Carola Lovering, BYE, BABY

Carola Lovering, BYE, BABY

Zibby chats with bestselling author Carola Lovering about BYE, BABY, a gripping and compulsively readable novel about lifelong best friends Billie and Cassie, and what happens when Cassie’s infant daughter disappears… and Billie is somehow involved. Carola reveals the inspiration for this story and then discusses the battling forces of toxicity and love that define female friendships, the themes of adulthood, motherhood, and trauma, the challenges of writing while navigating motherhood, and the blurred boundaries between fiction and reality.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Carola. Thank you so much for coming on "Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books" to discuss Bye, Baby: A Novel.

Carola Lovering: Thank you so much for having me, Zibby. I am such a giant fan of this podcast. It's very surreal to be on here. I honestly listen to this all the time. I'm super honored.

Zibby: That's really exciting. Your book kept me up so late when I was reading it. I could not stop reading it. My husband's like, "Okay, enough." I'm like, "Just don't talk to me right now. Don't talk to me." I really got so engrossed and got totally into the lives of these characters and haunted by Wade. It was just so vividly depicted. I didn't know how it was going to end. It was really fun.

Carola: Thank you. I love to hear that. It really means a lot. I always like to read books that keep me up at night. It's a great endorsement. Thank you. Sorry to your husband.

Zibby: No, no, it's okay. I don't read that many thrillers -- I don't know why -- or psychological suspense. Every so often. Then when I do, they really get me, which is good.

Carola: This is -- I wouldn't call it a thriller. Maybe this is a good entry point for you. It's thriller light, suspense.

Zibby: Yes, suspense. As soon as the word thriller came out of my mouth, I'm like, oh, I'm not supposed to call it a thriller. Why don't you tell listeners what Bye, Baby is about?

Carola: Yes, of course. Bye, Baby is the story of a very complicated, ultimately toxic friendship between two women named Billie and Cassie. Billie and Cassie have been best friends for the majority of their lives until recently. We meet them when they're in their mid-thirties. They're both living in New York City, where the majority of the novel takes place. Over the past two or three years, they've begun to drift apart. Cassie has a brand-new baby. She's newly married. She has a burgeoning career as a lifestyle and fashion influencer and has this whole fancy set of new mom friends in Gramercy Park, where they live. Billie, on the contrary, is single, dating, child-free by choice. She feels very pushed out by Cassie and Cassie's new priorities. The catalyst for this book -- it's not a spoiler. It happens on page one, as you know. Cassie's infant daughter goes missing. This happens at a party. We the reader learn, unbeknown to Cassie, that Billie is responsible for the kidnapping. From there, the novel goes back in time in two different timelines. The first timeline starts about six weeks earlier and tells the story of the events that have led to the kidnapping in recent weeks. The second timeline goes back much further to the early aughts when Cassie and Billie first meet in middle school in their Hudson Valley hometown. This timeline tells the story of their friendship over the years. It's definitely a suspense. I also see it as a meditation on female friendship and how friendships change and evolve as the people in them change and evolve.

Zibby: Yes. You definitely got to the heart of the complications embedded when you're jealous of somebody a little bit or your lives seem to go -- I feel like Cassie's life has exploded. She's up to almost fifty thousand followers. Cassie has a great job, but it's not the same, her travel stuff. There was a point -- I kind of related to this because sometimes I post, and I don't do my emails or texts. It's like, why do I not text people back when I have time to post the longest caption possible on Instagram? Literally, obviously, I could have chosen to spend my time differently, but I didn't. There's a lot of that where, just because she has a baby and she's on Instagram, she doesn't have time to text me back? What do you mean? Billie feels just so not important anymore. Then she just keeps watching and hoping. It felt very raw.

Carola: Yes, totally. I've definitely experienced that too where I'll post something on Instagram and then realize that I haven't answered someone's text. At this point, I think it's okay. We can't be doing everything all at once. If you have a job where you need to post on social media, that's part of work. That's what it's like for Cassie. I wanted to make her an influencer partly because I wanted Billie to have this window into her life, which is this very strange time that we live in now where you might not talk to somebody, but if they're active on social media in any way -- obviously, Cassie is in a big way. It's her career. A friend can always see what you're up to. I think that it lent itself to some of the suspense in the book. It was fun to write her as an influencer, for sure.

