Interview with Carrie Mesrobian, author of Cut Both Ways

1. Can you tell us a little about your novel? cut both ways

It’s about a boy named Will who is navigating two different lives between his divorced parents. He’s also having his first sexual experiences, one with a boy, and another with a girl. He doesn’t really know who he is and what he’s doing. The whole book came from me asking the question about how a young person would know what their sexual orientation was – what do those early days, before it becomes clear, look like? What does true sexual exploration and questioning look like? So I spun that around this one boy, in a particular situation that is fractured and complicated to start with and sort of followed it to its untidy conclusion.

2. Is it a standalone book or part of a series?

It’s a standalone book, though I take one of the settings from my second book, PERFECTLY GOOD WHITE BOY, and use it again.

3. Who inspired your main character?

In a strange way, my main character is inspired by being a woman, even though he sees himself as male. I think as women, we are asked to contort and be flexible in so many different situations, with so many different kinds of people. We sublimate our own selves for the sake of getting along or fitting in or not making anyone uncomfortable. As a result, I don’t think Will knows who he really is. He only understands himself via certain contexts. And that has been my experience as a woman and I’ve sort of transposed it onto him, in his situation of living in two places, with two sets of friends.

4. Are you a plotter or do you just write whatever is in your head?

I am not a plotter. Oh, no! Plot is something I have to work on. I basically start stories with a question: “What would it be like to be a person who…?” and go from there. I have to build in plot points around the character. When people say “YA is so plot-driven” I am always thinking, “yeah, except for mine!”

5. Do you require silence when writing or do you need background noise?

I like music in the background. It has to be somewhat hypnotic to me, though. I’ll listen to the same song hundreds of times over while writing and it never gets old. I mainly like to be alone while I write and by alone, I mean, away from my family, who bug me a lot about dumb things when they’re around. Strangers in a coffeeshop are fine, as they don’t interrupt me to ask where the scissors are.

6. Are you writing your next book?

Yes. My fourth book, tentatively titled WHY GIRL, features a girl as the main character, which is a first for me. I like her very much and the experience of writing it has been so delicious, as it’s a change in gender as well as POV (third person). It’s scheduled for fall 2016 release.


Bio carrieheadshot-150x150

Carrie Mesrobian is an instructor at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Her debut novel, Sex & Violence was a finalist for the American Library Association’s William C. Morris Award and the winner of the 2014 Minnesota Book Award. Her second novel, Perfectly Good White Boy received starred reviews from Kirkus & Publishers Weekly and was a Tayshas Reading List Pick. Her third novel, Cut Both Ways, received starred reviews from Booklist and Kirkus. With author Christa Desir, she produces The Oral History Podcast, which features discussions on sex and young adult literature. Visit Carrie online at


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