2021 Debut Interview: Louisa Onomé!

In 2019, we made it our goal is to work with as many debut authors as possible and to spread the word about their debut novels. It was such a success last year that we decided to continue the fun for years to come! Follow us this year as we pick the minds of the 2021 debuts and chat with them about their writing process and what it's like to be a new author. Also stay tuned for news of giveaways, Twitter chats, and more!
At the end of 2020, we Tweeted about wanting to discover more debut authors and their books. We ended up finding Louisa Onomé and her novel LIKE HOME, and we have been interested in it ever since! We are so excited to have Louisa on the blog today to answer some of our questions! 

Louisa Onomé is a writer of books for teens. She holds a BA in professional writing from York University and is represented by Claire Friedman at InkWell Management. A part of the Author Mentor Match round 3 cohort, she is also a writing mentor and all-around cheerleader for diverse works and writers. When she is not writing, her hobbies include picking up languages she may never use, trying to bake bread, and perfecting her skincare routine. She currently resides in the Toronto area.

Keep up with Louisa: Website / Twitter / Instagram / Goodreads

The Book Bratz: First of all, congratulations! How does it feel to be a debut author?

Louisa: Thank you! It feels exhilarating for many reasons, but I'm trying to take it one day at a time. It's so strange having this dream you've been working towards for years and years finally come to fruition. I'm honestly so thankful.

The Book Bratz: In your opinion, what's the best part of the writing process? What's the hardest?

Louisa: I'm one of those 'every part is great' people, unfortunately. When I'm drafting, what I love the most is being able to explore a new world with new characters and new challenges. I don't plan very much while writing, so I love when characters and setting reveal itself to me. It's such an inspiring process. I'd say, in terms of difficulty, revising does have the potential to be the worst. It's conflicting because I really do love revising, but sometimes you get stuck in your head or you get in your own way and can't really see other perspectives. So while revising, you not only have to actually change the story, you end up having to change yourself a little as well.

The Book Bratz: Where did you get the idea for LIKE HOME?

Louisa: LIKE HOME came about from an unlikely combination of things! I had been wanting to write a story that had the same friends-as-family feel as my own upbringing did. I grew up in an area where I was very fortunate to be able to call the kids on the street my close friends. We were all kids of immigrants, trying to navigate that first-gen experience together. For many of our parents, our friendship was the first time they had come into close, personal contact with people from other cultures, so it was a really transformative time all around. I learned so much about myself and the world through this experience. But the thing that really pushed me forward to write LIKE HOME was -- surprising no one -- a Korean drama that slapped me in the face and made me cry. 'Reply 1988' is part of the 'Reply' series, and they focus on a set of characters as they age and grow from the year the drama is set. 'Reply 1988' has a rich cast and strong family narrative, and the dynamic of the characters reminded me so much of my upbringing. It wasn't until I watched that that I realized maybe I could write a story like that too.

The Book Bratz: Who was your favorite character to write? Who was the most difficult?

Louisa: My favourite character to write is Nelo, my protagonist. The story is told her in point-of-view and it was really cool for me to understand who she was as I wrote the story. She's so multi-layered and has so much heart, but she's also stubborn and isn't so great with compromise. I wouldn't say any of the characters were very difficult to write, honestly. I enjoyed bringing out each of their positive traits and fine-tuning their negative traits as well.

The Book Bratz: Are there any other books or authors who give you inspiration for your own writing?

Louisa: Yes, so many! I love Nicola Yoon's writing and Jenny Han's writing, even though their books are so sweet and I could never write something like that. I admire how they really bring out the ordinary in contemporary and make it extraordinary. That's one thing I love about contemporary stories too. 

The Book Bratz: What do you hope that readers will take away from LIKE HOME? 

Louisa: I hope readers will find a soft and familiar place to land in LIKE HOME. I hope they connect with what friendship, community, and family means to them as they read the story. But above all, I hope the main takeaway is that even though some people may come from communities or cultures that are different from our own, it doesn't mean these people don't still deserve our respect and compassion.

The Book Bratz: Do you plan on returning to the world of LIKE HOME in the future, or do you have any other projects in mind? Can you tell us anything about them?

Louisa: For now, I don't have any plans on returning to Ginger East, but I do have a lot of cool projects coming up! YA contemporary is my main love, so I'm excited to tell more stories about culture, community, and the extraordinary in the everyday.

Title: Like Home
Author: Louisa Onomé
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: February 23rd, 2021

Summary: Chinelo, or Nelo as her best friend Kate calls her, is all about her neighborhood Ginger East. She loves its chill vibe, ride-or-die sense of community, and her memories of growing up there. Ginger East isn't what it used to be, though. After a deadly incident at the local arcade, all her closest friends moved away, except for Kate. But as long as they have each other, Nelo's good. Only, Kate's parents' corner store is vandalized, leaving Nelo shaken to her core. The police and the media are quick to point fingers, and soon more of the outside world descends on Ginger East with promises to "fix" it. Suddenly, Nelo finds herself in the middle of a drama unfolding on a national scale. Worse yet, Kate is acting strange. She's pushing Nelo away at the exact moment they need each other most. Nelo's entire world is morphing into something she hates, and she must figure out how to get things back on track or risk losing everything⁠—and everyone⁠—she loves.

Thank you so much to Louisa for stopping by and answering our questions! We are super excited about LIKE HOME and can't wait for it to be out in the world on February 23rd

Celebrate So Excited GIF by Hey Violet

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