Rochelle B. Weinstein, WHEN WE LET GO

Rochelle B. Weinstein, WHEN WE LET GO

Bestselling author Rochelle B. Weinstein returns to talk with Zibby about her latest novel, When We Let Go, which was inspired by her personal healing in North Carolina’s mountains. The two discuss the novel’s timely conversation on reproductive rights, where the love for someone goes when you lose them, and the psychology behind letting go of our emotional baggage. Rochelle also shares what her daily writing schedule looks like and her thoughts on the ups and downs of what publishing is really like behind the scenes.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Rochelle. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” again to talk about When We Let Go, your most recent novel.

Rochelle B. Weinstein: Thank you for having me. You know I always love our chats.

Zibby: Me too. You know how much I’m obsessed with this cover. I still think this is one of my favorite covers, the colors, the suitcase, the flowers. For anyone listening, just go google this book, When We Let Go, Rochelle B. Weinstein. Wein-steen? It’s not Wein-stine, right?

Rochelle: No. I’m not the Einstein. I’m the Weinstein.

Zibby: I thought so. Then I was like, that’s what I’ve always said, but maybe it’s one of those things where you always feel bad correcting me or something. Anyway, I love the cover. The story, my gosh, it was dark. There were darks parts of this, but still inspiring. Tell listeners what When We Let Go is about.

Rochelle: When We Let Go follows the journey of Avery Beckett. She’s harboring a big secret, a big tragedy from her past. It’s inhibiting her current relationship and really connecting. She’s based in Miami. She’s called back to North Carolina where this tragedy occurred and where her family lives on this farm in Crystal, North Carolina. On her way to North Carolina, she’s met with a stowaway in the backseat of her car, which is her current boyfriend/we’re on a break’s daughter. What follows is this incredible journey of these two women who are broken. Elle is still reeling from the death of her mother. She doesn’t like Avery’s presence in her father’s life. She’s an angsty fifteen-year-old. What’s so beautiful — you probably know this. I spend a lot of time in the North Carolina mountains. I find them to be extremely healing. I turned that healing into a fictionalized story. These two come together in these beautiful — they really just ground themselves in nature. It really comes back to just going home and how they heal each other through their pain. Avery eventually deals with her secret and reconciling with her past.

Zibby: There’s also the whole subplot, if you will, of how you deal with the children of the person that you’re dating/marrying/whatever, which I am intimately familiar with given that Kyle has to deal with my kids all the time. It was so interesting for me in particular, that part of it and how Avery is able to navigate the relationships, how much affection she feels when — can I say what happens with the sons, or is that a secret? It’s pretty early.

Rochelle: Oh, yeah. That’s fine.

Zibby: When the sons accidentally eat the teenage girl’s edibles and they are in the hospital, but there’s a serious health concern once they eat this whole bucket of edibles thinking they’re gummy bears, it’s carving out her heart the way it would with anyone you care so much about. Even when she decides to take a break, how she feels about the kids is just killing her. Talk about that aspect of this whole scenario.

Rochelle: I think that because of Avery’s loss — we know early on that she’s lost a — do we know early on that she’s lost —

Zibby: — We know pretty early on that she lost —

Rochelle: — A child. I think that there’s this part of her that wants so badly to experience those feelings and be accepted in their lives and to sort of do it again and have a do-over. I think she harbored so much of this guilt. At the same time, you’ve probably — maybe Kyle’s experienced this. There’s probably this tremendous fear. There’s also this tremendous willingness and desire to connect. Those two emotions, they battle each other. There’s this part of her that wants that connection, but I think she’s really terrified of it and scared she’s going to muck it up.

Zibby: I feel like that’s in every relationship, in part, a little bit, but very true. I was also interested — I went back and made sure that I got it right. She is grieving a child. Yet the child was not born yet. We know that early too, so I feel like I can say that. The child was thirty-eight weeks in utero. There is so much in the news. Not that this relates to abortion specifically. What makes a child? When is a child a child? What rights do we have over our body? I’ve known people with very late-stage losses. It’s absolutely devastating. Oh, my god. It was an interesting choice to have Avery lose her baby in utero then versus a baby that’s born. What made you decide to do it then?

