In terrible circumstances, sometimes we have to look for something good. It helps, sometimes, to know that amidst all the pain and the hurt there is some good to be found. It gives us something to hope for.
This is the message that authors Michelle Andreani and Mindi Scott explore in their incredible young adult novel, The Way Back to You. In this beautifully written, emotional story Michelle and Mindi have crafted a journey of loss, love and hope that tugs at the heart strings.
The Way Back to You is Michelle’s debut novel, Mindi’s fourth, and it’s the first book the pair have co-wrote together. In an exclusive interview with Michelle and Mindi, they opened up about writing together, their novel, and their future plans.
Q: What was it like co-writing a book? Did you have the same ideas or did it make the writing process a slightly harder?
Mindi: I originally thought it would be easier than writing a book by myself. Maybe in some ways it was. Emotionally. Because Michelle and I we were in this together! There was no feelings of loneliness or pressure to make it happen all on my own. In some ways, it was harder, though. I expected that I’d have to write only half a book, but what it really felt like was we were writing two books and finding ways to combine those books into one.
Michelle: I felt exactly the same as Mindi about this. It was definitely tricky crafting the characters’ arcs and weaving all the pieces together. Cloudy and Kyle were (literally) on the same journey, but they each had different stories to tell, so everything had to fit just right for it to all make sense. So basically, every time I made a change in one of my chapters, Mindi would have to adjust things in her chapters, or vice versa. Big dominoes vibes. Brainstorming was very fun, though! And overall, it was really special to share this experience with someone who loves the characters as much as I do. Like, if I’m out in the world and see something random that reminds me of TWBTY, I know I can text Mindi a photo and she’ll Get It.
Q: Why did you decide to write a book together?
Mindi: We have been critiquing each other’s work for years and had become close friends. Since we both enjoy each other’s writing, we thought it would be something fun and meaningful that we could do together. And we were right! I’m glad every day that we did this together.
Michelle: ME TOO. And I’m such a fan of Mindi’s work and overall talent; it’s such an honor that she would even consider writing a book with me!
Six months ago, Ashlyn Montiel died in a bike accident. Her best friend Cloudy is tangled, confused, heartbroken and her boyfriend Kyle is falling apart. So when Cloudy discovers that Ashlyn’s organs were donated after her death and the Montiel family has been in touch with three of the recipients, she convinces Kyle to take a spontaneous road trip across the Southwest to meet the strangers who received the life-saving organs of their late best friend. With hundreds of miles in front of them and a stowaway kitten, Cloudy and Kyle just may find their way to back to her…and to each other.
Q: The Way Back to You is such a beautiful but also very brave story, how did you come up with it?
Michelle: Around the time Mindi and I had been casually brainstorming ideas for a book, I was carpooling to my job with my coworker and on the drive she told me about a documentary she’d watched about Paco Rodriguez, a boxer who died as a result of injuries from a match. His organs were donated, and the documentary followed his family as they met with some of the recipients. I just found the whole concept so awe-inspiring. And then, as I do, I immediately started to wonder if it would work as a story. As soon as I got to my desk that day, I emailed Mindi!
Q: Looking for Ashlyn’s organ recipients is what makes this such an incredible and unique story and, for me, brings with it a message that even though something horrible happened, they could still find something good in it. I read your novel when I was going through a hard time and was really touched by the message of how we should always look for light in the darkest of places without stopping, even when it seems impossible, because there’s always good to be found, or if nothing else it will give us hope. Was this message intentional?
Michelle: I do think it was intentional, and we’re so, so glad that it came across and resonated with you. We were so struck by the idea that a tragedy could, in a way, be a gift. That something life-affirming could come from the worst possible thing. And while it never takes that pain away, maybe it helps you see beyond it and gives you a little something back.
Q: What made you decide for Cloudy and Kyle to bring the little kitten along with them? It was such a gorgeous touch!
Mindi: At the time when Michelle and I were first brainstorming ideas for this book, Oz, one of my cats had passed away. I was having a difficult time and one of the things that gave me a bit of peace was the hope that Oz had been reborn. Maybe as another cat or maybe as something else entirely. So I really wanted to give Kyle a way to try to find a similar peace in the story. I specifically chose for him to focus on the cat as a nod to what I had gone through and what inspired a big part of Kyle’s emotional journey.
Q: Do you have any favourite characters from the book?
Mindi: I really love them all so much! Matty was extra fun to write, though.
Michelle: Yes! Matty! Writing him was sort of like relaxing your shoulders after they’ve been tense all day lol. Zoe was fun for me as well, although unexpectedly so.
Q: Would you ever consider doing a sequel?
Mindi: We have talked about it! We’d love to do a companion novel someday using side characters from The Way Back to You.
Michelle: I think about it all the time!!!!!!!