MEET THE AUTHOR! A Conversation with Mikayla Rose – Author of “When June Met July”

MEET THE AUTHOR! A Conversation with Mikayla Rose – Author of “When June Met July” 175 204 Reader Views Kids

When June Met July

Mikayla Rose
Tellwell Talent (2023)
ISBN: 978-0228882497

Mikayla Rose is a recent English graduate, currently living in the city of Toronto. There, she penned When June Met July, her first YA novel. In trying to make peace with the concurrent feelings of excitement and anxiety that come from living in your twenties, Mikayla found herself wondering what to do with the lessons she’d learned. After much pondering, she landed on a rather literary purpose: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, I might just write a book. 

Hi Mikayla, thank you for joining us today at Reader Views. Tell us a bit about your writing journey. (When did you start writing? Have you always wanted to be an author? What made you decide to actually sit down and write your first book?)

You know, when I think about when my relationship with writing began, I honestly can’t remember. It just feels as though I’ve always had this urge to quickly jot down an idea when I felt as though it was one of any value. How did I determine what was worthy of writing down and what wasn’t? Again, I’m not so sure. I guess my subconscious just wouldn’t let me feel at ease until it knew the idea was noted and safe from oblivion. I’ve always been so enamored by the power of words; maybe that’s because ever since I was 3 years old, my mom would read me to sleep. Perhaps that’s what inspired this love for writing. It definitely caught, because 15 years later, I was attending University for English Literature.

I won’t say I was determined to become a writer or always knew I would one day be an author, because like most young adults are, I was grappling with many possibilities for a future career and more often than not, found myself confused rather than confident in what I wanted to do. But amidst all that confusion in my final year of University, there was an assignment I had to complete. Little did I know, that assignment would launch a whole new chapter of my life and grow my love for writing even more. Funnily enough, I didn’t want to do this assignment at all and was actually seriously debating skipping it and suffering the drop in my grade, simply because I had so many larger assignments to do and other exams to study for. However, I did do it, but assumed the grade would be poor because I’d done it so quickly.

Imagine my surprise when it was sent back to me and I realized I’d just received one of the highest grades of my whole University career. My professor was beyond complimentary of what I’d written and because of that, I decided to continue writing. COVID had left me with ample time on my hands once my senior year had concluded, I had to find something to keep me busy. It all felt very serendipitous and so by a happy accident, When June Met July was born! I thought about the novel even when I wasn’t writing. It had taken over my life faster than I realized and I was happy to let it. 600 pages later, and here we are!

What is When June Met July about?

Young Elle Rosendale was living a simple life when she stumbled upon the mysterious and turbulent Alexandra Price. Following their brief romance, Elle experiences her first heartbreak. 

After unexpectedly befriending Alex’s former lover, June Reeves, Elle begins to feel happy again. The two rise to power alongside some of their new friends and June’s current girlfriend, Scarlett Young. But when Elle and June’s friendship is put to the test, Elle is forced to make a difficult decision. 

The seasons change, and Elle comes to learn more about love, sex, family and friendship. But when a tragic, violent and irreversible secret reveals itself one night, Elle finds herself standing in the middle of the past, at a dangerous crossroads and in a dangerous corner. 

The novel presents us with life’s ultimate dilemma: you can’t go back, so what are you going to do instead?

When June Met July is a compelling narrative, and I love the title! Could you share where the idea for the story originated from and how you came up with the title?

Thank you so much! As aforementioned, the novel was a happy accident, and so as I continued to develop it, it really did feel as though I was simply free falling into my imagination and letting my curiosities, questions, fears, and hopes help me produce something that was equal parts beautiful and brutal. At the time that I was writing, the talk of the town was Sam Levinson’s HBO show, Euphoria. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t captivated by the way the show’s teen characters had started such a massive global conversation that never seemed to end. The stark contrasts in the show’s personalities inspired me to give myself permission to let my mind venture into new territory and take risks when crafting my own characters. It made me wonder more about trauma, and more specifically, how broken hearts and unanswered questions can cause all kinds of chaos, especially when you’re dealing with a dozen teenagers at the peak of their confusion.

