Hi and happy Thursday! I’m so thrilled to share my recent interview with Lane Clarke, debut author of the upcoming YA novel LOVE TIMES INFINITY. This is a deeply moving and compelling read and one I’d highly recommend to YA fiction readers. The story follows high school junior Michie Cooper who wants to go to Brown University but is struggling with her application, family issues, new love, and more. A brilliant coming-of-age novel with poignant and relevant themes, Love Times Infinity is one of my top reads of the year.
Getting to Know You:
QUESTION: Hi, Lane! Thanks so much for being on the blog today and answering a few questions! Can you tell the readers a little about yourself and your road to becoming an author?
LANE CLARKE: Hi everyone! I’m Lane! I am currently an attorney and I grew up in Richmond, VA. I’m sure anyone who reads LTI will see that I’m a little obsessed with Richmond! I kind of stubbled my way into becoming an author. I have always been a HUGE reader and even ran a small bookstagram account for a few years (poorly but ya know). I started writing LOVE TIMES INFINITY in order to work out my own feelings about my teen years and when I was done, my friends said it was good and needed to be out there, and here we are!
BIO: Lane Clarke grew up in Richmond, Virginia, where she hung out with her grandma at IHOP every Tuesday night and attended $3 movie nights at the Byrd Theater. Lane has been in love with books since the age of two. Her stories feature Black culture and big-hearted teenagers with self-doubts and big dreams, who—with a little laughter and good friends—can accomplish anything. She eats dessert before dinner and can usually be found rewatching her favorite teen soap operas. She currently lives in Northern Virginia with her cat, Pickles, and works as an attorney in Washington, D.C.
Q: Which books or authors do you feel have most influenced your writing?
LC: Oh gosh, so many. Like I said, I read a lot and I read any and everything. Growing up, Chronicles of Narnia and Vampire Academy kept me in libraries and bookstores for the rest of my life, and I think I model a lot of my humor style to Richelle Mead’s. THE POET X by Elizabeth Acevedo was the first time that I thought I could be a writer and tell the kinds of stories I wanted to tell. I started writing right after I finished that book, not seriously, but that’s certainly when I started finding that ever elusive “voice.” And I look to authors like Brit Bennett, Catherine Adel West, and Imbolo Mbue to keep me on my Ps and Qs. I think they’re the best of the best and each time I read their work I feel challenged to try to meet their talent.
Q: What are you currently reading, and which 2022 releases are you looking forward to reading?
LC: I’m currently reading fellow #22debut Navdeep Singh Dhillon’s SUNNY G’S SERIES OF RASH DECISIONS, and loving it so far. I’m really excited to get to Riss M. Neilson’s DEEP IN PROVIDENCE (out May 31), BEASTS OF RUIN by Ayana Gray (out July 26) and THE TWO LIVES OF SARA by Catherine Adel West (out in September).
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
LC: I read pretty much every spare chance I get. I also love to craft. I recently got a Cricut and I’m honestly making it everyone’s problem. Everyone is getting homemade gifts on a weekly basis. I find it really calming. I’m also a huge movie buff, so I love to just sit down and watch my favorites, like The Day After Tomorrow and Pride & Prejudice, 2005 of course.
About Love Times Infinity:
Publication Date: July 26, 2022
Synopsis: High school junior Michie is struggling to define who she is for her scholarship essays, her big shot at making it into Brown as a first-generation college student. The prompts would be hard for anyone, but Michie’s been estranged from her mother since she was seven and her concept of family has long felt murky.
Enter new kid and basketball superstar Derek de la Rosa. He is very cute, very talented, and very much has his eye on Michie, no matter how invisible she believes herself to be.
When Michie’s mother unexpectedly reaches out to make amends, and with her scholarship deadlines looming, Michie must choose whether to reopen old wounds or close the door on her past. And as she spends more time with Derek, she’ll have to decide how much of her heart she is willing to share. Because while Michie may not know who she is, she’s starting to realize who she wants to become, if only she can take a chance on Derek, on herself, and on her future.
Q: Congratulations on your debut novel! Love Times Infinity is such a powerful and moving coming-of-age novel. Can you tell the readers a bit about it?