Zibby: Then there's the moment at the party when the detective is asking, would anyone have known where you are and what you're doing? It's like, yeah, fifty thousand people knew what I was doing and exactly where. You're like, oh, my gosh, it could've been anywhere. Then you're thinking to yourself reading -- I was. Why would anyone do that? Then I'm like, why do I do that? This is so stupid. Now it's so normal. Oh, having fun at blah, blah, blah.

Carola: I know. That scene and the kidnapping element is very extreme. It's a plot device that's used to engender the suspense, but it isn't entirely out of the realm of possibility for anyone who's posting online for something creepy like that to happen.

Zibby: Now everyone in the world will be afraid to post. What happened to Instagram? There was this Carola Lovering book that came out in 2024, or whenever it is. 2024, yeah.

Carola: I think I'm powerless against the force of Instagram.

Zibby: I know you talked about some inspiration for these characters and everything. Was there a relationship in your life or a friend or anything that came from a personal place that found its way into the book or that inspired pieces of the book?

Carola: Absolutely. I would say that this book, second to Tell Me Lies, is the most personal book I've written. Not in a super specific way. There wasn't one friend I was thinking of when I was writing. More just the general theme of getting older and being really solidified in adulthood and finding that you're growing apart from people that you never imagined you'd grow apart from. That's, for me, been a big part of my thirties. I'm thirty-five. I started writing this book when I was in my earlier thirties. It was a time when all of these feelings about friendship were right underneath the surface for me. It felt really accessible to write this story. I think that you get to a certain point and realize that not every friendship is going to grow with you, just like you can't grow with every friend. Along the way, unfortunately, some friendships are going to drift apart. That's part of life. There's a lot of pain involved. There's a lot of complicated emotions and confusion. I definitely feel like I have been both Cassie and Billie, which was a really interesting part of writing this book. I've always written multi-POVs in my novels, but this was the first one where I really identified equally with both main characters.

Usually, there's one person I'm more drawn to in terms of identifying with them. Here, I really felt split between -- I got Billie's perspective. I have been the scorned friend who feels left out by somebody that she's been close with for a long time and can't get a text back. That's really hard and confusing. Then on the other hand, I've experienced some of Cassie's feelings, which arguably, are a little more complicated. Cassie is in the position, which I've definitely been in, of needing to set boundaries with a friend. That's not easy. There's guilt involved. I don't know if it's equally hard, but there's pain on both sides. I've definitely experienced that. This book was really cathartic to write, actually. There were some scenes when I felt like I was journaling. It was great. I always find that when I'm writing a book that feels more personal to me, it's so much easier.

Zibby: I feel like you can tell sometimes when you're reading if somebody really cares.

Carola: Oh, yeah, you can totally tell.

Zibby: It definitely makes for a better experience for both the author and the reader. It's like, why force it? If you're not loving it, no one else will.

Carola: I definitely went to some pretty extreme places. I think that both characters are unlikable. I don't think of myself as being as ruthless as Cassie. I hope that there is something to relate to from a range of angles for readers.

Zibby: Totally. Tell me more about becoming a novelist in general. Were you into writing as a kid? Where did this all come from? When did you know you could do this as a career and all of that?

Carola: I feel like my answer is kind of different. I always loved writing, but I never set out to be a novelist, really. It sort of found me. I was in my twenties. I had majored in English. I'd always loved writing and reading. I had wanted to go into book or magazine publishing after graduation. At the time, those jobs were just so few and far between. I didn't get any of them. The first job that I got was in PR. I didn't love it. I wanted to do something more creative. I had started freelance writing a little bit for publications like Elite Daily and Thought Catalog. I don't know if you remember Thought Catalog. It was big back in 2013. At the time, I was in the aftermath of this toxic relationship that I had been through in college and for a couple years afterwards. That was the inspiration for Tell Me Lies. I had a ton of unresolved feelings over that experience. A close friend of mine, she made the suggestion, she was like, "I know you're trying to write more. Why don't you try to write about this toxic relationship?" I was really inspired by that. I started to do that and just gained momentum and really loved it and decided that I wanted to try to turn it into a novel. That was really how I started writing novels. I had never written creatively before that. I worked on that book on the side of my day job for a few years. I got a lot of rejection, pitched a lot of agents, got a lot of noes, but then finally found my agent and my editor. This is now my career. I feel so, so lucky to be able to do it. I love it more than anything.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh. People who don't know Tell Me Lies, tell them about that, but don't lie about it.

Carola: Don't lie about it. Tell Me Lies is my debut novel which came out in 2018 and is now a Hulu show, which is the most surreal thing in the world.

Zibby: What is that like?

