Interview with Meredith Ireland


About the author: “Meredith Ireland is a Korean-American attorney and writer, born in Seoul. She is a Rollins College and University of Miami School of Law alumna. She writes young adult and children’s books and is proudly represented by Lauren Spieller of Triadaus Literary Agency. Her debut novel, THE JASMINE PROJECT, was a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard selection, and is out now! The forthcoming follow up EVERYONE HATES KELSIE MILLER is scheduled for October 11, 2022 also from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Kelsie was named a best book of 2022 by Seventeen Magazine. Her short story will be featured in YOU ARE HERE, a middle grade anthology coming winter 2023. She will also have a short story in ADOPTEE TO ADOPTEE, a YA anthology coming 2023. EMMA & THE LOVE SPELL, her debut middle grade fantasy will be out in Winter of 2024 from Bloomsbury Kids.

Meredith resides in New York with her two children and a county fair goldfish who will probably outlive them all.” (Bio taken from author’s website.)

Find Meredith Ireland on the following platforms:

A huge thank you to Meredith Ireland for taking time to do another interview with us at Pine Reads! Her sophomore YA novel Everyone Hates Kelsie Miller is out now from Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Be sure to check out our review of Kelsie’s story here!

Erika Brittain: To start our interview, I want to say thank you so so much for chatting with me about Everyone Hates Kelsie Miller! This is your sophomore novel, published on October 11th, and it is one of my favorite reads this year. How does it feel to have this story out in the world? 

Meredith Ireland: Thank you so much for reading and interviewing me! I’m so glad you enjoyed Kelsie! Although it’s my second book, it’s my first original concept so it’s still very special to me. I’m so happy it’s reaching readers!

EB: A major part of this book is the road trip that Kelsie and Eric take. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, so instead, I want to know about your dream road trip! First, where’s your road trip destination?

MI: I used to drive back and forth to Florida because I went to college and law school down there so I’ve been all up and down the 95 corridor (where some of the book takes place). I’d love to do the Pacific Northwest one day!

EB: Second, what 3 songs are at the top of your road trip playlist?

MI: I like you, I do—Post Malone and Doja Cat


What’s My Name—Rihanna

Like Kelsie, I listen to a lot of pop. 

EB: Third, if you could take any 4 of your book characters with you, who’s coming on the trip and where are they sitting?

MI: I think Jasmine wouldn’t mind sitting in the middle. She’s the shortest and the most easy going. Eugene next to her. Kelsie to the other side, behind Eric, which she wouldn’t like. Eric in the passenger seat because he’d want to be upfront and in control. 

EB: Now let’s get into the book! Kelsie Miller is a pretty prickly character at first– hence the title– but her growth is one of my favorite things about this story. When writing, were there any moments in Kelsie’s arc that surprised you? Or did you always know how you wanted her story to go?

MI: I’m mostly a pantser so I never really know where a story will go. One of my favorite things about writing is the ability to surprise myself. I knew that Eric was going to have a Forgetting Sarah Marshall type of arc where at first he’s thinking non-stop about his ex but then realizes that maybe the relationship wasn’t as good as he thought. Kelsie realizing she wasn’t the friend she thought she was just happened along the way. 

EB: To talk more about Kelsie’s character, I loved reading the candid conversations she has about being adopted from Korea. Kelsie is OK with not knowing her biological mother, and she’s happy with her adoptive family. Being a transnational adoptee myself, this kind of representation made me feel so seen! Can you describe your approach to writing the thoughts of an adoptee in this story?

MI: When I wrote The Jasmine Project, I wanted to tell the story of someone who happened to be adopted. With Kelsie, I wanted to go into her thoughts on it a little more. I had a friend in high school who was also an adoptee but not transracial and her birth mother had gotten in touch with her toward the end of school. I wanted to bring that kind of complicated aspect into a book, because I think as you become an adult you naturally think about where you came from.  

