My first book, You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, was released in 2018, a pre-pandemic year that now feels a bit surreal to look back at. Our Year of Maybe came out in 2019, and these would be the two “normal” book releases I had before the world changed in 2020. They were both emotional, slightly heavy YA novels, after which I pivoted to writing romantic comedies for both teens and adults.
This is where I’m happiest, and each subsequent book brings with it a new brand of excitement.
Business or Pleasure will be my eighth release. It’s also my steamiest, about a ghostwriter who has a terrible one-night stand with an actor, not knowing who he is, only to learn she’s been hired to work on his memoir…a partnership that heats up when he asks for help in the bedroom. It’s a twist on two of my favorite tropes: the one-night stand and lessons in seduction. And the amount of fun I had writing it felt like it should have been illegal. I adore these characters, and I’ve been counting down the days until readers can meet them.
Over the past five years, my writing has evolved. That’s both natural and expected. The characters in my books have had different passions, different flaws, different reasons for resisting love until the right person sweeps them off their feet. But one thing that’s remained constant, aside from a Seattle setting and my fondness for beta heroes, is that my main characters have all been Jewish.
When my debut, You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, was published, I didn’t realize how moved I would feel, hearing from Jewish readers who saw themselves in those pages, and maybe that’s because I didn’t often see myself in literature growing up. For the most part, I only read about Jewish characters in Holocaust books. There weren’t many books about modern-day Jews with anxiety, Jews with complicated friendships, Jews falling in love. Even in fiction, we were always marked by tragedy.
One thing that’s remained constant, aside from a Seattle setting and my fondness for beta heroes, is that my main characters have all been Jewish.
Those books are undoubtedly still important, and they should never stop being published. But it’s important, too, to show a wide range of Jewish experiences. And I think that’s why it took me a while to put Jewish characters in my own writing. While my debut novel starred Jewish characters, the four manuscripts I tried to get published before that didn’t. Sure, my writing was probably a lot better in that fifth manuscript, but I think letting myself write Jewish characters gave You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone a layer of authenticity that had been missing from my earlier attempts. Their Judaism was different from mine, but there was a thread that linked my heart to theirs.
Even by the time You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone came out, I could list the number of other Jewish YA novels releasing that year on one hand. So I made a promise to myself, one that I don’t intend on breaking: moving forward, all my protagonists would be Jewish. And they have been.
In Business or Pleasure, both the heroine and hero are Jewish, and throughout the book, they discuss shared traditions, antisemitism, and how it feels to have a last name that sounds Jewish versus one that doesn’t. I also made the hero’s mom a rabbi. Some of it is territory I’ve explored before, and some is new — because I’ve found that if I start digging into something in one book, 350 pages usually aren’t enough for me to fully excavate it. Almost all my characters are grappling with being “Jewish enough,” because that’s something I’m perpetually trying to unpack. At the same time, my books aren’t about being Jewish — it’s just one piece of my characters’ identities. They simply exist as Jews in the world, the same way I do.
Writing Jewish characters has helped me connect with a part of the book community I treasure so dearly — readers, other authors, people who’ve become close friends. I’ve never felt welcomed the way I have by Jewish bookstagrammers, and I’m endlessly grateful.
It’s a space I might have been shy or uncertain about claiming for myself when I was younger and now feels like a warm blanket. This is where my books belong, and even though every anxious cell in my body might try to convince me otherwise — I think it’s a place that I belong, too.
Rachel Lynn Solomon is the New York Times bestselling author of The Ex Talk, Today Tonight Tomorrow, and other romantic comedies for teens and adults. Her next book, Business or Pleasure, will be published in June 2023. Originally from Seattle, she’s currently navigating expat life in Amsterdam, where she can often be found exploring the city, collecting stationery, and working up the courage to knit her first sweater. Connect with her on Instagram @rlynn_solomon or online at rachelsolomonbooks.com.