Rochelle: First of all, this book was written two, three years ago, so this was not going on in current events at all. It wasn’t dictated by that. I write what I know and what I’m familiar with. I haven’t experienced that type of loss, but two very close friends of mine did and had to give birth to the child. It was a fully formed human being. I just extrapolated from those, what I watched and what I observed and how I saw it. There was nothing political about it. We were far away from this moment in time we’re at right now. To see someone go through that experience — most women are giving birth to a child, and it’s the beginning. For this woman, it was the end for her. What does birth signify for her? How painful that was for her to have gone through. My friends who have been through this and any woman who’s been through this, it’s devastating. We know a lot of people. I know you know a lot of people even in our little social media world that were very public about it. It’s truly tragic.

Zibby: I remember when I was maybe nine or ten years old, the superintendent of my school — I think he was the superintendent. I don’t know what his official title was. He worked in the school every day. He had a stillborn. Everyone in the school knew. We all had to have a moment of silence and send him a card or something like that. I remember going home that night and talking to my parents about it and being like, “Would you rather have me –” I am sort of —

Rochelle: — Morbid?

Zibby: Morbid, I guess.

Rochelle: Morbid, real, honest.

Zibby: I was like, “If you had the choice, would you rather me die in childbirth as your child or now at age ten? Would it have been easier? What would have been easier for you?” I was weird.

Rochelle: That is the most horrible — you were a journalist back then. How old were you?

Zibby: I was nine or ten. I’ll never forget this because my dad said, “Now, for sure, because I had the chance to get to know you.” I was like, “Yeah, but doesn’t that make it harder that you would know me and then lose me?” He was like, “No, no.”

Rochelle: He said it would be easier now?

Zibby: He said he would rather have ten years because at least he would’ve had ten years with me versus not the opportunity to get to know me at all.

Rochelle: But that would be so much harder.

Zibby: That’s what I thought, but that’s not what he said.

Rochelle: I think that makes sense in some ways because you would rather have that time than no time at all.

Zibby: Yeah, I guess. I don’t know. I never forgot that moment. We were sitting at the dinner table. Anyway, yes, it’s devastating when it happens. It’s just terrible. You wrote it with so much —

Rochelle: — I also feel that people — unless someone experiences something, it’s very difficult to understand and empathize with feelings. You know I don’t read my reviews. I’m very public about that. Steven will read me my reviews. There’ll be some comments about, I don’t even know what. I know you’ve just had some experience with people writing things about — I’m like, you know what? If you don’t experience it, you just don’t get it. We have to be the people — you were talking about this today or yesterday. We need to be the people that need to share those experiences and build upon the empathy or gather more empathy in our world.

Zibby: I think so. I posted that one comment on Twitter. I’ve tried to listen and not read my reviews, so I really only skim. If I see negative ones, I skim to the next. I’ve stopped. After the first week or two, I’m trying not to even go there.

Rochelle: You know what? You should have a designated person that reads your reviews. Even the one stars, one or two, if there’s something that’s consistent, it’s something to think about for your next book. I know memoir is a little bit different. It feels much more personal. Sometimes there’s some constructive criticism. It’s okay. We all have to deal with it. I think that when you have that person who’s funneling it to you and sort of curating it so it’s not as painful — Steven will text me and be like, “You just got a great review,” or he’ll be like, “.” I just think that the further away you are from it, the better you are if you have somebody as the go-between.

Zibby: You’re right. If anyone listening would like to read all my reviews and let me know, let me know.

Rochelle: By the way, I think that’s Kyle’s job. You need to tell him that.

Zibby: He’s not a big reader. I feel like that would be very taxing. Losing an ex, parting with an ex in any way is something I think about a lot too because where does that love go? When you’ve loved someone, when your paths diverge after this period of intensity, what happens with that? Does it evaporate? Where does love go when there’s nowhere to place it or you decide you’re not right for someone? I don’t know. I spend time thinking about that. What do you think about that?

Rochelle: I’m listening to you talk. I’m thinking about, is she talking about her ex-husband? I’m thinking about where this is going.

Zibby: No, no. I think about the whole course of my life, which I revisit writing Bookends. Not even romantic love, people that I’ve lost, like my best friend or my grandmother, where does the love go? Where does her love for me go? Where does my love for her go? I don’t know. This sounds ridiculous now.

Rochelle: No, it doesn’t. You’re very good at putting your love out there in Bookends. We’re going to plug Bookends right now. Like you said, there’s multiple types of love, familial love, friendship love, romantic love. I don’t believe that there’s that one person, there’s that one love. I think that it’s very multifaceted. Listen, you’re talking to somebody who — I still have friendships with ex-boyfriends. People think it’s weird. Like you’re saying, where does that love go? I think the root of love is, oftentimes, friendship and a mutual and possible respect for one another. I think that it’s okay to compartmentalize and to have those lost loves, those lost friendships. They’re in our hearts. They’re always in our tears. I read a quote — I wish I could remember it; it’ll come back to me later — about how love, or I guess grief, losing somebody is felt in our tears and our words. I lost my mom. She’s with me in every one of my books in some way. That love is through a butterfly. It’s in something that she has said to me. I think that they’re all around us. It’s okay not to judge ourselves for that.