I’m so happy you like the title! I was so excited when I finally managed to come up with it, after months of struggling to land on one. When June Met July as a title was unearthed when I started thinking about whom the novel really centers around. Of course, the obvious answer is Elle, as she is our protagonist and our narrator. However, when you really stop and examine the sequence of events unfolding within the novel, many of those things are happening due to a decision that June made. I think the relationship between Elle and June, and the way their lives intertwine reminds us how although we may have the ability to make our own decisions, we also have to recognize that many of the opportunities we have, the relationships we’re a part of, the moments we experience, the pain we undergo and the life we live is directly impacted by a decision that someone else made. Everything is interconnected and the novel reminds us of that. Because of that, I felt it important to acknowledge June and her vital impact by presenting her in the title. The novel is undoubtedly following the life of Elle Rosendale, but this story really begins when June met July.

Alexandra Price is a character that the reader loves to hate – she’s charming, but also cruel. What inspired the creation of such a complex character?

Amy Dunne. Without a doubt, Amy Dunne was the main source of inspiration for Alexandra Price. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, and not because I’m embarrassed, but because I’ve simply forgotten. After reading the text for the first time, I was immediately captivated, horrified, impressed by, scared of and left in awe of this uniquely presented villain that Gillian had created. After watching David Fincher’s movie adaptation where Rosamund Pike brings this character to life with such audacity, I was ruined by this personality all over again.

I also think it’s important for me to acknowledge another novel that I adore so deeply, and that’s Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. I alluded to the text within my novel as to acknowledge how much this text has impacted me over the years, just as I had with Flynn’s Gone Girl. There’s something about how Daisy Buchannan inspired Jay Gatsby to accomplish so much simply by existing that gets me every time. (Spoiler alert warning!) Jay’s impenetrable obsession with Daisy is, in my opinion, mirrored in June’s limitless love for Alex. Like Daisy, Alex is beautiful in her own way. She may not be the golden girl, but she commands just as much attention with her own colours; and like Daisy, those colours often distract from her more bleak intentions.

Alex is loosely based off what my imagination led me to believe was an amalgamation of a 16-year-old Amy Dunne, sprinkled with the vanity and self-concerned nature of Daisy Buchannan. This is not to say that I know what Amy Dunne would act like at 16 years of age, I was simply inspired by her charm and intelligence when bringing Alex’s character to life. Yes, Amy Dunne is on a revenge scheme to destroy someone’s life, but for a brief moment, you can’t help but acknowledge and maybe even respect her meticulous strategy and commitment to ensuring she gets what she wants. Elle’s fascination with Alex parallels with Amy’s fans’ love for the “Amazing Amy” persona, giving both women the power to blind their onlookers with their privilege of being pretty. Like Amy, Alex considers herself a victim and deserving of whatever she wants, no matter the cost to other people.

As you said, Alex is an incredibly complex character. After having suffered a severe trauma at a young age, she is left stewing in her own untended anger and pain. Other than being inspired by Amy and Daisy, Alex is inspired by my own concerns for what can happen when you choose to swap your pain for power over other people instead of healing your own wounds. 

Elle’s coming-of-age and coming out experience is a key part of the story. How did you navigate writing this pivotal part of her character development?

Truthfully, I tried not to hyperfixate on Elle’s coming out experience throughout the duration of the novel. It is absolutely a key part of the story and a major factor in her identity, but as I continued to write, I realized that I was relaxing the seriousness of her bisexuality without even meaning to. I did this because I didn’t want her coming out to be treated as a spectacle. I wanted to handle this part of the story sensitively. I didn’t want the many other elements of Elle’s journey to be deafened by her coming out because the other experiences she was undergoing at the same time were just as formative and impactful. It was important for me to make sure that Elle had no choice but to focus on other areas of her life, because the truth is that life doesn’t stop and there are always a million things interconnecting and happening all at once. It felt most genuine to afford Elle’s coming out the spotlight when it really needed it and thus provide the same room for other areas of her life.

Although I came out later in life than Elle, I found that it was best and most appropriate to write Elle’s experience coming to terms with her identity in a way that I could understand. Similar to Elle, I was blessed with parents that were incredibly accepting and loving when I decided to come out to them, repeating over and over that they just wanted me happy. I recognize my own privilege in this regard, as not everyone has an experience like mine. Therefore, while navigating how to write this specific experience into the text, I chose to stray from writing about something that I had no knowledge of. I didn’t feel it was fair, nor would the writing be strongest if I couldn’t channel authenticity into something as monumental as this.   