EB: Another big part of Kelsie’s story is her friendship with Bri. Kelsie reflects a lot on their friendship, realizing where/when she was in the wrong. What advice would you give to writers who want to create ‘‘strong female characters” but also characters who are relatable and flawed?

MI: For any character, your chapter one MC should not be able to recognize your end chapter MC. But, know that the standard for likability for feminine characters is going to be different from masculine because society judges us differently. What is strong and ambitious in men is often frowned upon and looked at as bossy and career-obsessed for women. All strength in any character, male/female/non-binary, all the time is boring. Show those flaws, those regrets and doubts. Relatability is in the thought process behind a character, so even if you ultimately disagree with their decisions, you know why they chose it, and that makes them real. 

EB: We also have to talk about The Romance. Kelsie and Eric fit so many of the best rom-com tropes. Academic rivals to lovers, ‘he falls first’, forced proximity, and arguably a bit of grumpy x sunshine… What was your process for developing their friendship and romance? Was it easy to create their relationship?

MI: I adore rivals to lovers and forced proximity! The hardest thing is to create a situation where they’d believably agree to be together and then the arcs are clearly defined in romance expectations. I loved creating two characters who are so book smart but have so little common sense. Their differences made for humor but also opposites attract. 

EB: Switching gears a bit, as I mentioned before, this is your second novel. What things did you learn from The Jasmine Project that helped you when writing Everyone Hates Kelsie Miller?

MI: With any book you write you learn a ton! TJP was my first experience in working with a publishing house. My editor was big on expressing emotions and the emotional arcs of my characters in Jasmine which helped me a ton for Kelsie. With book two I already understood edit letters, line edits, dreaded copy edits, and pass pages, so that helped a lot.

EB: You’ve been very open online about where this story came from. You and Kelsie have a lot in common in terms of high school experiences, being a Korean adoptee and demisexual, and losing a close friendship. How did you maintain healthy mental and emotional boundaries when writing this book? 

MI: Yes, I went to one of the humbly named “Elite 9” in New York City and I really wanted to portray that type of pressure to “be something” and how hard it is when you don’t know what you want to be. And although I’ve always known I was adopted, I didn’t figure out I was demi until I was an adult. It would make me so happy if a reader said: wait a second, this sounds familiar and figures out that piece of them as well. But honestly, I wrote this to heal. I did lose my best friend five years ago. After a falling out she died suddenly and nothing really prepares you to lose a childhood best friend. Fiction has the ability to help us tackle the worst things and it was really therapeutic to write this for and about her. There’s so much hope in getting a second chance in a book that I didn’t have in life. 

EB: With that, do you have any tips for aspiring writers who want to draw on their own experiences? 

MI: I would say if it’s trauma to wait until you do have a little distance from it. With drawing on any experience, particularly marginalized ones, you’ll feel the weight of “getting it right”—but honestly, there’s no such thing. As long as it’s authentic to you, then it’s right. Two people never have the same exact experiences. What I experienced being adopted won’t be the same as you, but if it’s authentic to me then that’s what matters and will resonate. Also, understand that you are not your characters, because if you don’t create that distance it’ll feel like criticism of you when you get reviewed by anyone from critique partners to Kirkus. If it’s too painful there’s nothing wrong with shelving it until time can heal you enough to see the story objectively. 

EB: To wrap up the interview, I’d love to hear about your upcoming projects! I hear there are some anthology short stories AND a debut middle-grade book in the next couple of years. Can you share any details? 

MI: I’m so excited to have contributed to two all-star anthologies both out next year. The first is You Are Here, a middle grade contemporary anthology that features eleven East and Southeast Asian kids in an airport experiencing micro and macro racism in a post-covid Chicago. The second is Adoptee to Adoptee, a YA anthology by and for adoptees. My story is my first fantasy about a girl who is going to kill her biological sister—something very different! Last, in winter 2024 I have my first middle grade novel coming out. It’s Emma & The Love Spell which I call a queer, witchy Parent Trap.  

PRR Assistant Director, Erika Brittain 

Want to read our first interview with Meredith Ireland? Click here!