. I know I have to stop calling you my “baby” sister, because you’re actually far more wise and mature than I am, even if I’m technically older in years and was there in the room when you were born and saw you before you even opened your eyes. (Note to blog readers: My sister has the most beautiful deep brown eyes.)

(Rose and our amazing, adorable, wonderful mom)

ROSE: I know that you will always call me the “baby”—it’s just something that I’ve determined as my fate since I was very little. So don’t stop. It’s a part of me. I think being the little sister for me is different than most little sisters I know. It’s easy. It’s probably the easiest thing about my life. As the baby, I’ve never had to impress, or try to be something I’m not. I’ve always been the most honest version of myself with you, because you’ve always cultivated such a loving and open friendship with me, since I was born. The only time you showed me you were disgusted by something I did was when I wore a Chicago Bulls cap when I was eleven, because it was totally not me, and we both knew that. I’ll never forget the look on your face when you saw me. It was a total Ruby and Chloe moment.

On that note, I’m not wiser or more mature than you. Our experiences have been different—not that different—but all of my decisions and decisions about decisions end with you and Mom, because you are the women I look up to, the women I look toward for comfort. I know that I’m harsh, stubborn, loud, often unapologetic, sometimes obscene, and can be mean sometimes, and then I think of you and Mom, with your sensitive eyes, soft voices, and faces that I’ve never (ever, seriously) seen mad, and you remind me to come down. Being the little sister, for me, is having a big sister who will never judge her, no matter what she shares. Being the little sister, for me, is like always having someone holding an umbrella over my head. Even when it’s not raining. With Cat Power playing. Or Bjork. Or The Kills. Sister, you’re my anchor.

ME: What did you do when you first saw the cover of Imaginary Girls? I gave you a sneak peek before the world saw it. Did it surprise you as much as it surprised me?

(Rose holding the ARC of IMAGINARY GIRLS!)

ROSE: I GASPED! I GASPED AND SMILED AND CRIED! It was almost as good a reaction as when I got the actual book in the mail and sauntered through my parcel spot and then discoed at my boyfriend and dogs up Second Street! I was terrified to open the attachment when you sent me the photo of the cover. What if it was horrible? What if I had to tell you that I hated it and neither of us could do anything about it? Ugh, what if it was pink? I had only read a zygote of the book, and upon seeing the cover, just knew instantly that that was it. It. It’s stunning. Everything about it wholly encompasses the book. Yes, I was surprised, but relieved and excited more than anything.

ME: Imaginary Girls takes place in a mythical, fictionalized version of the town where you grew up. You lived there far longer than I did, and spent your teenage years there after I left for college. Did you ever swim in the reservoir near our house when you were a teenager? Are there any parties at night on the shores of the Ashokan that I should know about?

ROSE: It’s funny. We never swam in the Ashokan reservoir. Maybe it happened once when I was younger with my dad, but the fear of being busted and arrested kept me away as a teenager. Instead we jumped the cliffs in Palenville, at Fawn’s Leap and Kaaterskill Falls. I would usually just watch everyone else from the cliffs because I am nothing like Chloe in her bravery. More than anything though were late-night dips in the Esopus creek, wearing old raggy clothes we would cop from Family of Woodstock. That’s where I met Kate Moss and her Australian model cohorts threw us some Budweiser cans. The parties at California Quarry and Magic Meadow were what I imagined when reading about the dark keg gatherings in IG, which are so very accurate to teen life in Woodstock.

ME: What novels did you love when you were a teenager? What novels do you love right now? 

ROSE: When I was a teenager I loved magazines. You know this. I loved looking at fashion and models and imagining what I would look like in my twenties. I didn’t read as much as I wanted to, but always took your suggestions. I fell in love with Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love in my later years of high school, thanks to Chaya Pearson, but had to reread it maybe twice to actually grasp the point. I’ve always thrived better on poems and short stories, I think it’s because of my insanely short attention span. Recently, after I finished IG, I’m just revisiting books of poems and especially Notley’s The Descent of Alette. It’s my inspirational poem-novel, and hopefully will get me back into the swing of writing my poems.

