YA author and bookfluencer Robby Weber joins Zibby to discuss his latest novel, If You Change Your Mind. The two talk about the importance of diverse representation in love stories, why Robby finds it easy to draft his YA novels, and whether he’s a pantser or a plotter. Robby also tells Zibby which projects he’s working on next and why he might be a 40-year-old man trapped in a 27-year-old’s body. Check out Robby’s Bookstagram here!


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Robby. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss If You Change Your Mind.

Robby Weber: Thank you so much for having me. I’m thrilled to be here.

Zibby: Every time I pick up your book or think about it in my head, I want to start singing. That’s what it’s from, right?

Robby: I know. It’s so funny. When we put the title on Goodreads, someone commented, “Do you think of Abba, or are you normal?” or something. It’s the most-liked comment. I’m so glad people got it because it could’ve gone either way. I think a lot of people get it, which I love.

Zibby: It’s pretty awesome. First of all, I was so excited that you had a book coming out after being a fan of how you do your awesome bookstagram. Of course, now there’s more books coming out. Why don’t we start with — let’s talk about this book. Then I want to hear about your whole bookish journey. Can you tell everybody what If You Change Your Mind is about?

Robby: Yes. If You Change Your Mind is a young adult rom-com. It’s a beach read. It’s basically about this seventeen-year-old boy who wants to be a screenwriter. He’s had his heart broken before. He has his heart set on winning a competition so that he can get into USC’s film school. He’s going to be free of distractions, which, for him, includes cute boys. Of course, his first heartbreak, his first ex comes back to town. He kind of wants to win him back. There’s also this new cute boy in town. He’s really sweet. It’s this classic love triangle with some twists along the way.

Zibby: I don’t know if this was just in my version, in an ARC or whatever. You said in your author’s note that you love a good rom-com, but you hadn’t seen enough with men falling in love with each other and decided to rewrite the narrative, which is awesome.

Robby: Exactly. I really wanted it to be not an issue book. I feel like we want to give readers, especially young readers, the chance and the choice to have both, to have those important conversational books about those issues about coming out and discrimination and things like that, but also, let’s have a happy rom-com space for them, too, to escape when they want to.

Zibby: Did you read Playing the Palace by Paul Rudnick?

Robby: I haven’t yet. I have that one on my list, though.

Zibby: I interviewed him. Was it last summer? That was a similar mission that he had. Why not tell a love story? Why does it have to be anything else?

Robby: I feel like they’re all important. It’s equally important to have the tough conversations and things that comfort you through hard times or answer questions for you, but also to have an escape and to have something a little bit more, maybe, light-hearted.

Zibby: Also, I feel like the best way to teach anybody or show anybody anything is through a story anyway.

Robby: For sure. It’s so funny because with Schitt’s Creek — I don’t know if you’re a Schitt’s Creek fan.

Zibby: My daughter is, so I hear about it all the time. I don’t watch that much TV.

Robby: It’s just funny because — I loved the show. I watched it really late. I watched it during the pandemic. I didn’t really, even as a writer who’s writing these kinds of stories, realize there’s no homophobia on the show. I heard Dan Levy talking about it. Then I was like, oh, you don’t even notice that it’s missing because it’s just such a nice environment. I kind of wanted that to be the same thing with my books. I don’t want anyone to even think about it or miss it or anything.

Zibby: The great part about your book — there are many great parts. Your voice is so awesome and funny and relatable. You just dive right in. We’re in the narrator’s head and feeling all of his crushes and his anger. When he pushes Grant back into the pool when he shows up — his name’s Grant, right? Grant Kennedy?

Robby: Yeah.

Zibby: His old paramour comes back to town. He doesn’t know what to do with himself and then is like, I’m just going to push him in the pool, and doesn’t even think about it. Then he’s like, what was I doing? It’s sort of like the ongoing interior monologue that I guess not everybody has, but I certainly —

Robby: — Especially a teenager. I feel like I still have one sometimes, but especially in those teen years where you’re like, wait, I maybe did not think this through at all.