Can you elaborate on the character of June, particularly on her wavering heart, and the significance of this trait in the context of the story?

Great question! I’m so happy June stands out enough to warrant this question because I think she is such a beautiful person and a very important character. June’s heart and the direction it leads her is not only a catalyst for some major events in the novel, but is also a phenomenon that Elle can’t seem to completely understand. Elle has such a deep and profound love for June and the friendship they share, but she is especially moved and even sometimes confused by June’s unparalleled capacity to love, despite everything she’s been through. It isn’t until Elle is faced with her own first real relationship that she starts to sympathize with June’s inability to control her heart and forget her first love. As well, when June fails to hesitate in offering comfort and forgiveness to those who wronged her, Elle begins to wonder about her own ability for such selflessness. Time and time again, June proves herself to be ruled by her heart. She finds nothing more valuable than a loving relationship and will evidently choose love over all else. In my opinion, because of this, June is the heart of the novel. She singlehandedly teaches Elle so much about unconditional love and in doing so, promotes a lot of Elle’s self-reflection about who she is.

It was important for me to present June in such a way because I wanted to have a character whose purpose was to represent the power of love. June’s heart represents the fragility and futility of young love, as well as the hope that there’s always more where that came from. However, while June represents the best of people who lead with their heart and constantly spread love, she also stands to symbolize the risk that comes when you inadvertently forget to love yourself. While I was writing the novel, I found myself admiring June and her beautiful heart but I also found myself fearing for her. When Elle questions what would make June finally stop loving someone, I began to reflect on what can happen when you love someone too much. Too much love doesn’t immediately strike you as something negative, because how can a surplus of something positive ever lead to negative result? June however shows us that when you love someone so much that it leaves no further room for your own self-respect, chances are you’re probably not in a safe space.

Like I said, June is the heart of the novel. Her capacity for both platonic and romantic love challenges and tests those around her, especially Elle. I myself am only 23 years old, but I’ve had plenty of opportunity to witness love in many forms and come to understand that I’ll never completely understand it. Therefore, June functions as both a celebration of love but also as a warning not to lose yourself in love.

When June Met July is written from a first-person perspective. How do you feel this narrative choice influenced the reader’s connection to Elle?

I chose to write from the first-person perspective because I wanted Elle to feel as real and as human as possible. I wanted readers to be able to connect with her, understand where her thoughts were coming from, see her justifications literally unraveling before them and decide for themselves whether or not they agree. I personally tend to gravitate towards novels with the first-person perspective because I appreciate the way the internal monologue can humanize a character. It can help illuminate all the different mental hurdles we take and all the ways we try to trick ourselves when working through trying situations.

Elle is very young, and I wanted her sometimes-convoluted reflections to aid in portraying how confusing high school can feel. In my opinion, the first-person perspective also allows for a sense of accountability between the narrator and the reader. One scene that I feel the first person perspective was most helpful with was the party scene where Frankie exposes Elle’s new relationship in front of a bunch of people. In a moment of anger, Elle decides to react in a vengeful way. After doing so and reaping the consequences of that choice, you see the way Elle reflects on what she did and quickly realizes her mistake. She is shocked by her actions and immediately abandons her angry mentality. Through the first-person perspective, this very quick and emotional scene humanizes Elle by showing how quickly our thoughts can change in a matter of moments. Human emotion is usually never simple or singular, so I chose the first-person perspective to help me illustrate that.    

Many of your characters belong to the LGBTQ+ community. How important was it for you to represent this diversity in your story?

It was extremely important for me to represent this diversity in the novel! As someone who belongs to the community myself and is surrounded by family and friends who do as well, it was a no brainer that I needed to represent the LGBTQ+ community within the book. I understand how important it is to acknowledge and discuss these experiences that exist and matter in order to eliminate the stigma and encourage acceptance for something as basic and beautiful as love.

Elle’s experience is just one of millions and in my opinion, she’s one of the lucky ones. To not only accept yourself for who you are but to come out to others takes bravery, courage, strength, resilience and love for yourself. So many wonderful people in my life have set an example of what it means to love someone, especially in the face of other people’s judgement. Because of that, I have a tremendous amount of respect for all members of the LGBTQ+ community and commend them for their ability to endure, persevere and continue to choose love.

