Author Interview: Seton Girls by Charlene Thomas
Today we are celebrating the debut release of a poignant young adult novel, Seton Girls by Charlene Thomas, with an interview with Charlene! Seton Girls just released this Tuesday, and is available now! Many thanks to Charlene Thomas and Penguin Random House!
Seton Girlsby Charlene Thomas
Published by: Dutton Books for Young Readers
on August 30, 2022
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
A smart and twisty debut YA that starts off like Friday Night Lights and ends with the power and insight of Dear White People.
Seton Academic High is a prep school obsessed with its football team and their thirteen-year conference win streak, a record that players always say they'd never have without Seton's girls. What exactly Seton girls do to make them so valuable, though, no one ever really says. They're just the best. But the team's quarterback, the younger brother of the Seton star who started the streak, wants more than regular season glory. He wants a state championship before his successor, Seton's first Black QB, has a chance to overshadow him. Bigger rewards require bigger risks, and soon the actual secrets to the team's enduring success leak to a small group of girls who suddenly have the power to change their world forever.
Author Interview: Charlene Thomas
Your story features a private school, a football team that is worshipped, and a look into the privilege and dynamics that can come with such a setting.
How did you bring your own high school experiences into the story?
SETON GIRLS is a sort of compilation of things I’m familiar with and things I’ve imagined. Environmentally, it’s super inspired by where I grew up—Montgomery County, MD—and the sorts of social dynamics that exist here. I didn’t go to a prep school myself, but I had friends who did, and the boys’ prep school scene is especially renowned around here—so I created Seton Academic High School based on those experiences. Of course, SETON GIRLS is a fictional story, but the dynamics that drive the story to exist are ones that I think are recurring and way too prevalent in today’s world.
Then the football piece…we cared about football in high school but it wasn’t super serious. It wasn’t EVERYTHING, like it is at Seton. But I love football, and my dad is from Alabama—where football is religion—and a part of me just wanted to weave that into a more mid-Atlantic setting. Because, as fun and communal as it can be to cheer so unitedly about something, I also wanted to explore what could happen when that loyalty becomes too addictive. How big does something have to get before it turns dangerous?
Seton Girls has such a FIRE cover. What were your initial reactions when you saw it and did it match what you envisioned in your head as you were writing?
OMG THANK YOU. I love the cover so, so much. It’s just like I pictured except a hundred times better, thanks to the incredible team at Dutton (my imprint).
I was actually really fortunate to have a super clear vision for this cover come to my mind right around when it was time to start talking about covers. In my head, I just pictured a close up of a girl, in a beanie, who clearly knows something. My agent helped me pull together inspiration pictures from online, and I made a couple mood boards to accompany my email back to my editor. He loved the idea! And Dutton ran with it.
And even though, once I saw it, it was totally what I imagined, it was also so, so much better. The background, for example, is an ode to the cosmic bowling lighting referenced in the first chapter. And if you look closely at the beanie, the emblem is an eagle (just like Seton’s mascot). Even the lettering for SETON is made to look like varsity letters.
There are just so many incredible details that they thought to weave into this cover that it practically tells a story all its own, and I will never get over how perfect it is.
Seton Girls features multiple POV and flashbacks. What was your writing process like?
So, I call myself a “chaotic plotter” because that’s the only way I can think to describe my “process” lol. I like to tell stories that are complex, not only from a content perspective but also from a structure perspective. So, using dual timelines was super fun for me—it was sort of like giving myself license to tell two stories at the same time.
SETON GIRLS was actually the first time I granted myself the freedom to not write in chronological order. Historically, I felt pressure to write a story from beginning to end and that meant spinning for weeks sometimes on a scene that I didn’t have clarity on yet. But with SETON GIRLS, I kind of just wrote whatever scene was clear to me at the moment, and then spent time stitching all those scenes together until they formed a story. It was wild but also super liberating! And kept me excited, I think. Because every time I sat down to write, I was working on a part of the story that I was eager to put on the page.