Carola: I still can't believe it. I feel like I'm listening to someone else say that when I say that. It's really crazy. I feel very, very lucky that it made it onto the screen for so many reasons. That is the first book that I wrote. It's very much fiction, but it's inspired loosely by an experience that I went through in college in a toxic relationship. It's kind of about that relationship that you know you shouldn't be in but you can't get out of. It goes on and on for too long.

Zibby: Oh, I thought you meant the book. I was like, what?

Carola: Hopefully not the book. The relationship. Yes, hopefully not the book. There's a little bit of a suspense element in Tell Me Lies as well, which is sort of how I got onto the suspense train in my writing. Now it's a season on Hulu. They're, hopefully soon, starting to film season two.

Zibby: Wow, that's so cool. Good for you. Really awesome.

Carola: Thank you. I feel very blessed.

Zibby: Bye, Baby, it's not just about Billie and Cassie. There are all these supporting characters who play big roles too. It's also -- what's her name? Mary Kay or Carrie Anne? What's her name? Mary Kay?

Carola: McKay.

Zibby: McKay. Sorry. McKay plays a role. So do supporting characters, like the mom who has early-onset Alzheimer's, which was so sad and which you did a really beautiful job writing about. This author who we've been touring lately and who I've been spending a ton of time with, Emma Grey, her mother died of dementia. She had to witness that. The way you wrote about it is so similar to the way she's been talking about it at all these events. It felt very, very real. Have you experienced that? Did you read about it? The way you wrote about it seems to be, from what I keep hearing, very on point.

Carola: Thank you. I actually just listened to your episode with Emma Grey.

Zibby: Oh, you did?

Carola: Yes. Her book sounds so good. I need to get it. It sounds amazing.

Zibby: I'll send it to you.

Carola: I know it's a Zibby Book. I would love that. I haven't experienced that. Thank you for saying that. I'm glad that it felt real. No, I haven't experienced that. My grandfather had dementia, but I wasn't seeing it super close up. I did some research on it and read about it. It was heartbreaking to write, just imagining that. It's so hard. I can't imagine going through that. It's common, obviously, as people get older. I wanted Billie to really have real trauma. I don't want to give any spoilers, but I wanted her to have a real trauma bond to Cassie and show that that's why she can't let go and they're so engrained in each other's lives. For the past chapters, I was so inspired by The Paper Palace.

Zibby: Love that book.

Carola: Which is one of my favorite books. I remember I had just started reading it when I sat down to write Bye, Baby. It's really what made me want to have those past chapter flashbacks. I know she doesn't touch on dementia specifically, but I feel like in that book, there's just so much that happens to the character in her backstory that really solidifies her trauma. I was really inspired by that.

Zibby: Interesting. I love that book. My podcast was before pub. I remember reading it and being like, okay, if this book doesn't do well, I quit. This book is so good.

Carola: It's so good. I keep waiting for her to come out with something else.

Zibby: I know. That would be great.

Carola: I loved it.

Zibby: She's wonderful. What other types of books do you like to read in your spare time?

Carola: I'm a very slow reader, especially right now. I have a three-year-old and a one-year-old. It prohibits my reading time. I do like to read suspense, sometimes thrillers, but I would say more books that are kind of light thriller, suspense, and a little bit more literary. I like to read lit fic too. Honestly, just any books that are being highly recommended to me by people that I know I share taste with is kind of where I gravitate. My list is so long of books that I want to read.

Zibby: When you were writing this book, did you have any kids? It must have been, you had a baby. What was that like? What was your time of life?

Carola: I had my first baby. That actually was a whole nother element that played into some of the content in this book, was me being a new mom and feeling the range of emotions and the isolation and the intrusive thoughts that Cassie feels. That was all playing around in my head too. My son had just turned one at the time that I started writing this. He was born in 2020 during COVID. We didn't have any childcare for a full year because it was COVID. Then when he turned one, we got a part-time nanny. I was like, I'm going to start working on something new. I wrote it from when he was one to age two. I got pregnant halfway through the writing process. I finished the book right before my daughter was born. I wrote it with one child. Now I'm trying to write something with two kids. Writing with one child felt much more manageable to me than trying to write with two children. I know you have four kids. That's a whole nother conversation. I don't know how you do it.

Zibby: They're older. They're much older now. My twins are sixteen and a half, which sounds crazy. My daughter has been reminding me that she's going to be seventeen on her next birthday, which is a joke because she still doesn't put her socks away. Then my little guys aren't even so little. They're nine and ten. They can take care of themselves. Not that they don't want attention. Also, iPads, friends. They do their own thing.

