It's the night of senior prom, and eighteen-year-old Julia has made a pact with her friends. (Yes, that kind of pact.) They have secured a secluded cabin in the woods, one night without parental supervision, and plenty of condoms. But as soon as they leave the dance, the pact begins to unravel. Alex's grandmother is undergoing emergency surgery, and he and his date rush to the hospital. Zoe's trying to figure out how she feels about getting off the waitlist at Yale--and how to tell her girlfriend. Madison's chronic illness flares, holding her back once again from being a normal teenager. And Julia's fantasy-themed role play gets her locked in a closet. Alternating between each character's perspective and their ridiculous group chat, The Night When No One Had Sex finds a group of friends navigating the tenuous transition into adulthood and embracing the uncertainty of life after high school.
About the Author
Kalena Miller is a teacher, editor, and writer of books for children and young adults. She studied Religion and Gender Studies at Carleton College before receiving a Masters in Creative Writing from Hamline University. She currently lives in Hopkins, Minnesota with her husband and lovable, if slightly neurotic, dog. Website: www.kalenamiller.com Twitter: @itskalenamiller Instagram: @itskalenamiller
Interview by Louisa Onomé
The premise behind your story is so unique. What prompted it? Where did this idea come
I was in a writing workshop, and one of my mentors told me I was skilled at writing sex scenes. I was so excited that I really ran with that compliment and started writing a book comprised entirely of sex scenes (as a joke). Well, it turns out that I enjoyed the characters and stories I was creating, so I backtracked to work on necessities like plot and momentum. The rest is history!
Humour can add so much depth to a story. What's your take on infusing your debut with
humour? Did you find it was a natural extension of the narrative?
I love writing humor, and I always imagined this project as a madcap comedy of sorts. My
favorite comedy emerges from chaos and misunderstandings and awkward encounters, so an all-in-one-night story was the perfect vehicle for that kind of voice. After that, the humor came naturally to the manuscript. I focused on creating lively characters, putting them in funny situations, and then seeing how that dynamic played out organically.
The voice in your story is so strong and you did a great job creating such distinct POVs.
What sort of tips did you follow to make this happen?
While I was drafting, I worked on each point of view individually. This required a detailed plot to begin with and lots of tweaking during the revision process, but I believe writing one voice at a time allowed me to really get inside each character’s head. After that, my process for distinguishing voices is somewhat systematic. I keep a spreadsheet of each character’s favorite phrases, notable sentence structures, and texting habits. (Thank GOD for Word’s find and replace feature.)
Some of the heavier parts of the book, namely with Alex and his grandmother, are written
with so much depth and care. Can you speak a bit more to your process when writing or
unearthing these scenes?
That makes me so happy! I struggled the most with Alex’s chapters, both because they were
heavier and because it was my first time writing a male POV. When I’m writing emotional
moments, one strategy I often employ is to zoom in and focus on the tiniest details—the texture of a lottery ticket, the taste of bad coffee. When feelings are that big, allowing little moments to build upon themselves has the power to create those visceral emotions without beating the reader over the head with angst.
And finally, just for fun, are there any cool parts of the story that existed in a previous
draft and didn't quite make the cut to the final version?
Alex’s storyline used to involve a more specific focus on American politics. I actually enjoyed
the nuances of that plot, but a couple things compelled me to change course. First, after four years of a Trump presidency and a global pandemic, it was much more difficult to successfully land jokes about American politics. And second, the book was acquired in Germany (yay!), and I wanted the story to be accessible to those without an intimate knowledge of American politics.
Pick up a copy of THE NIGHT WHEN NO ONE HAD SEX at your favorite indie bookstore or at the following retailers:
Louisa Onomé is a Nigerian-Canadian writer of books for teens. She holds a BA in professional writing and is an all-around cheerleader for diverse works and writers. When not writing, her hobbies include picking up languages she may never use, crying over her favourite video games, and perfecting her skincare routine. She resides in the Toronto area. Twitter: @louisaonome_