I have been SO excited for One Way or Another! I mean a holiday rom-com?!? A main character with anxiety? Two fates—one taking place in New York City? This is completely my jam! All to say, I am very excited about sharing this fun interview with author Kara McDowell today!
Q&A with Kara McDowell
Let’s start off with a bit about One Way or Another. What’s the elevator pitch?
When 17-year-old Paige is presented with two last-minute options for Christmas vacation, she’s paralyzed by indecision. Should she go with her best friend (and longtime crush) Fitz to his family’s romantic mountain cabin? Or should she accompany her mom to New York, a city Paige has spent her whole life dreaming about? One Way or Another is a sliding doors romantic comedy that explores parallel paths on Paige’s journey to love and happiness. But before Paige gets her happy ending in either destiny, she’ll have to face the truth about her struggle with anxiety — and learn that you don’t have to be “perfect” to deserve true love.
Paige’s life is spilt into two different paths. What’s your favorite part about each path?
I’m in love with the New York setting in Fate One. There’s something about the city during the holidays that feels like it would be devastatingly romantic. I also love the juxtaposition between Paige and Harrison. She’s viewing the city through the starry-eyed lens of an excited tourist, while he is viewing it as a cynical (and heartbroken) New Yorker. As they explore the city together, they’re able to see beyond their own viewpoint, something that’s important for both characters.
In Fate Two, Paige visits a snowy mountain cabin with the best friend she’s been secretly in love with for years. This storyline was ripe for romantic tension! Mistletoe! Blizzards! Blackouts! Cuddling for warmth! Surprise visitors! Confining Paige and Fitz in this small cabin brings the sizzling tension between them to the surface until they’re unable to ignore it any longer.
In One Way or Another, Paige has anxiety. Can you share more about this representation?
Paige’s experience with anxiety is inspired by my own. She particularly struggles with making decisions because she’s always worried about the worst-case scenario. I’ve done that for as long as I can remember! When I was Paige’s age, I didn’t have the word “anxiety” to describe what I was feeling. Paige doesn’t either, though she does use grounding techniques (a strategy I’ve found helpful in my own life). While this story is a romantic and hopeful holiday rom-com, it’s also the journey of Paige receiving her diagnosis and asking for help dealing with her mental health struggles. It was such a joy for me to give this anxious character a grand, romantic journey with a happy ending, in more ways than one.
What song would be the theme song for One Way or Another?
I love this question! One Way or Another has an entire playlist, but if I had to choose one song as the theme, it’s definitely “You are in Love” by Taylor Swift. It’s about the realization that you’re in love with your best friend, which is very relevant to Paige’s story! The song also has a line about “dancing in a snow globe, round and round” which inspired one of the final scenes in the book.
How would the characters from One Way or Another respond if they were quarantining/social distancing due to COVID-19?
Like much of the country did this Spring, Paige would be baking a ridiculous amount of bread and cinnamon rolls! Baking is one of the ways she deals with her anxiety. She would also be planning all the trips she’s going to take as soon as it’s safe to travel again. Fitz would be throwing a baseball around his backyard, bingeing all the new and old rom-coms he can find on Netflix, and texting Paige about his favorite grand gestures. Harrison is a Columbia student who’d spend the entire Spring in lockdown with his Dad. He read too many philosophy books and tried not to text his ex-girlfriend.
What’s up next? What are you working on now?
I don’t know when all the details of my next project will be announced, but I think I’m okay to share that I’m writing another rom-com! It’s a retelling of a popular 90s movie and it takes places during the summer! You can expect more slow burn romance with banter and flirting, anxiety representation, houseboat parties, summer storms, and cliff jumping! I’m excited to share more soon!