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Bestselling Author Rachel Lynn Solomon Talks About Her New Book, ‘Past Present Future,’ + How She Fell Back in Love With Writing

Rachel Lynn Solomon is the New York Times bestselling author of three adult romances and six young adult / new adult books, including The Ex-Talk, Weather Girl and See You Yesterday. Her latest novel, Past Present Future, a heartwarming sequel to her 2020 novel Today Tonight Tomorrow, is out now. Set across Seattle, Washington, Boston and New York City, the book follows up with Rowan and Neil as they embrace their first year of college, navigate their relationship as a long-distance couple and discover new friendships and life lessons along the way. From former class rivals to lovers, the book picks up right after the events from book one. Fans were thrilled to be reunited with these characters, but Solomon didn’t always know they were getting another story.

We had the chance to chat with Solomon about Past Present Future and how she hopes readers will appreciate the continuation of her beloved characters. She also talks about mental health representation in her books, how Seattle became the backdrop for most of her stories and some of her favorite books that fueled her passion for becoming an author.

Solomon also gives First a behind-the-scenes look at her writing process and explains why she decided to give Rowan and Neil another go. Keep scrolling to discover all these answers — and find out why readers of any age will resonate with her heartfelt writing and relatable stories.

Past Present Future Cover

First For Women: Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

Rachel Lynn Solomon: I’ve always written for as far back as I could remember, but I didn’t really know anyone who had a creative job. I didn’t think it was something you could realistically do. Instead, I decided to do something that seemed more practical, which, for me, was a degree in journalism. It wasn’t until after I graduated college that I found my way back to fiction and started digging into all the books that I had missed with YA and romance and that’s when I really fell back in love with it.

FFW: Is your brainstorming and drafting process the same for every type of book you write?

Solomon: Yes, it’s very chaotic. I usually have everything in a Notes app on my phone that goes on for pages and pages until I actually put it in a document. Then it’s maybe 10 pages of random scenes, dialogue and ideas.

I usually try to start with a pitch that’s a single sentence that I think sounds really exciting. My goal is to be able to send that sentence to people on my team or my friends and have them get excited about it. Because if they’re excited about it, I’m excited about it. Then it’s a book that I want to write and that I know I’ll enjoy.

I’ve made a template for myself with some romantic comedy beats that I try to hit while also giving myself space to change things up or subvert genre expectations when I can to keep things fresh and different. From there, I write a really terrible first draft and that’s not me being modest — it is genuinely bad and kind of incoherent.

FFW: Past Present Future is a sequel. How did you decide you wanted to continue Rowan and Neil’s story?

Solomon: It was not something I had in mind for at least the first two years after the [first] book came out. It wasn’t until readers started asking what they were up to or what happened after the last chapter that I really started thinking about it. Even when I was thinking about it, I didn’t want to write the story unless I had a good plot or if I really knew where to take those characters because I’m so attached to them. I didn’t want to disappoint readers if I took them in a place the readers wouldn’t be happy with.

It was really important for me to write the sequel for myself first. And once I had an idea and it was approved, I actually didn’t tell anyone except my team and my friends that I was writing it until it was completely done.

FFW: This story spans across Seattle, NYC and Boston. As a Seattle native yourself, that one was easy, but how did you approach writing about the other cities?

Solomon: I lived in Seattle for 30 years and I’ve spent a lot of time in New York and a little bit in Boston. But I definitely picked those places because I have a strong connection to them. I spent a lot of time on Google Maps and a lot of time on Reddit and then talked to as many people as I could to really get a sense of what the city is like. When you spend 30 years somewhere versus somewhere you visited a few times, capturing the vibe is not nearly as easy, especially in a place like New York.

FFW: Mental health is a huge topic in all your titles and it’s also talked about in Past Present Future. How did you decide to incorporate mental health in this story?

Solomon: For this book, Neil is a character who’s dealing with a lot of trauma because his father is incarcerated. I knew that not dealing with it wouldn’t do the character justice. They had a single conversation about it in book one, and in this book he’s absolutely still dealing with that trauma. It also just felt really natural that he would probably be experiencing some symptoms of depression, in part because of that, and also because he’s away from everything comfortable and familiar for the first time.

FFW: You write love stories for all kinds of people. What was it like writing about romance from a younger perspective?

Solomon: I think one of the big things with regard to their relationship is that communication is a huge topic but also, Rowan is going through the arc as a romance author and realizing that romance is not just about the big, cinematic grand gestures. It’s about these quieter, softer moments that happen in between and that can happen after the happily ever after.

Something that’s also really important to me is to show positive sexual experiences. Here, they’re both 19, they’re both in college, they have a lot of independence, they don’t have to dodge their parents or figure out when they’re going to have the house to themselves. I wanted to show them figuring out how to be vulnerable together. I like the idea of this book being a model of healthy relationships for young readers without being preachy.

FFW: This book is YA, but you also write romance novels. What are some differences you notice between the two?

Solomon: I think the major difference is that when you’re writing adult, the characters have a lot more independence, but my YA tends to skew a little older and especially writing college-aged characters, they for sure have more autonomy than characters who are still in high school.

Kristina Forrest, Rachel Lynn Solomon and Dahlia Adler outside Barnes and Noble
Rachel Lynn Solomon/Instagram

FFW: Romance books have become hugely popular! What was your experience like as a romance reader-turned-writer?

Solomon: I read a lot of romance as a kid, but then once I got to high school, I thought that I only had to read serious books. I wouldn’t have been caught dead reading anything with a pink cover in school, which is now funny because I have written at least two books with bright pink covers. It wasn’t until after college that I found my way back to romance because I was looking for something that was an escape; I was looking for something joyful.

FFW: What are some of your favorite romance books?

Solomon: The first book that really made an impact on me at the time was The Hating Game [by Sally Thorne]. The tension is so fantastic and in terms of enemies to lovers, you can’t do better than that book.

Also, everything Christina Lauren has written. And then all of Helen Hoang’s books — those were also coming out around the same time and they were really changing the game for the whole genre.

What’s next for Solomon?

Solomon’s next book, What Happens in Amsterdam, will release in May of 2025. It’s a love letter to Amsterdam with a marriage-of-convenience trope and a meet-cute you won’t want to miss!

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