Our guest this week is Karen Winn, here to chat about her coming-of-age novel, Our Little World

Author Name:  Karen Winn

Book Title: Our Little World

Book Genre: Coming of Age

Release Date: May 3rd, 2022

Publisher: Dutton/ Penguin Random House

Welcome, Karen! How would you describe Our Little World

Set in the 1980s in a small and idyllic New Jersey town, Our Little World is a lyrical coming of age novel with a looming mystery about two sisters with a relationship equal parts love and envy, whose lives are suddenly and irrevocably changed by a neighborhood girl’s disappearance at the lake. In the aftermath, the sisters’ little world cracks, both inside the home, as secrets, guilt and jealousy come between them; and outside of it, as the illusion of stability in their close-knit community is shattered.  

What sparked the idea for this book?

Basically, I wanted to tell a story about sisters and secrets, and how seemingly small actions can have lingering and cumulative consequences. The starting point for the novel came from an incident that occurred when I was younger and swimming at the local lake. My mother couldn’t find me, as I loved to swim underwater for long periods of time, so she panicked and alerted the lifeguard.  When I came up for air, I noticed swimmers were exiting the lake—though I wasn’t sure why.  I followed them and spotted my frantic mother standing with the lifeguard, who was nervously pointing out other children and asking, “Is this her?” That incident has always stayed with me, and it seemed like a powerful starting point for a story: What if I—or someone else—had gone missing that day?

How long did it take for you to write the book? What was your research like?

It took me several years to write the book.  I kicked around the idea for a long time but I finally grew serious about it in 2016 and committed at that point to writing a full draft.  Since my book is set in the 1980s, I had to do a lot of research to create an authentic setting. This meant researching everything from 80s pop culture to 80s suburban house décor to even the type of medical treatment available at that time.  I watched 80s films, googled house renovation projects that replaced “dated” 80s décor, and accessed relevant medical journals.  I also heavily researched how a missing child case in a small town in the 80s would have been handled.    

What’s your favorite part about writing/being an author?

My favorite part about writing is the magic of creation.  I love getting lost in the story I’m crafting, in the characters I’m bringing to life. My favorite part about being an author is hearing from readers who connect with my novel!  I also love—and value—the friendships I’ve developed with other writers.  Oh—and I love the chance to read early copies of books!  That’s been super fun.

If you were speaking to someone who hasn’t read your writing before, why should they want to read Our Little World?

I think you would enjoy Our Little World if you’re drawn to nostalgia, if you enjoy a coming-of-age story with dark undercurrents, if you like character-driven novels and stories about siblings and secrets.      

Where can readers find you?

Readers can find me on Instagram, twitter, and Facebook at: @kbookwriter

I’ll be launching my debut with GrubStreet/ Porter Square Books on Wednesday May 4th at 7 p.m.  It will be a hybrid event so you can tune in from wherever you are.  Here’s that registration link: https://www.portersquarebooks.com/event/grubbie-debuts-karen-winn-shelley-berg-our-little-world.

Thank you, Karen! Our Little World releases on May 3rd and is now available for pre-order.

A powerful and lyrical coming-of-age debut that examines the complicated bond of sisterhood, the corrosive power of envy, and how the traumas of our youths can shape our identities for a lifetime.

July 1985. It’s a normal, sweltering New Jersey summer for soon-to-be seventh grader Bee Kocsis. Her thoughts center only on sunny days spent at Deer Chase Lake, evenings chasing fireflies around her cul-de-sac with the neighborhood kids, and Max, the boy who just moved in across the street. There’s also the burgeoning worry that she’ll never be as special as her younger sister, Audrina, who seems to effortlessly dazzle wherever she goes.

But when Max’s little sister, Sally, goes missing at the lake, Bee’s long-held illusion of stability is shattered in an instant. As the families in her close-knit community turn inward, suspicious, and protective, things in Bee’s own home become increasingly strained, most of all with Audrina, when a shameful secret surfaces. With everything changed, Bee and Audrina’s already-fraught sisterhood is pushed to the limit as they grow up—and apart—in the wake of an innocence lost too soon.