Zibby: I totally related to the crush, new person, just all of that in the love affair space, but also the character of his mom. You have a passage that I screenshotted to save. Now of course, I don’t have it in front of me. It’s been haunting me. There was a passage about his mom on the beach. He’s there with his two sisters. What is the main character’s name? I’m blanking.

Robby: Harry.

Zibby: Right, Harry, but she calls him Harold. Harry is on the beach with his mom and his two little sisters. He describes his mom as someone who comes to the beach, but only to peek up from her phone and off of Zoom. You didn’t say Zoom, but something like that. I was like, oh, my gosh, is that how I am as a mom? Is that what my kids are thinking, that I’m there at the beach but all I’m doing is peeking up from my phone? Then I’m flashing back to going to the beach club with them the other night. I was literally on an Instagram Live for half an hour on the staircase. I was like, oh, my gosh, I am like Harold’s nightmare mom in fiction. Oh, no.

Robby: You know what? I know that was a word you just said in passing. The nightmare mom thing, I think it’s funny because I actually really want readers and just anyone in general to really respect working moms, especially from that. Even though she is a working mom and she’s a single mom providing for her three kids, she’s present. She’s a big part of their lives. I just have so much respect. Obviously, a lot of the family is based on my family and my experiences. I think there’s no shame in that. I bet your kids probably have the best things to say about you whether you’re on your phone or not. That was a really, really important part of the book for me, actually. I’m really glad that you picked up on it. I think there’s no shame in having to work and balance it. It’s all good.

Zibby: Thank you. It was nice to see a version of myself reflected back to me. You could imagine me sitting there in horror reading this. Not horror. I’m joking.

Robby: No, it’s good. Again, I’m sure your kids only have great things to say about you, honestly.

Zibby: Hopefully, that’s true in public. You had a summer reading thing, which is great. I am in the midst of forcing them to do summer reading, which we’re completely behind on, but I’m not going to admit that. I’m reading it during summer reading time for all of us. You have the summer reading game, which is so great. Whichever of the kids can think of a summer reading book from their list first got to choose dinner. That’s brilliant. Now I’m like, maybe I’ll try that. That’s amazing.

Robby: My eleven-year-old sister, she’s with me over the summer. I was like, “What are you reading for summer reading?” She’s like, “Oh. Um…” I’m like, “Okay, we need to go back to the list. Summer’s almost over.”

Zibby: One of my kids, Educated was on the list. I actually never ended up reading Educated. I was like, “Why don’t I read it out loud to you?” I’m like, this is ridiculous. It’s going to take me a hundred years to do that. She’s supposed to be reading it.

Robby: How old — that’s a really good list. It’s a good summer reading book.

Zibby: I know. She’s fifteen. We started it. It’s much more literary than I thought.

Robby: That’s good.

Zibby: We might have to put it aside. I might finish it without her. Anyway, so there’s that whole mom angle, which I related to a lot, and then of course, the misfit angle. Logan, the new lifeguard, is shoved into a locker, which is so sad. He makes some joke about, his friends do this all the time. Harold’s like, really? I don’t think I have friends who stuff me in a locker and leave my clothes soaking wet in the shower and put my iPhone on top of the lockers and all that. He’s like, what kind of friends are these? There’s also a piece of Logan that everyone can — I’m sorry, not Logan. Yes, Logan. There’s a piece of Logan everyone can relate to when you’re feeling picked on. You’re in a new place. You’re trying to play it off, but how do you do that? I just feel like there’s something for everybody no matter who they are or what stage of life. There’s just so much relatability in this. I, of course, from the beginning wanted to see, is Grant really so great? What’s beneath the cool exterior here? Is he really the JFK Jr. type that I had him in my head? Where did you get this whole, I can’t really call it a love triangle, but all of the plot and the love piece? The cheating friend, that was another thing. Do you tell? Do you not tell? Oh, my gosh, there’s so much.