Which one of your characters did you have the most fun creating? Is there one you relate to most?

As challenging as it was at times, I had a lot of fun creating Alex’s character. I’d never written a novel before, let alone one with a character that was so complex in nature. It was interesting to try to delve into Alex’s psyche and build someone from scratch that was so multifaceted. I never wanted to overstep and create a personality that was a mere spectacle or joker, if you will. By nature, Alex is a morally gray character but I didn’t want her to simply shock and deliver; I wanted Alex to be able to create visceral experiences for readers that challenge them to ask what they would do if they were in her presence.

At this point in my life, of all the characters in the novel, I think I relate most to a post-page 450 version of June. I share her immeasurable love for her friends and value relationships with those in my life more than ever.

How does your life experience translate into your fictional stories through the characters and/or events?

Like many people, I’ve had to learn my hardest lessons about love and friendship through experiencing heartbreak and then doing what I could to climb out of it. When I was finally able to breathe again, I was left with memories and lessons. Embedded within When June Met July are some of my worst fears, curiosities and lessons that I’ve learned along the way. I know that I still have a lot to learn, but what I have gathered so far is that it’s much easier to look at the world like it’s black and white, but I really don’t think it is. I don’t think I’ve ever come across anyone or anything that is entirely good or bad. Several characters in the novel exemplify this lesson.

Life is constantly throwing contradictions at us, forcing us to try and make sense of them. Almost everything is easier said than done. When June Met July is a fictional story, but it’s filled with real lessons about love, friendship, communication, sacrifice, heartbreak, scary coincidences and the many ways you can discover yourself.  

The novel is also a testament to the fact that the way you treat people says everything about the type of person you are. I’ve witnessed the way unresolved trauma and pain can negatively and unfairly affect other people and I hope that this novel encourages people away from that pattern and towards a healthier process of healing. The golden rule I live by today that I hope is reflected through this novel is that the execution of your intentions means a whole lot more than your intentions alone, so step carefully and be kind.

The novel deals with serious issues like gaslighting and emotional manipulation. How did you undertake the research to portray these in a believable and sensitive way?

Unfortunately, there is plenty of opportunity out there in the world to witness gaslighting and emotional manipulation. Even if you haven’t suffered such things, the likelihood is you know someone who has. In that sense, experience is the best form of research in my opinion. Too many times, I’ve witnessed friends and family members lose their sense of direction at the hands of emotional manipulation that severed them from their own logic. These experiences can come in all shapes, sizes and severities but they all share one thing in common: they leave lasting impacts.

Throughout my entire writing process, my friends and family were extremely generous in allowing me to work through my thoughts with them if I was having a difficult time with an idea. Those conversations usually resulted in someone sharing something they’d undergone and learned from. I found that the best way for me to approach these topics with as much sensitivity as possible was to use what I’d learned about these issues and write accordingly; not to over-dramatize and not by exaggerating unnecessarily.

Gaslighting and manipulation isn’t always obvious. It’s not always boisterous or undeniable. Sometimes, it’s disguised behind what appears like consideration for you or a convincing argument. We’re all human; we’re allowed to miss these things sometimes.

It was through listening to the experiences of others and reflecting on some of my own that I attempted to approach these topics. I don’t think there’s any way to do it perfectly, but I did my best to outline the signs and record some honest, realistic reactions to tactics such as these.

When June Met July interweaves themes of love, friendship, and personal identity. How did you balance these complex themes throughout the novel?

As I stated in one of my earlier answers, I feel as though everything in life is interconnected and relationships are one of those forces that propel everything into focus. When June Met July focuses on the relationships that Elle has with other people and how they impact, change or shed light onto who she is as a person. My ultimate goal was to write a novel that concentrated on the importance of relationships and how critical they are to our own self-development. Therefore, to answer your question, it was always the mission to interweave these themes because I simply don’t think they’re separate.