ME: Ruby gets her love of sunglasses from you. When I was trying to figure out the kind of flowers Ruby would want on her future grave, you knew Ruby well enough to suggest poppies. But Ruby isn’t you, and she isn’t me. I’ve heard a rumor that not everyone thinks Ruby has a good heart. What do you think of Ruby? Do you see some of each of us in her?

(Rose)ROSE: I will punch anyone who believes that Ruby’s heart isn’t good. Is it okay if I say that? I know Ruby, and of course she wants poppies. I wouldn’t. I would want primroses, or jasmine, or begonias. I feel like you would want irises, orchids, or lilac.

Of course Ruby has a good heart. There’s a lot to question about her, if you don’t understand sisters. It’s easy to critique and dislike Ruby, if you want to look at her as a mean girl. There’s a lot to look past. She’s manipulative by nature, and it turns out that Chloe is her only true mutual love. Which is kind of fine, because Chloe is all that she ever loved in the first place. Some of her actions suck, but it all just comes back to protecting Chloe. Ruby is magic. Ruby is an enigma, and I think you have to look at her as kind of superhuman to love her. She is you and me, yes. Sundresses and combat boots? Hello, so much of that points to Nova Ren Suma in her high school years. Giant sunglasses and white bikinis? Yup, me. I have a basket filled with over twenty pairs of sunglasses. She gives so much nurture and love to Chloe, and latches onto the things that only they do, the things that only they eat. That’s both of us. But hey, she gives Chlo her baby corns. And we both know that only I eat all the baby corns. When I was Ruby’s age I was definitely more arrogant, and I see a lot of that part of me in her.

ME: I love you, Rose. Like our adorable mom says, I love you infinity. One last question: Do you know that?

ROSE: Duh. Do you know? Infinity plus.

* * *

Thank you, Rose, for answering my questions and sharing this wonderful day with me. The book would not exist without you, truly.

Imaginary Girls is out in the world today! Read more about the book at the official website and watch the book trailer:

p.s. I’m collecting photos of the book on sale. If you see it, please email it to me at nova [at], post it on my Facebook author page, or tweet it to me on Twitter.

10 thoughts on “Pub Day Special Guest: A Real Girl Behind IMAGINARY GIRLS

  1. What a wonderful interview, Nova. And how lovely the two of you are, and your beautiful mom. Many congratulations on your pub day! I’ll send you a picture from San Francisco/Berkeley as soon as I can escape from work! xoxo

  2. I think this is the best blog interview in the history of blogs. For real!

    My copy of the sister book is on a certain loading dock, waiting to be brought home to me. I have a feeling I’ll be up late tonight!

  3. So cute, you two! Now I must do two things…call my sis and start reading your book…which to do first? Hmmm.


  4. Hi Nova,

    First, let me say that I loved this blog post; loved that you interviewed your sister, who quite evidently inspires you and guides you, both personally and professionally. Now, on to the accolades…I was the winner of Gayle Forman’s give-away, and as such, received a (signed!) copy of Imaginary Girls, which I am 20 pages away from completing. This book has captivated me – the sisters and their story swirling around in my brain for the last 36 hours since I began reading it. I, too, am an older sister, and this story quite literally came alive for me. I could see, no, more like feel the bond that Ruby and Chloe share, the protectiveness and loyalty that Ruby feels for her baby sister. I have spent the last 22 years of my life (since the day my gorgeous sister came into this world) filled with much the same feelings for my own baby sister, Lauren. Beautiful, delicate, flawed sisterly relationships are so hard to put words to, but you have told a story unlike any I’ve ever read before (and I read A LOT!). It was fantastical, yes, but it was also so tragically real that one walks away from reading it wishing her own sister was sitting right next to her, just waiting to be held onto. I love what you have done with Ruby and Chloe, and I am so pleased that I was afforded a chance to read this story as soon as it hit the shelves. You inspire me – to take chances, to write down my own stories, but most of all, to love my sister and be proud of the relationship that we have fostered all these years.

    All the best,

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