Robby: I know. It’s funny because when you do the logline, it’s just the love triangle, but there are a lot of different threads that he’s navigating. That was a really important part to me because I wanted it to feel very much like the all-consuming things when you’re a teenager. When you’re seventeen, it’s like the end of the world. In two years, Harry’s not going to remember any of this stuff. I really wanted that to be part of it. I really wanted it to feel like, at some points, why are you so stressed about this? That’s just how we are when we’re teenagers. That was all very conscious. The love triangle or the premise was very much getting over that first love and not being sure if that first love — maybe you guys were meant to be. Maybe you can come back to each other. Maybe you weren’t. All of those questions that you have that there’s no right answer for and you just have to figure out. I like the idea of a falling out of love, falling in love kind of juxtaposition in a story. That was where it came from.

Zibby: I’m interested to hear your process of writing this because in reading it, it feels effortless, like it just must have come right out because it’s so — the tone is conversational in the best possible way — I mean that’s as the highest compliment — and just so fun. It felt very escapist. Your whole branding of the book, too, I feel like plays really well into that. What was it like writing it? Did it just come out of you like that? What was it like?

Robby: Thank you. Easy to write. It’s easy to draft the YA romcoms. I feel like I love getting into that voice of that main character and just going with it. In my life, I’m very much a plotter, but when I’m writing, I’m kind of more of that pantser. I just want to get in their head and see where the story goes. Obviously, the more of a professional endeavor this becomes, the less you can do that.

Zibby: I don’t know.

Robby: As I sell books — I’ve sold two additional books. Those, we sell on a synopsis, so we have to plan those out. With If You Change Your Mind, I was able to literally pants the first two drafts. Then by the time I had really revised it, that’s when I got an agent. That’s when I sold it. I was able to really be super just in Harry’s brain. What’s going to happen? We’re going to see how he feels about this thing. The process, it’s really all about characters for me. It sometimes is a little bit of a struggle because everyone has weaknesses, and my weakness sometimes is plot. Everybody can’t just be happy. Everybody can’t just fall in love and get along and hang out on the beach because that’s not a compelling story. Also, one thing that’s interesting is, I know a lot of writers can write out of order or pick a scene and just write it. I cannot do that because I have to know, how exactly is Harry feeling in this scene because of everything that happened before? That’s really important to me too.

Zibby: That seems incredibly hard to do.

Robby: Maybe if it’s third person, I don’t know if it’d be easier. I can’t imagine writing first person and being like — the smallest thing someone said in the previous chapter could just change everything in their brain. I don’t know.

Zibby: Yeah, unless it’s a full-on time travel.

Robby: Exactly. Then you can get a little —

Zibby: — Then you could do it. Can you take me back to where you grew up, who you are as a person, and how you got into this whole thing and when the bookstagramming started and when your whole writing career — just tell me the whole story. You’re @RobbyReads, R-O-B-B-Y-R-E-A-D-S. Anyone listening, go check that out because I am such a fan of this bookstagram page. Oh, my gosh.

Robby: Thank you. Thank you. I grew up in Florida, grew up at the beach. That’s why basically all my books are beach books. I studied PR.

Zibby: Wait, where in Florida?

Robby: Jacksonville. Northeast Florida, so Jacksonville Beach, Atlantic Beach was where I grew up and went to high school and all of that. I studied PR. I always wanted to work in fashion PR, so I did that in New York. Then I ended up moving home for plenty of reasons. It’s expensive. It’s whatever. Also, once it got cold, Florida boy, I was like, I don’t think I can actually — I’m not cut out for it.

Zibby: You should talk to my husband, who grew up in Florida, who’s just like, “You know, you don’t have to do this with the weather. You don’t have to make it through. There are options here.”

Robby: Exactly. I’ve always written stories in middle school and high school. Middle school was when I first wrote a novel over fifty-something thousand words. I always kept doing that. Then I remember I wrote one when I was in New York. Then when I got home, I was like, I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life because I don’t want to work in fashion, but I know I love writing. I actually was inspired to write Harry’s story at first where he was twenty-one and trying to figure out his life. Adam Silvera actually gave me some really great advice to make it YA just based on the market at the time and based on the voice and the actual story I wanted to tell. I was writing that. Then at the same time, I realized nobody cared on my Instagram when I posted pictures of books. Love my friends and family, but they’re not engaging on it and being like, oh, my gosh, I love this book too. I love interior design. I love trying to find an aesthetic and all that stuff. I just started taking pictures of my bookshelves and made a little Instagram account. It just became this whole thing. It’s been amazing ever since. It’s been a great platform to market my books and to reach readers and other authors. That’s been really amazing too, to have friends in the industry before I’m even starting out.