LC: Thank you so much for saying that! LOVE TIMES INFINITY is about Michie Cooper, a 16-year-old Black teen who really wants to go to Brown University but is also afraid of dreaming or reaching too high. She’s estranged with her mother, who she believes hates her because Michie is the result of her mother’s sexual assault at the age of 15. But when Michie’s mother requests to meet her, Michie has to decide if she’s willing to open up to the woman who left her, even if she understands to some extent why her mother left. With the help of her super supportive grandmother and best friend, the attention of a new basketball star cinnamon roll, and her group therapy, she has to learn to love herself in order to let others love her.
Q: I like the strong messages about the power of love in your books – self-love, familial love, romantic love, friendships, and more. What other messages do you hope to convey?
LC: One huge goal of LOVE TIMES INFINITY was mental health. It is so, so important to seek therapy and find a medical professional who will help you get where you need to be, whether that be talk therapy or medication. Therapy has a huge stigma, especially in Black communities. I talk about therapy all the time with family and get “I’m not crazy” responses. And that mindset, we have to change it. There is nothing shameful in seeking necessary help. You’re not “crazy.” And it’s not your fault if you suffer from mental health issues. I wanted teenagers, especially Black teens, to see that it’s okay, mental health is so important for overall health, and that it can work. Michie definitely doubts therapy at first, but you really get to see how having a caring therapist and being around kids with her same anxieties helps her grow into the person she wants to be. You see it’s impact on several characters, because therapy is such an individual journey. That was really important for me to show.
Q: Michie faces many complicated and difficult realities, including the pressures of getting into college, feelings of rejection and abandonment, the estrangement from her mother, struggling with her identity, facing her fears, her guilt, and her past, starting a new relationship, and dealing with her mental health. What inspired you to write her story?
LC: Well, Michie’s story is my story. I was also the result of a sexual assault and there was just a lot of feelings to sort out there that I’m still working on. I think giving Michie these tools and people in her life that love her unconditionally despite what she feels about herself helped me see the same in the people in my life. I thought about what I really needed when I was 16 and really struggling and really angry that it seemed all of my friends had easier and better lives than me and didn’t have to carry around this kind of existential secret. And with hindsight at my age now, I realized I couldn’t possibly be alone, and I wanted to give a voice to kids who are here because of the same circumstances who feel kind of invisible, or who absorb from the world that they shouldn’t exist. It’s really hard to find self-worth when maybe you agree that people’s lives would have been better, they would have had maybe an easier path to healing, but for you. And I wanted to tell those kids that I see them, for everything they are and everything they have the potential to be if they give themselves a chance.
Q: Can you share a favorite line or passage from the book? Why is it your favorite?
LC: My favorite line is when Michie’s grandmother says “You are worthy of love. But’s on you to determine who’s worthy in return.” I think when you are like Michie, and you lack self-love, you can either push love away or you can accept any love thrown at you even when it’s unhealthy. I think it’s really important to make sure that the people we surround ourselves with are loving us in a way that is beneficial and not harmful. Just because someone wants to be in your life, doesn’t mean they should be, and that’s something we all get to decide for ourselves. So while Michie is beyond worthy of love, she’s also worthy of good love. And no one gets to decide that for her. And there’s so much power in setting your own boundaries and accepting only the love that builds you up and doesn’t tear you down.
Q: What is the most surprising thing you learned while writing and publishing Love Times Infinity?
LC: How freeing it is! LOVE TIMES INFINITY was originally something that was just for me, but in releasing it out there, I think it set a lot of the things I felt shame for free. And to see people connect with Michie, who is honestly just me, it’s like, wow why was I hiding myself for so long?!
Q: Can you tell us anything about your upcoming projects?
LC: I don’t know how much I’m allowed to talk about but they’re going to be as hopeful, hilarious and heart-breaking as LTI!
Q: Where can readers learn more about you and your writings (i.e., website, Twitter, Facebook page, Goodreads, etc.)
LC: You can sign up for my newsletter at laneclarkewrites.com where I like to chat about what I’m writing, reading, and watching, plus set some intentions for the month (I’m trying to get on a schedule *fingers crossed*). I’m also very online so you can always find me on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok at @lanewriteswords!
Thank you so much, Lane for this wonderful interview! Love Times Infinity releases on July 26th!