Zibby: I love that. I bring it up because I feel like Avery is grappling with this a lot. What does she do with it? I’ll stop being all woo-woo this morning.

Rochelle: You’re speaking my language, though.

Zibby: Oh, okay. The whole notion of the proposal and the dashed hopes of someone, like you start your novel with, which courses through the book because it’s all the repercussions of that moment — this is probably not gender-good for these days. It’s still mostly, or seems to be, on the shoulder of the men to come up with these elaborate engagements. I’m sure that is changing. Let’s just say for our generation or something, that was very much the case. You like to believe that they know what the answer’s going to be, but then sometimes you have these big public displays. You hear about it in restaurants. Something happens. Then there’s the hurt of that. They’re so hurt that it obscures the relationship. I was so interested with Avery because she was offended after. When he withdrew — what is his name again? I’m so bad with names. I never remember. What’s the guy’s name?

Rochelle: Jude.

Zibby: Jude, right. When Jude gets rejected, then he, understandably, kind of recoils and doesn’t want to let her in and puts up his defenses. Then she’s offended by his defenses and is almost confused by it. She’s like, a minute ago, he wanted to spend his life with me, but now he doesn’t want anything to do with me. Then she’s hurt. She hurts him. His defenses go up. She gets hurt. It’s understandable. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but it’s still so hard not to take personally, being rebuffed by somebody you love so much even if it’s caused by something that you do. Tell me about that.

Rochelle: First of all, I want to say something. I don’t know if this answers your question. Going back to proposals and stuff, I think it’s so incredibly admirable to have the strength and the courage to be able to say no when you’re not feeling it because it’s so easy to get caught up in the hoopla of an engagement and not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings. How often do people end up saying yes, getting married out of fear of hurting somebody that they love? Their feelings almost don’t matter. I have a brother — I’m sure he’s going to love me for saying this. Three weeks before his wedding, he canceled. It was a horrible thing, but I do admire being able to be true to yourself and having the courage because that takes a ton — I think it’s so much easier to get married than to walk away at three weeks when people have already bought dresses and whatnot. That doesn’t answer your question, but her saying no in that moment — I don’t even know if she really said no. She didn’t yes.

Zibby: That’s true. She just didn’t give an answer. It’s true.

Rochelle: She didn’t answer. She didn’t give an answer. She just needed to go home. She needed to let go of that struggle with Jude and with her past. There was no way around it. She was back and forth, like you said. She was the push/pull. There was really no way to get them where they needed to be without her going home.

Zibby: Yes, very true. Her relationship with her sister changes so much over the course of the book. She has sort of associated her sister with this terribly sad time of life. It was another barrier that she put up this time, in a way, to protect herself and block out —

Rochelle: — It’s so easy to blame someone else. We all do that. It’s so easy to blame someone else rather than to look inward and see, what did I do? How did I contribute to this? How could I fix this? I think that it was just holding onto that anger. That’s the other thing in this book, is a lot of the holding on, letting in, letting go. Holding onto the anger toward her sister, it was working for her. It was working for her until it stopped working.

Zibby: I love the whole letting go of the baggage metaphor of the cover because there is so much to let go with past sadness and past anger, like you’re saying. Imagine if everyone just was like, okay, you know that fight we had two weeks ago? Forget it. You know that thing that happened in high school? I’m over it. I’m still talking about this one mean note somebody wrote me in second grade. What is my problem?

Rochelle: I was recently talking to somebody about letting go. There are some things that we just don’t — we’re so rational in our thinking. We understand that it is so irrational to be holding onto it. Why is it so difficult to let it go?

Zibby: Why is it? Did you do any psychological digging?

Rochelle: We have been psychologically digging about this for weeks. Sometimes I think it’s just, the feeling that we get from it is a comfortable feeling. To deviate from that feeling is a little uncomfortable for us. I will say, to go back to the cover with the baggage, I didn’t realize this until after the book came out and I spent some time just staring at the cover, but to me, the flowers were Avery and Elle. Their seeds were planted. We watch them through the course of this story, flourish and grow. They both were able to let go.

