“I went to Catholic school for thirteen years, and I grew up going to South Florida every summer to visit my family. I also met my fiancé when I was sixteen, so I think I always tend to gravitate towards stories about first loves,” said Cotugno
Cotugno’s debut novel How to Love follows Reena, a girl from a very Catholic family in south Florida falling in love for the first time and struggling with an unexpected pregnancy. How to Love examines the process of falling into the relationship and how Reena is coping with her life three years later when her ex-boyfriend returns.
Nothing stopped Cotugno from getting her writing done.
“The truth is I write everywhere: at my day job, on the train, on my couch with Chopped on in the background. In college I used to write in class. I write on my phone a lot. I’m all over the place, said Cotugno.
Getting How to Love ready to publish has been a long process – partly because she has no set writing routine or rule – but the long process lead to her writing YA.
“I started How to Love when I was in high school, and the first completed draft was my senior thesis when I was at Emerson College. I think I was just sort of naturally drawn to writing about characters who were roughly my age. I still love writing YA. I love how inclusive and elastic the genre is, and all the rad authors and readers I’ve gotten to meet.” said Cotugno.
How to Love came from Cotugno after she imagined a boy and girl meeting in a supermarket – a scene that starts off the book.
The book isn’t a straight line from that point. It alternates between Reena’s life three years ago and the present day.
“The more I worked on it, though, the more I felt like there were two different and distinct love stories to tell here–they just happened to involve the same two characters. The before and after structure just sort of set itself up from there,” said Cotugno.
Cotugno’s publishing path wasn’t the most traditional.
“Working with Alloy was a bit different from the traditional publishing process in that I worked with them really closely on the story for six or eight months before we went out to publishers – they’re super hands-on, and great at what they do, so it’s been a lot of fun. How to Love was unusual for them because I already had a completed draft when they acquired it. For the next book, we’re working together from the ground up,” said Cotugno.
Cotugno’s excited for that next project.
“It’s about a love triangle in a lake town in the Adirondacks, and I’m having an absolute blast getting to know these characters,” said Cotugno excitedly.
When she’s not writing, Cotugno is a bit of a foodie. She spends a lot of time in her kitchen or out with friends, cooking and eating. To relax, she reads romance novels and watches “a lot of shows about cop partners who are secretly in love.”
And, of course, she reads young adult novels.
“I haven’t read Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl yet, but I loved Eleanor and Park and can’t wait to get my mitts on her new one. C. Desir’s Fault Line comes out right around the same time as How to Love does – she’s a good friend of mine, and her book is very different from mine, but so powerful and important,” recommended Cotugno.
With How to Love’s release just a few weeks away, Cotugno has one message for her pre-book deal self: “I’d tell her to shut up and write… which is incidentally what I tell post-book deal Katie, too.”
And for other writers who are just starting out? Well, Cotugno has (mostly) the same advice.
“What I’d say to aspiring writers is hopefully a little friendlier than that: just keep at it. Write all the time, read everything. Get feedback whenever you can, settle in for the long haul. And remember that the only reason to do this is love,” said Cotugno.
For more about Katie Cotugno, visit her website.