Zibby: It’s so cool. When did that start?

Robby: That was summer of 2017. The bookstagram thing is one of those where sometimes I’ll have a quarter-life crisis where I’m like, what am I going to do with this? It was so much of a really personal creative outlet for so long. Then as you know, as you start to make something a little bit more professional or you start to market products and things like that, you have to think about it a little bit differently. I’m trying to figure out how to keep it fun and keep it engaging. Also, I’m getting older, and I want to keep certain things private. It’s an interesting thing to navigate. It’s been a lot of fun.

Zibby: How old are you? Am I allowed to ask?

Robby: Yeah. I’m twenty-seven. I say I’m getting older, but when you’re twenty-two when you start something versus you get — I feel like these years, you start to quickly find yourself in who you are and what’s important to you and all of that stuff. I think it’s a big difference me being twenty-two.

Zibby: I honestly do not think I could’ve lived my life with so much flux all the time on Instagram the way everybody does, all the young people now. Not that I’m so old. I’m forty-five. Until my life was fully set, so to speak, the second time I guess, I can’t even imagine going through some of the stuff I went through. Even if I had gone through my divorce while I was on Instagram, which I wasn’t, how would I have even handled that? It is crazy.

Robby: It’s two-sided. People kind of expect certain access to certain things about you because they feel like you’re friends. In a lot of cases, maybe you are. You have a community. It’s also, how do you determine what the boundaries are? It’s very interesting.

Zibby: What do you want to do? You have this book, obviously, which is fantastic. By the way, the YA distinction, for me, is so murky because it’s just as much a book for grown-ups as it is — just because it has a teenage character — Jennifer Weiner’s books have teenage characters. They’re not YA. What makes something YA? I wouldn’t even necessarily put this in a YA — it’s also so clever. There are so many references to older things.

Robby: I know. It’s hit or miss if that goes over younger readers’ heads.

Zibby: Oh, I got it.

Robby: The teens, a lot of times, they’re like, what is Casablanca? I’m like, we got to get that in schools or something.

Zibby: Exactly, pop culture class.

Robby: I think it might be content. There’s not sex. There is swearing, but it’s not — I think there’s only one F-bomb in the whole — things like that I think start to become factors in if it’s young adult or if it’s adult. If there were a lot more mature themes, I think then it would start to push up into there.

Zibby: All right, fine. Whatever. You have another book coming out in summer of ’23. What is that about? What’s that called? All that stuff.

Robby: That is called I Like Me Better. I am actually finishing up edits for that now. It is about another seventeen-year-old named Zach. It’s actually in the same town. It’s the year younger than Harry. It’s kind of like we’re going to the next generation, or not generation, I guess.

Zibby: Next class?

Robby: Yeah, the next class. He’s the soccer star. He’s the captain. He’s the homecoming prince. He is ready to have a really fun summer. He ends up getting in some trouble and gets community service at the Marine Institute, which is a conservation center and aquarium at the beach. He has to navigate a summer he did not expect. There’s, of course, a cute boy who is kind of different because he doesn’t really give Zach the “You’re popular. I’m going to give you the time of day” treatment that he’s used to. It’s just all about this summer of things that are unexpected.

Zibby: Very cool. What’s after that?

Robby: After that is summer — what are we at? ’23, so ’24. God, I can’t believe we’re talking about 2024. My next book is called What is This Feeling?, which is about the next class. It is a teenage boy named Teddy who is going on his senior trip with the theater department to New York City. They have a scavenger hunt. He wants to meet his Broadway idol. He’s going to share a room with his best friend, but at the last minute, she can’t go. He gets stuck rooming with this boy who’s kind of a loner. He’s kind of quiet. You know what’s going to happen from there.

Zibby: Awesome. It’s great. You’re doing Sweet Valley High for today.

Robby: I’m trying.

Zibby: Did you read those books? Do you know what I’m talking about?