I tried to approach one event at a time and then explore the cause and effect that event could have on Elle and those around her. I was constantly double checking if I’d abandoned a plot too quickly or neglected to note the way it directly affected something else. I found that it helped me to create starkly different characters and make something unique the hallmark of each of their personalities. By doing so, different themes were naturally interwoven into the text simply by the characters placing individual importance on differing things. When these characters began to interact, their conversations pushed the novel forward and presented an opportunity to see the way their principles, priorities and personalities challenged one another. For example, during the scene where Elle exposes June for lying to Frankie and then later runs after her when feeling remorse, readers can see the way June discourages such behavior, while Alex later seems to almost applaud it. Therefore, these two separate friendships in Elle’s life are presenting two possibilities for who she’ll become. Being that she is only 16 and 17 years old when readers meet her, Elle is a particularly impressionable young girl. Because of this, the bulk of the novel explores the way relationships harbor the ability to impact other areas of our life, thus naturally interweaving themes of friendship, love and personal identity until the novel’s end.

What do you hope young readers will take away from your book, particularly considering the sensitive themes it explores?

When readers finally complete the novel and put it down, I hope they feel inspired to be a little more forgiving with themselves. The novel explores several sensitive themes, all of which intertwine at once to mirror an authentic coming of age story; one that I feel never really ends. I don’t think we ever stop learning about the world and the best ways for us to walk through it. As different experiences are thrust upon us, both good and bad, we’re constantly put in a position where we have to learn, adjust, grow and continue. With that mind, I hope the novel encourages people to be patient with themselves and allow yourself to go at your own pace when dealing with anything that is important to you. There is no rulebook on how to live life and by nature, we’re imperfect creatures, so let yourself be just that. That means, embrace mistakes, allow your mind to change, give yourself permission to be confused, take time when getting to the next step, and above all, don’t ever apologize for protecting your peace. I myself am still learning how to do basically everything in life, but I try my hardest not to resent myself for it. 

Lastly, I hope the novel illuminates the importance of kindness and acceptance when it comes to both other people and ourselves. Hearts are truly beautiful things, so try to break other people’s and your own as little as you possibly can.

What has been your most significant challenge and your most rewarding experience during the writing process of When June Met July?

The most significant challenge I faced when writing When June Met July was to stop comparing myself to other authors. Unfortunately, I fell into the habit of comparison and at times, doubted that I had the ability to write something strong enough to be published. I would torture myself by comparing my description of said topic to the way a more seasoned, established author would do so. Not only did that damage my self-esteem, it complicated my understanding of my identity as a writer. Thankfully, that didn’t last too long and after writing several chapters that I genuinely wanted to read over and over again, I had started to be kinder to myself. I accepted the fact that this was my first time writing a novel and I needed to live and learn like everyone else. I needed my editor, my team and my friends to call me out on my strengths and weaknesses and then go and grow from there.

The most rewarding experience thus far has been connecting with people about the novel. I can’t even begin to express how much I appreciate being able to dialogue with people about their opinions on characters, themes, events, etc., after years of hard work. The kindness I’ve received, as well as the support from my family and friends has been so moving. I realize everyday how lucky I am to be surrounded by such wonderful people. This experience has brought me closer to a number of people in my life, allowed me to connect more with people I hadn’t as of yet and also meet plenty of new people and foster new relationships. I can’t wait to continue promoting the novel, meet more readers and writers and plunge myself further into the community! 

Can you share any hints about your future writing projects or plans? Can readers expect to see more of Elle, June, and the rest of the group?

Well now that you ask, I just have a funny feeling Elle isn’t finished talking yet. I think June may even have something to say…

Do you have anything else you’d like to add today?

I just wanted to say thank you for this amazing opportunity! When June Met July is very dear to my heart and I sincerely appreciate the exposure, as well as the opportunity to speak on it in such detail. I also want to thank you for all your insightful questions about so many topics. I hope my answers help readers feel even more connected to the characters within the novel, as well as the novel itself. 

It was an honour to receive such a complimentary five-star review. I hope everyone who has purchased the novel is enjoying it, and I thank you so much for your support!

I also wanted to say to anyone struggling with their identity – take your time! You’re on your own clock and you don’t owe anyone an answer besides yourself. You deserve all the love in the world and what’s meant for you will absolutely find you.

If you’ve been struggling with any form of pain or trauma whether it’s past or present, please reach out to someone. Whether it’s a help line, a friend or a family member, do it for you. You are not alone and you never deserve to feel otherwise. Please choose to protect you and your heart, always.


Instagram – @whenjunemetjuly | Instagram

Tikok –  Mikayla?Rose (@itsmemikaylarose) | TikTok 

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