An Interview with Charlene Thomas, author of SETON GIRLS

Seton Girls is fascinating—a timely look at class, race, and the patriarchy featuring an addictive group of female friends, a privileged academy, and the damning secrets that tie them together. I was so thrilled to be able to interview Charlene Thomas about her incredible debut.

Laura Graveline: Let’s start with the premise of the book: it’s a story that revolves around strong female friendships and is powered by their navigation through the pervasive yet hidden misogyny of their (and, sadly our) world. What drew you to telling this story?

Charlene Thomas: First off, thank you so much for having me—and for all of the incredible support you’ve given to Seton Girls! It’s been so amazing to see and really means a lot to me.

There were really a few reasons why I wanted to tell this story. One was that I wanted to talk about privilege, the different ways it exists, and the scars and damage it can leave in its wake. But I also really wanted to tell a platonic love story—one that showcases friends as soulmates and reminds us all that love is always beautiful, even when it’s not romantic. And lastly, it was really important to me to write a story that showcased Black and brown girls as the smart ones, the pretty ones, the popular ones, the heroes. I think we still too commonly see ourselves cast in the media as sidekicks, when we aren’t sidekicks at all. We’re stars.


LG: I loved the genuine female friendships in your book, and especially loved having Aly, a protagonist of color, who was so driven and so intelligent.

Now I fully admit that I overuse the word nuance, but it really is applicable here! Seton Girls balances so many things so well. It’s a timely look at racism, elitism, and the aforementioned misogyny and the ways those weave together. I can imagine that it might have become complicated while writing. Were you ever tempted to drop some themes to streamline the writing process?

CT: I could list a dozen words I overuse, so no worries! And I’m so glad you feel that way about this book. Honestly, I was never tempted to try and lessen the themes, mainly because writing them into this story never felt particularly overwhelming. There’s so much intersectionality in our society and experiences that I actually find it harder to address certain topics without the acknowledgment of others. So for me, things like racism, elitism, and misogyny are so interwoven that I wouldn’t quite know how to break them apart even if I wanted to.


LGI'm so glad you were never tempted (or encouraged by publishers!) to cut anything out. The themes really do work so well together, it just makes sense for everything to be there. Speaking of publishers, this strikes me as the type of book that has to come to people at the exact right time, particularly agents/publishers. Do you feel the content of your book affected your publishing journey at all? What was that journey like?

CT: I’ve actually been so fortunate in my journey to publication with Seton Girls. This was the book that found me my incredible agent, and she got what I was doing right away. I was actually working on a bit of a revise & resubmit with her, but after I worked on the first 30k words, she offered me representation because she was so sure that this story would be something amazing when it was finished. And we also had a pretty short time on submission to editors—we had our first offer after about two months, which is FAST these days. Not to mention I landed with the most perfect editor for me—so I’m incredibly happy.

But I do think that when it comes to publishing “success” stories, it’s unfair to bury the trials that came before. I’ve been writing books for most of my life. When I was a freshman in college, I unknowingly signed with an unethical agent and my manuscript died on submission. I was scared of publishing for years after that, and the book I wrote right before Seton Girls had a high request rate with agents but never landed anywhere. So Seton Girls is a big part of my journey, but it’s definitely not my entire journey. This industry is really hard and takes a lot of resilience. For all the writers out there dreaming of getting published—please keep going! I am always, always rooting for you.


LG: I'm so glad the journey came together for you as it did! This is such an incredible book and I'm so glad it's out in the world.

And while we're on the topic of the "real world"... while Seton Academic High is fictional, it really rings true, especially the pressure on every teenager–whether that’s to continue bringing home football trophies or have enough extracurriculars to get into a good college. The latter is something I see so often with our own teen patrons (and some adults!) at Brazos. Is there any advice you would have for a teenager under similar pressure as your characters?

CT: High school is a lot of pressure—I truly empathize with that! But what I will say is that it’s not forever. It’s not even, like, the majority of forever. It’s four years—and while those years can be absolutely brilliant, and incredible, and some of the best years you’ve ever had, life is so much bigger than high school. And it’s okay to feel like you don’t have it all figured out, or to lose sometimes, or not know what your ‘thing’ is yet. There’s plenty of time, and there’s so much more to come. I know that can be hard to accept while you’re in it, but try not to be too hard on yourself.


LG: Thank you for those wise words! Now I understand you’ve got another book coming out in 2024! First of all, congratulations! Second, is there anything you can tell us about it?

CT: Yes! I am so, so excited about it and am thrilled to still be working with the amazing team at Dutton/Penguin Random House (the same group that brought Seton Girls to the world). Right now, the book is titled Peekaboo, but I imagine that may change. It tells the story of a girl named Kady in an eerie little town named Peekaboo, who goes to her annual Halloween carnival and wins a game that grants her the ability to change time. But, like most eerie little towns, Peekaboo is full of dark secrets, and on Kady’s quest to achieve perfection in her own life, she uncovers how dark those secrets really are. It's my first foray into speculative fiction, and is absolutely the hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve ever written. I can’t wait to be able to share it with you all!


LG: Peekaboo (or whatever it will eventually be called!) sounds incredible! I can't wait to see it on our shelves.

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me about Seton Girls! I can’t wait to continue selling it to all our customers!

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Seton Girls By Charlene Thomas Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593529348
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Dutton Books for Young Readers - August 30th, 2022

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