Robby: Yeah, I love Sweet Valley High.

Zibby: You must have because you seem to be a forty-five-year-old trapped in the body of a twenty-seven-year-old.

Robby: I think I might be. It’s kind of a running joke. Sometimes I do think that. One thing is, in If You Change Your Mind, Harry’s so influenced by his mom. There’s a part where they talk about favorite books and songs. He loves When Harry Met Sally because his name’s Harry. He likes Cyndi Lauper because of his mom. Those are things that are very much pulled from my life. Growing up with my mom as my best friend, a lot of things that I learned and appreciate are maybe from when she was younger or passed on or whatever. I think maybe I am in my forties in my brain.

Zibby: How old is your mom? I feel like maybe your mom and I —

Robby: — Forty-seven. She had me when she was young. Twenty, I think. Yeah.

Zibby: Is she in the writing world at all?

Robby: No, she is not at all. She loves books, though.

Zibby: I feel like she and I might be friends.

Robby: You totally could be, a hundred percent. I got my love of reading from her, for sure.

Zibby: That’s amazing. I know you said you’re rethinking — not rethinking, but pondering direction strategically of your whole thing with all these books coming out and everything. What are you trying to achieve that you have not achieved? Where do you want to take this? Do you want to be a brand yourself and recommending books? Are you involved, by the way, with Reese’s Book Club at all, or are you just a huge fun? I know that’s all over. You their books.

Robby: I’ve just been a fan for so long that now they are so nice and will send me their PR packages or send me things or include me in helping to push things out, which is really fun because it’s my favorite — Reese’s Book Club kind of revitalized my love for @RobbyReads when it was like, what do I want to do with this? It became, this is a really fun new community to be part of. No, I’m not part of it or anything. I wish.

Zibby: What about film stuff? There’s all this screenwriting. You intersperse all the characters with, actually, a screenplay, which is very cool. I’m like, wow, he’s actually writing a screenplay and putting it in this book at the same time, which is actually two in one if you think about it. Are you interested in doing that? Is this going to be a movie? Did I miss some news and you actually are already making this a movie?

Robby: No news yet about it being a movie. I hope so. That would be great. You never know. I do really want to get into screenwriting. I just got, I think it’s called Final Draft. I just downloaded the trial. Once I finish these edits, I’m going to start playing around with it. The funny thing is, the screenplay in If You Change Your Mind is met with some mixed reviews, which I totally knew was going to happen because I knew it’s pretty — you’re either going to like it or you’re not. One of the things that is funny to me is people are like, this is like it’s written by a teenager. It’s actually consciously not my best screenwriting because it’s supposed to be Harry at seventeen. It’s kind of funny because I do think some people probably are like, this guy does not know how to write a screenplay. To be fair, I actually don’t. I have some stories and some ideas in my head where I’m like, this is definitely not a first-person. This is definitely not a novel. I would love to write a domestic thriller or something like that. I love book club books. I would love to do that. I don’t know if it would be a book or a screenplay or whatever. I would love to get into screenwriting at some point, or at least attempt it, see what happens.

Zibby: Did the same publisher buy all your books?

Robby: Yes.

Zibby: Is it Berkley, or did I make that up?

Robby: No. It’s Inkyard, so with Harper. I don’t know if Berkley is Harper or Penguin, actually. They might be, even, separate. Berkley is — I have written an adult rom-com, and we’re currently editing it. Breaking the news here first. Hopefully, that will sell and become something. You never know. I would love to start getting into that space as well.

Zibby: Send it to Zibby Books if you’re allowed to do it. That’s where I was going, if you have a non-exclusive or whatever.

Robby: Yeah, we’ll talk.

Zibby: Stay in touch. I feel like there’s some fun stuff we could do together, this huge love of books and color.

Robby: Oh, my god, I know. I’ve been looking at your bookshelves.

Zibby: Not here, not so much.

Robby: I try to do the color-coordinated, but I get stressed because I’ll add a book to it. Then I’m like, I got to redo everything. Maybe I need to stop getting so many books.

