How does a writer format a novel in the uber-technologically-saturated world of 2017? Through emails and text messages, of course.
“Just Between Us” YouTubers and best buds Allison Raskin and Gaby Dunn tag-teamed in a new way this year, releasing their debut book I Hate Everyone But You, a tale two BFFs starting college on opposite sides of the country. The entirety of the novel is a series of messages between the two girls, fleshing out the classic coming-of-age experience in 342 pages of back-and-forth updates.
Bostonians and fans of the ladies’ YouTube channel can get a better look at the people who inspired book’s characters — that is, Raskin and Dunn themselves — this Thursday (September 7) at The Wilbur Theatre, their third stop on the I Hate Everyone But You book tour. As of August 29, the personal proceeds from the tour will be donated to United Way Houston, and all the stops on the tour are all-ages and will have American Sign Language interpreters on deck.
Much like the book’s modern formatting, the story goes beyond the typical “new girl trying to fit in at a new place” storyline and tackles newer topics like mental health and being a part of the LGBTQ+ community.
“We just wrote what we knew our audience would want to read and that ended up being something that could broaden outside of our audience too because mental health and LGBTQ issues are very universal and relatable,” says Dunn, who studied at Emerson College before relocating to Los Angeles. “When you’re writing anything, you’re taking bits and pieces from your real lives. Allison is basically a mental health expert at this point considering her life with meds and OCD and anxiety and depression (which is all depicted in the book), and I’m bisexual and arrogant in real life so we pulled from that to create realistic, flawed female characters. These topics are important because they’re both stuff you’re supposed to keep hush-hush about but she and I are very vocal and have the privilege to make content centered around stuff that should be normalized.”
Raskin adds: “We also wanted the book to focus on female friendship and give it the same priority in our characters’ lives you often only see with romantic relationships. I think there are lot of similarities in our novel to other incredible YA we just fleshed it out with very specific details from our own lives and experiences.”
Despite sharing a YouTube channel, the two friends had actually never written together before. Working on the novel was an experience that Raskin described as both “long” and “fun” (“most of the writing process is a blur but I know there was candy,” she admits).
“We wrote sitting next to each other,” Dunn explains. “Allison typed. I talked out loud, did research and development, kept an outline of the characters, played music, swiped Tinder. It was very challenging to sit next to each other and write by speaking out loud all day. We kept a schedule of three days a week, 9-5, which Allison set because she’s very good at getting things done. On the channel, we write separately and then send it to the other one to fix or punch up or give notes. This book was very different.”
As an added bonus of the novel, main character Genevieve (“Gen”) moves to Boston to attend school for journalism, mentioning Allston, Emerson, and the Boston Common all within the first 10 pages of the book. The local flavor makes the book extra #relatable for the area’s endless college population. In fact, the novel was aimed at that exact demographic of young adults.
“Our audience is 18 to 24 and some even younger,” Dunn says. “It’s such a great period in a person’s life because you’re still learning and growing and messing up and it’s a bit more forgivable and you’re allowed to read it as you’re going through that mess or as an adult, looking back on it with new wisdom and insight (hopefully?)”
“A big part of the appeal for me when co-writing this book was the opportunity to show college life as I experienced it: Terrifying, boring, lonely and manic,” Raskin said. “So many narratives romanticize the college experience and I wanted to make it very clear that college does not have to be the best time of your life. It might end up being the worst! And that’s OK. Because the rest of your life is in front of you.”
GABY DUNN AND ALLISON RASKIN HATE EVERYONE BUT YOU :: Thursday, September 7 at The Wilbur Theatre, 246 Tremont St. in Boston, MA :: 7:30 p.m., all ages, $17 to $82 :: Advance tickets :: The Wilbur event page :: Photo by Robin Roemer