If you're interested in LGBT slow-burn romances, then "The Key to You and Me" by Jaye Robin Brown is the book for you.

What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?

"The Key to You and Me" ended up in a very different place than where it started. One morning, my wife and I were debating who was going to get up and get the coffee and she said, “Wouldn’t it be great if you could teach dogs to bring you coffee?” This hypothetical question (yes, of course it would be great if dogs could bring you coffee) turned into me thinking about two teens with an errand business. Which then morphed into two teens driving elderly folks around in an Uber-type situation, which eventually turned into "The Key to You and Me."

Kat, the local girl, does do errands for cash which includes driving around horse girl, Piper. But those two elements, and the setting, are all that remain from the seed that started this book. (Side note: The initial working folder on my computer for this novel is titled Coffee Dogs.) Ultimately though, I think the main inspiration behind this novel was the need to write something light and fun and filled with romance after my grief-filled previous book, THE MEANING OF BIRDS. The horses were a bonus as I’ve tried to figure out for years how to work an equestrian into one of my stories.

What character in this novel do you most relate to and why?

I think most authors will tell you that there’s a piece of themselves in every character, or maybe that’s just true for me. I’m a bit like both Kat and Piper. Kat and I share Southern roots and a quiet way of observing the world. Like Piper, I’m an equestrian with a passion for riding and a readiness to take hold of good opportunities when they’re presented.

Why do you feel novels with powerful and unique characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?

Hmmm, this is an interesting question. I think for any character to lead you through an entire novel and keep you interested, they must be complex and relevant to something you’re seeking as a reader. That will be different for every reader, so what is unique to you, might not be to me. Same goes for power. To some that could mean literally wielding the superior sword, but to others ultimate power could be in quiet strength. So, I think powerful and unique characters are simply the characters that help you get completely immersed and taken away by a story. And that’s a timeless thing.

Please describe the content of your latest read and what can readers expect from it.

"The Key to You and Me" is a dual POV young adult contemporary romance. Piper decides, at the behest of her equestrian grandmother, to come to NC for the summer to train with a former Olympic dressage rider. But there’s one catch: she has to get over her fear of driving. Kat, the local NC girl, is looking at a boring summer if she can’t get her beat-up old minivan fixed. When Piper’s grandmother offers the funds for the fix in exchange for Kat teaching Piper to drive, the game is on. It doesn’t take long for Kat to realize she’s not uninterested in romance, she’s just uninterested in boys. And though Piper thought she could never get over her ex-girlfriend back in MA, Kat is making her second-guess that thought.

It’s a sweet, slow-burn romance in a small-town equestrian setting with laughs and a smidge of drama to keep you turning the pages.

What's next for you in the bookish world?

Another excellent question. The pandemic really threw a kink into the writing machine for a while. Between doomscrolling the news and getting sucked into lesbian TikTok, I didn’t get many new words on the page. (I have since deleted the TikTok app because people are SO creative and you can sit down and then when you look up, three hours has gone by. Not a productive pastime for me.)

I do have a middle-grade novel that I’m trying to decide what to do with and I’m 2/3 of the way into the first draft of an adult romance. This doesn’t mean I’m not coming back to YA at some point, but I needed to spread my creative wings a little bit and see where they took me.

Who is your current favorite writer? Why?

Oh geez. People have absolute favorites? Well let’s see. Of the books I’ve read recently, I really loved Sarah Gailey’s "Upright Women Wanted." It’s about subversive queer librarians on horseback in the future that kind of resembles the past. Great voice and it made me happy. Malinda Lo’s book "Last Night At The Telegraph Club" is a super LGBT historical novel that looks at San Francisco in the 1950s. And for a light YA romance, I really loved Leah Johnson’s "You Should See Me in a Crown." It was sweet and happy and featured two girls in love. In Middle Grade books, I thought Anne Blankman’s "The Blackbird Girls" was so interesting as it follows the lives of two girls after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster which is a subject matter I hadn’t seen in fiction.

Any writing advice for aspiring writers?

Write your book. Don’t compare yourself to others. Learn how to take criticism and act upon what resonates and move past what doesn’t. When you get knocked down or rejected, don’t get defeated. Get mad and show them what you can do with that fire. Take walks and stretch breaks. Read often and call it work. Pay attention to the world around you in the greatest detail. Call yourself a writer.


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