Their first novel (We Are Not Like Them) was picked by both Oprah and Good Morning America for their popular book clubs and named a “Best Book Pick of 2021” by Harper’s Bazaar and Real Simple magazines. Fans eagerly waited for the launch of the next book written by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza, and it happened here in Crozet, at Bluebird & Company.
The two authors, who had worked together for years before co-writing We Are Not Like Them, spoke at the June 13 launch to a full house at Bluebird’s annex. Piazza described how their collaboration came about: “I’d written a lot of books, and came to realize that I always found the editing process went better when Christine was my editor.” Both of the books they’ve cowritten are partly about race, and both have memorable characters—flawed, heroic, cruel and lovable—from disparate racial communities, including (in You Were Always Mine) a memorable supporting role by the heroine’s best friend, a Puerto Rican woman.
In explaining their writing process, the women (Piazza is white and Pride is Black) noted the advantage of being from different races in terms of understanding their characters, but balked at the assumption that each specialized in writing the character that corresponded to their own racial identity.
“There’s more to all of us then our skin color,” Pride said. “For instance, the plot revolves around a newborn, and Jo certainly had a better understanding of that.” Piazza elaborated: “Since Christine and I have been writing together, I’ve had three kids. I was pregnant with the third, and then in the newborn phase while we were writing and editing this one, so I was truly in the thick of it, and able to draw from personal experience.” She noted that parents quickly forget each stage of childhood when they move onto the next, but every word of the motherhood demands on their fictional Black heroine—suddenly thrust into caring for a newborn baby––rings true.
The collaboration also helps them in character development, Pride said. “Jo and I talk about our characters a lot and think of them as real people. Friends, even. This is one of the benefits of a collaboration—the ability to have a sounding board for character development, so we can ask each other, ‘What would xyz character think or do,’ and brainstorm it from all angles. We think that process helps us deepen all of our characters. We fall in love with them—even the flawed ones. Especially the flawed ones.” Readers will love them, too, despite their flaws.
You Were Always Mine, released in mid-June, has already been chosen by Amazon editors as one of their literary fiction picks of the year. The authors are presently touring the western United States to promote it. They gave some reasons for launching the much-anticipated book in Crozet. They had introduced their first book at Parnassus Books in Nashville, owned by the literary giant Ann Patchett.
“I became aware of Bluebird when I first saw the book trailer on Instagram,” Piazza said. “I fell madly in love with the whole idea of the little blue truck and the town of Crozet.” They’d heard of Crozet because their agent, Byrd Leavell, has a family farm nearby. “We wanted to support and celebrate what Flannery (Flannery Buchanan, one of the owners of Bluebird) is doing there.” She said the setting was perfect for the initial introduction of their book to the public.
“Believe it or not,” Piazza said, “not every book seller has the warmth and passion that Flannery does. It was a perfect choice for our launch.”
You Were Always Mine is available at Bluebird & Company in Crozet, and wherever books are sold.