Camille Perri’s second novel, When Katie Met Cassidy, tells the story of two wildly different women who cross paths and find themselves falling in love.
Perri stresses the idea that as long as we live in a world where LGBTQ rights are under attack, a lesbian rom-com free of tragedy that doesn’t explicitly touch on politics ends up being political in and of itself.
“I wanted to write a book about two women falling in love that wasn’t hinged on tragedy or that involved some horrible identity-based misfortune,” Perri told The Advocate. “I wanted to write a pretty standard romantic comedy where nobody dies, nobody gets hurt, nobody gets sick.”
Perri talks about Donald Trump’s election taking place in the middle of her writing When Katie Met Cassidy and how it changed the novel.
“It made me start to think about how I could write a story that was sort of a gift to the queer community and a story that I hope is empowering and entertaining but can also serve as some sort of voice of resistance against the hatred and bigotry that has been rising up in this country,” Perri said.
The novel centers on two women who have had exceptionally different upbringings and experiences with sexuality and gender identity. Katie is a 28-year-old woman who grew up in a conservative Kentucky family, has never entertained the idea that she may be anything other than straight. Cassidy, on the other hand, is a 30-year-old native New Yorker who has been sure of her attraction to women as early as high school. When the two meet during a litigation process for the women’s respective jobs and later run into each other at a bar, Katie is introduced to a world she didn’t even knew existed, as she finds herself excited and confused by her attraction to Cassidy.
Katie’s experience of coming to terms with her queerness relatively later in life is a departure from the coming-out story more commonly seen in media, which tends to center on adolescents exploring their sexual and gender identity.
“I certainly firsthand know and love people who didn’t fall in love with a woman or didn’t even realize they were attracted to women until much later in life, and I’m sure that’s true for many men who find themselves attracted to men as well,” Perri said. “It doesn’t always happen in adolescence. And that experience is completely valid and OK.”
For Perri, one of the important qualities of the novel was accessibility, across not only queer audiences but questioning and straight readers as well. The third-person omniscient narration shifts perspectives between Katie and Cassidy from chapter to chapter. Katie’s voice at the beginning of the novel is that of someone who believes herself to be straight and only later verges into the area of questioning, which makes her perspective one that a straight reader would be able to identify with.
“I think it served to let a straight reader who would maybe be a lot like what Katie is in the opening pages of the book,” Perri said. “I wanted to break a little ceiling and get it into the hands of straight readers as well, so I’m trying to maintain this balance of it doing both, of succeeding at both.”
The level of accessibility that the book offers by opening with Katie’s perspective allows a reader who would not necessarily identify with or seek out Cassidy’s narration to explore and be introduced to a world and a perspective utterly new to them.
“For someone like my two older sisters, who are suburban moms in Long Island, to read that book and get into the head of a masculine-presenting queer character like Cassidy, that’s something they’ve never done before,” Perri said. “Cassidy deserves love and respect just as much as everybody else.”
Perri expressed her hope that When Katie Met Cassidy has the potential to resonate not only with queer readers, but with frequent readers of romantic novels as well, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, noting that Penguin Random House has been nothing but supportive in promoting the queer rom-com novel.
“So far, I have been just bowled over by the enthusiasm and support for this book, not only from the queer community, but also the romance community,” Perri said. “ I didn’t fully know if the mainstream would take to it, and I was kind of OK with that. I would have been totally fine with this book only reaching [queer] readers. I hoped that it would break into the mainstream in a significant way, and it does seem to be doing that. And I’m really, really thrilled by that.”
When Katie Met Cassidy will be available in stores starting next Tuesday.