Carola: Totally. The TV is on in our house probably too much, but it's okay.

Zibby: I just feel like at one and three, though, you're so in it yourself emotionally. The sleep is so affected. With older kids, they need you, but it's not like -- you're in full-on trenches at the moment. This is deep trench territory.

Carola: Yes, very in the trenches. I remind myself of that. I know it's not always going to be like that. There are so many precious moments. I know they're fleeting. I want to appreciate all of it. It is hard. I was actually talking to a writer friend about this a couple days ago, what you were saying. The mental piece is hard for writing because writing requires a lot of mental space and clarity. When you have little kids, you can't really have that. When I'm working on a novel, it's important to not just be sitting at my computer, but also taking walks and thinking. I like to go to yoga and think. I don't really get to do that stuff very often anymore. I often find I'm just trying to get my words in every day. I'm like, is this book going to be terrible? You doubt yourself. I'm not in the environment right now that I need to be in to do my best work, but you just have to do it anyway. Whatever is created during this time will be -- what I'm going through will somehow make its way into my work. That's how I feel about Tell Me Lies. I wrote that book at such a specific time in my life when I was going through such a hard time. I look back on it, and I'm like, I could obviously never have written that now. I wrote it when I was in this place when I was in my mid-twenties and really going through something. It captures a moment in time that now, even though I couldn't recreate that, I appreciate it for what it is.

Zibby: Isn't it kind of neat that as you get older, there's always new material? Your audience is aging at the exact same pace as you. Maybe their life events aren't the same. Once you start with one life, next thing you know, you'll be writing about high school. The same readers will still be coming along for the ride. You have to put the stuff of daily life. I say lean into the chaos. Make the chapters as disjointed or -- what was I saying? The toddler just knocked this out of my -- so-and-so couldn't think because this just happened. I don't know. I think, lean into it because we've all been there. Not all of us. Those who have had kids have been there and totally remember and relate.

Carola: Absolutely. I'm not writing fantasy or anything. I'm writing what I know. What I know is going right into the book.

Zibby: Do you have anything you can share about the book you're writing now? Aside from the difficulty you're having writing it.

Carola: Aside from the fact that it's very slow.

Zibby: Aside from the fact that you think it's terrible.

Carola: It could be terrible. I don't know. Time will tell. No one has read it yet. I've only written probably a third of it. My agent and editor are actually both on maternity leave right now, so neither of them even have a clue of what it's about. I can't share too much in case it changes. I will say that it's the darkest book I've ever written. I don't really know why that's coming out right now, but it is. It's about motherhood.

Zibby: That's so weird because it's such a happy time in the world. It's curious why you would ever write anything dark.

Carola: So curious. Yeah, I wonder. It's December, darkest time of year. I know. I feel badly because my editor and agent both just had babies, and I'm writing this book about dark motherhood. I feel like I'm going to terrify both of them.

Zibby: Your editor and agent are going to have to put double locks on their doors, doors and window locks. You never know what you're going to do. Occupational hazard.

Carola: I warned friends. I have some friends that just had their first babies. I have to warn them about Bye, Baby. I'm like, "Just so you know, I don't want this book to be triggering for you. There is an infant that is kidnapped. No spoilers, but it doesn't get as bad as you think."

Zibby: It's not triggering. It's good. Sometimes you need the jolt of feeling to get out of the daily grind. I think that's good. You want to feel like that, like, oh, my god, that terror that you feel. I think it's good to feel.

Carola: Right, and that moment where -- I feel like it happens to me all the time. I'm like, oh, my god, where is my child? I just put them somewhere. I have a one-year-old. She's not walking yet. I put her down, and then I go do something. I come back, and I'm like, where is she? Your mind goes to the worst.

Zibby: I was so sure when I just hosted this birthday party -- when one of the parents came to pick up the kids, I couldn't find her. I was like, oh, my god, I think I lost a kid. Oh, my gosh, what would happen then? What if she doesn't turn up? Where is she? Lots of fodder for future novels. She turned up. Anyway, Carola, congratulations. This was great. Probably another Hulu show in the making. Really awesome. Thank you for coming on. It's been a joy.

Carola: Thank you so much, Zibby. This was so much fun. I really appreciate you having me on.

Zibby: It's a pleasure. Good luck.

Carola: Thank you. Bye.

Zibby: Bye.

Carola Lovering, BYE, BABY

BYE, BABY by Carola Lovering

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