Zibby: I like it. Lots of meanings. Rochelle, you have maintained a career as an author, which is something that not — I don’t even know what .0-whatever percent can do that. Book after book comes out. How do you do this? You’re with Lake Union. You were extolling the virtues of the First Reads program, which I know you’ve benefited from. Talk to me about publishing with Lake Union, which is owned by Amazon Publishing. Talk to me about how you maintain a schedule and the pros and cons of this whole life.

Rochelle: Oh, gosh.

Zibby: Too big a question?

Rochelle: I just taught a course on this. I teach a workshop in Miami through Nova Southeastern University about publishing and agenting and whatnot. First of all, there’s no formula to this business. There is no formula. It’s interesting. You might look at my career online, social media, and it looks like a straight shoot, seamless. It’s never like that. There’s been so many ups and downs. I did a graph of my seven books for the class. Each book was a different color. I titled it “The Roller Coaster Ride from Hell” because that’s truly what it is. It’s not easy. The one piece of advice that I could give to any author — I say this all the time, so I’m sorry if this is redundant. You have to keep writing. You’re only as good as your last book. You just have to keep providing content to be relevant. If you’re not writing, you’re putting nothing out there. You’re not building your brand. You’re not building your audience. Not every book is going to stick. Think about one of your favorite authors and going, I didn’t love that one so much, but then they come out with the next one. You need to have thick skin. I don’t think you should be reading your reviews.

As far as my daily writing — okay, so Lake Union. Let me backtrack. I love working with Lake Union. I self-published my first two books. What I loved about working with Lake Union, it was the personal touch. It was collaborative at the same time. I felt like there was still some autonomy that I had with self-publishing. It was the best of both worlds. Listen, you can’t be Amazon — don’t hate me for saying this. You can’t be Amazon’s muscle. Their marketing, their ability to, “You’ve read this book. You’ll like this book,” and their email and their marketing, they are the gorilla in the room. I think you also know this about me. I’m a huge book reader, physical book reader. I love supporting the indie bookstores. I think there is a way that we could all get along. That could be a whole other panel one day. It’s all for the good of readers and for books. I just think there has to be some way that we could all work together. I do try to do that with contests and whatnot. I support indie. Anyway, I love working with Lake Union. I love my editor. They’ve already bought my — the last two books were not easily sold. There was a drag. There was a long backstory for this story. When I turned it in, it took five months for them to get back to me.

Zibby: Why?

Rochelle: Why? Like anything, COVID, delays, a backlog. You think someone who’s already had however many books, it wouldn’t happen, but it happens. It happens to all of us. The key is getting back up, dusting off your back. You put it out there. Then the next day, you’re out and about. You talk about some of your struggles. Then the next day, you’re moving and shaking. That’s what you have to do. You can’t harp it. I give it the twenty-four-hour rule. I can be upset. I can be angry. Then I get back to writing. The last book took them five months to get back to me. My next one that’s coming out in May of 2023, it took two seconds, two minutes. It was on proposal and first fifty pages.

Zibby: What is that one?

Rochelle: That one is titled — see, I don’t even remember. What You Do to Me. It is a Rolling Stone reporter who is on the story behind a famous love song. It’s a dual timeline; seventies, nineties. I’m really excited about this one.

Zibby: That’s so cool.

Rochelle: It’s not easy. You know this yourself. You’re going through it right now with your books and the ups and the downs and the excitement. It’s never as great as it looks. It’s never as bad as it looks. It’s the nature of the beast of this business. I will tell anybody that wants to become an author that they just have to keep moving forward and not giving up.

Zibby: I totally agree. Then look, one day, you’re Lisa Barr, our mutual friend who we adore, and she hits the best-seller list. It’s amazing.

Rochelle: New York Times.

Zibby: I don’t think I’ve ever — that can’t be true. It was one of the most excited I’ve ever been for a friend in my life. I was so excited for her. Oh, my gosh.

Rochelle: It was also one of my closest friends to become a New York Times best-seller. To see how Lisa worked so incredibly hard and to see the fruits of her labor, that was just so satisfying to see.

Zibby: Yes. It didn’t fall from the heavens. It was well-earned. Rochelle, thank you. I could talk to you all day. I hope to see you again. I’ll be in the Miami area in November 19th, 20th for the Miami Book Fair.

Rochelle: I will see you.

Zibby: See you there. Bye.

Rochelle: Bye.

WHEN WE LET GO by Rochelle B. Weinstein

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