Heather Cumiskey’s newest YA novel, I Love You Like That, continues Hannah and Deacon’s story that began in her debut, I Like You Like This.
I Love You Like That was released today, August 20, 2019, so be sure to check it out! Read below to discover Heather’s inspiration for her characters, wonderful writing tips, and more.
Hannah struggles a lot with her outward appearance, from a bad complexion to untamed hair. What role does her appearance play in the overall plot?
In the beginning, we meet Hannah, a high school misfit who’s horribly self-conscious about her looks, covering her face with her hair and not meeting people’s eyes when she speaks. Her self-loathing is only exasperated by her parents’ verbal shaming. These shortcomings prompt her to do something reckless as a way to jumpstart her dreary life, thus rerouting her into Deacon’s dangerous and seductive world.
What inspired you to create Hannah’s character?
Hannah was inspired by a short piece I wrote about a 16-year-old girl who takes LSD by herself in her family’s basement. Afterward, I began to wonder: Who was this girl? What had driven her to do such a thing? Where are her parents, her friends? These questions became the backdrop for her character, a loner with bad acne and wild, uncontrollable hair from a dysfunctional family with secrets who longs to change her sad sorry life. Writing some of her scenes often broke my heart. The girl she becomes in the end made it all worth it.
Can you talk a little bit about Deacon’s character development from a teen drug dealer to a police informant? Did anything inspire this character decision?
Deacon’s storyline was inspired by real-life events of Rick Wershe—aka White Boy Rick, a 14-year-old drug dealer turned informant—near Detroit in the mid ’80s. At the time, he was a charismatic, street-smart kid who got picked up for drug possession. Instead of being arrested, the cops worked a deal, and he became their informant. His personality and the way he carried himself reminded me of Deacon, and I could see how someone like him could be used in the very same way.
Why did you decide to write Hannah and Deacon’s story as a duology?
I set off to write a story centered around Hannah’s world and what she was dealing with in school and at home. Deacon’s character went in new directions, and by the end of I Like You Like This, I knew there was more to tell. I guess I grew a soft spot for him even though I wanted him to get his butt kicked, which he does in I Love You Like That, so he’s motivated to alter his ways.
Your book tackles difficult social topics, including low self-esteem and bullying, drug addiction, promiscuity, and abuse. Why do you feel it’s important to write about these topics in YA?
YA books are great vehicles to bring about awareness regarding social issues. They help start the conversation between parents and teens. Stories from a teen’s point of view also tend to be more relatable, as if they are hearing it from one of their friends. Most importantly, they convey to young people that they’re not alone when it comes to everyday struggles and pressures. Others feel the same way you do. And that there’s always someone who can help.
When did you first discover you wanted to be an author, specifically for young adult audiences?
I fell into YA when I stumbled on the character of Hannah. Now that I’m here, it makes perfect sense. As a teen, I turned to YA books at my local library for answers when it came to parents, friends, and dating. Today when I write, I think about that young boy or girl doing the same thing I did: searching for the answers in the stacks.
Are you currently working on another novel? If so, what details can you share with readers?
I’m excited about this one. It’s a YA love story based in present-day NYC. Stay tuned!
You also lead writing workshops for teens. Can you share one or two of your tips for aspiring writers?
I tell teens, when you show up to the keyboard to write, don’t worry about getting the words right or editing right away. Show up to play, and see where your ideas take you. Make a mess; let it out. That’s when the good stuff happens. Lastly, don’t try to be different or unique. Be genuine. Tell the story only you can tell.