Zibby: I’m not in my full-time house right now. I’m here for the summer. Every summer, I stick more — I’m pointing, but you can’t really see. Around the corner is this walk-in closet. There are no clothes. It is full-on books.

Robby: That’s how my guest closet is, literally. I show people. I’m like, you’re going to die. Come look at this. It’s literally my crafting chest or whatever you call it, random stuff, and then books just piled up against the wall.

Zibby: I even gave away so many to a local library twice. It’s still full. Now I’m like, I don’t know. Although, I saw somewhere — who was doing this? I think it was the Jewish Book Council. For their Jewish Book Awards, they get so many submissions. I just saw on Instagram they’re having an open house from three to six for anybody to come in and get books or something.

Robby: They’re like, please.

Zibby: They’re like, please, just take my books. I was like, that’s interesting. I could do —

Robby: — One of my libraries wouldn’t take books. They’re like, “We have too many.” I was like, okay. I guess that’s good. I don’t know.

Zibby: I literally just filled some tote bags and was like, buh-bye. Here you go. Have fun. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Robby: I have one thing that I always say. If anyone’s listened to anything I’ve ever done, they’re like, okay, do you have anything else? I think really writing what’s true to you just makes all the difference in the world. There were times when other agents and other editors who I didn’t end up working with maybe wanted to make it more of a hooky novel, adding that kind of element. I always reference things like, who was the anonymous person on the other side of the email? Those kinds of things where it’s an obvious sell of a hook, I just always knew that wasn’t the story I wanted to tell. I wanted it to be a quiet, character-driven story. I think that just adding those elements of things that, maybe you might not see them in the market or you might think that they would make your book less of a sale or things like that, if you stick to that, I think you end up with a more authentic and more true story and one that you’re proud of. At the end of the day, even if your book — I don’t know, I haven’t hit The New York Times best-seller list. I would assume even if your book hit The New York Times best-seller list but you didn’t love it, I can’t imagine that’s as gratifying as if you were true to yourself your entire career and you were proud of all of the books that you put out. That’s what I always want to say. Keep writing things that feel like you, that feel true, and that you are proud of and have your heart in.

Zibby: I need to hear that today too. Thank you, Robby.

Robby: I have to tell myself that. Even with I Like Me Better, it’s been fully written two or three times at this point. This iteration is the most me version. It feels like it’s a Robby Weber book. It’s not a companion to If You Change Your Mind, but I know readers who liked that will like this. It takes a minute sometimes to get there, but it’s also — along the way, I was fighting things being like, I need to make it like this so that the market likes it. At some point, you’ve got to stop doing that because what you bring to the table, someone else can’t. Maybe they can, but you know what I mean. There’s only one you.

Zibby: I know what you mean. I totally agree. Not every writer can provide everything the market needs. It’s like J.Crew. Now they’re making the weirdest stuff. I’m like, maybe you’re appealing to more people, but you’ve lost me.

Robby: I know. God, don’t even get me started on — I love J.Crew, but I’m always like, okay, where is the stuff I’m going to wear?

Zibby: Right? I used to only wear J.Crew. Now I’m like, now what?

Robby: I’m wearing J.Crew right now. There you go. You have to find the pieces. I’m like, I don’t think I’m cool enough for this.

Zibby: I know. Such a bummer. That’s what happens when you deviate from your brand and your core audience and you try something new. You’ll get new people, but then you’ll hurt people’s feelings, essentially, who are loyal and come to you for you or come to you for what your brand was supposed to represent. It’s always a risk. Then again, you have to innovate, but I think you need to bring your —

Robby: — I feel like you follow your gut. I think there’s things that you innovate, and you kind of know, you’re like, this is right. There’s some things where you’re like — I’m not even saying if you’re scared of something, don’t do it, but more like, if your gut is like this, it just doesn’t feel like it’s right, that’s a different story.

Zibby: I wrote a prose poem. I was like, I should not be doing this. Anyway, Robby, thank you so much. This was so fun. Can we please stay in touch? I feel like there’s so much cool stuff we could do together.

Robby: Oh, my gosh, yes, please. This has been so much fun. It’s been so great. Thank you so much.

Zibby: Bye.

Robby: Bye.


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