That darn Labor Day snuck right by and I’m in denial about how fast summer passed us this year. It made me think a bit this week about the Summer Bucket List I made at the beginning of the season, and I thought I’d check in on my progress. I did pretty well on my farmer’s market recipe challenge — I added 6 new recipes that were full of local ingredients. We hosted a clambake (two actually!), definitely took some fun weekend adventures, and made use of our beach passes with tons of Friday pizza-nights on the beach. I just scratched the surface of my summer reading list, but got in a few good reads!  The Heirs was a great beach read, I’ve been digging into a new cookbook called Feeding a Family, and I’m just about done with my friend Alaina’s debut novel called And Then Everything Changed.

As I have been flipping through the final pages of this book, I thought it would be fun to do a little Q&A with Alaina – because how often do you get to actually to sit and chat with the person that wrote a book you’ve loved reading? We caught up recently and I had a great time hearing about her writing process (and my many questions about how she writes while juggling motherhood!), how her own life inspired this story, and lots more. Below are a few of the things we chatted about. Make sure to grab her book and dig in, it’s a great read. Check out my instagram page today too — I’m giving away a copy of the book to one follower!

K: Tell me a little bit about how you came up for the idea for this storyline, and what inspired your main character’s journey.

A: To be honest, this is largely my story. I went through a very tumultuous period in my personal life that left me feeling lost, confused, and looking for something more. That was when I stumbled across a study abroad program that was looking for more students, just liked Adriana did. I made Adriana’s life and relationship much more dramatic to give her compelling reasons to leave Colorado, but some of what she goes through is based on what I went through. Her journey through the Czech Republic and Italy is very similar to what I experienced; almost exactly. The characters, however, have been fictionalized and dramatized to make the story more interesting. But Adriana’s story was mostly inspired by my own, and the way I met my husband.

K: I spent a summer in Australia and the way you described the relationships of these young adults thrown together in such a foreign experience really rung true for me and how I felt living and studying abroad; it was one of my favorite parts of the book. How much of your own experience did you draw on for that element of the story?

A: Again, I’d have to say almost all of it. Every character in the book is based on a person I actually knew, though they’ve all been exaggerated or changed in some way. I met the most amazing people while I lived in Prague and I really wanted to convey that sense of community and camaraderie that I felt with my friends there. We were all living in a new country with language we didn’t know, and we were all just kind of stuck there together through necessity. But each one of us chose to be there for one reason or another, and I found it so fascinating how so many of us had bizarre things in common and formed friendships that have lasted for over a decade now. One of the characters in the story is based off a friend I made in Prague who is now my son’s godmother and who lives about 20 minutes from us. It’s incredible.

K: You and I know each other through the blogging-world. How has being a blogger helped you with writing this book, and how is it different?

A: This is such an interesting question! I think the biggest difference is writing style. Most bloggers out there write to get information across; be it recipes, recommendations, travel guides, etc. Lots of them are funny and can be heartfelt, but it’s not often that you’re reading a blog that’s written in the sort of prose you’d find in a book (unless you’re Natalie Holbrook or Meg Fee). That was one of the reasons why I stopped blogging as much; I found it hard to switch back and forth. But I also feel like having a blog helped me creatively. It was a great way to change gears and write something light, or funny, or keep my pencil sharpened so to speak when I didn’t have too much time to work on the book.

K: We had the opportunity to chat recently about your experience self-publishing a novel and I found it fascinating. Do you have any advice for other writers that are considering going the same route?

A: I would say not to write off self-publishing. It’s certainly not for everyone, and there was a lot of work that went into it that I hadn’t ever thought about having to do on my own (formatting specifically comes to mind, and I found that incredibly tedious and difficult). However, I feel like at this time in my life self-publishing was right for me. It took me four years to complete the book. If I had to spend another year sending it out to agents, who would then send it out to publishers, where it might get picked up and slated for publication another year or two down the road I would have gone crazy. I was at a place where I wanted the book to be completed, on my shelf, and move on to the next thing. Self-publishing gave me the freedom to do that. So consider your options; self-publishing is not the sad, last-resort it once was considered to be.

K: And Then Everything Changed was the grande finale of my summer reading list, what was on your summer reading list this year? 

A: I was able to spend some time with Alexander Weinstein on Martha’s Vineyard this summer, so his short story collection Children of the New World was the first thing I devoured. It’s incredible, and I can’t recommend it enough. I tend to read the same kind of books year round, so I started the summer with Here I Am, Jonathan Safran Foer’s latest. It’s heartbreaking beautiful but very intense. I also read A Constellation of Vital Phenomena and fell in love with Anthony Marra; his collection The Tsar of Love and Techno is on my list to read next. My book club just picked No One Is Coming to Save Us so that’s on my nightstand right now.