March 01, 2021 at 04:15 PM EST

Naima Coster's debut novel, Halsey Street, was a finalist for the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Fiction, and this week her sophomore work arrives to high praise and anticipation. What's Mine and Yours is sweeping in its narrative scope, using the integration of a high school in North Carolina to introduce Gee and Noelle, two students on opposite sides of the process. It follows the kids and their mothers across years and locales, from the Southeast to Los Angeles and Paris. Here, Coster tells EW her secrets to literary success.


ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What is the first thing — ever — that you remember writing?

NAIMA COSTER: I remember writing a survival story about a little girl on a deserted island. I have no idea why I wrote it, but it was in the first-person, and I think there were scenes of building shelter, eating fruit, and hanging out on the beach.

What is the last book that made you cry?

Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis — it's a book that reminded me of why I love novels. It's expansive and so deeply felt, the story of five queer women and their friendship as they live under the dictatorship in Uruguay.

Which book is at the top of your current To-Read list?

I can't wait to read the historical fiction novel Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge. She's brilliant, and I've been counting down the months until I get to read this book.

Where do you write?

I have a small office in my apartment, which used to be the office of a friend of mine who is also a novelist. It's got good energy. The best thing about it is that it's got a door that I can close — that space and quiet has been a gift, especially this last year.

Which book made you a forever reader?

I loved Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary. It's about a boy's correspondence with his favorite author, and I adored the family story it tells, which is a tough one.

What's Mine and Yours by Naima Coster
Credit: Sylvie Rosokoff; Grand Central Publishing

What is a snack you couldn't write without?

Does coffee count as a snack?

If you could change one thing about any of your books what would it be?

Both books would have much longer acknowledgment sections. I know that I'm able to write novels in part because so many people in my life have supported me. I could go on for pages and thank everyone from my high school English teachers to my best friends from college to my therapist. I couldn't lead this life without their love and kindness.

What is your favorite part of What's Mine and Yours?

I love the ending. This book has so many characters and spans three decades — it's very satisfying to see the characters who were children at the beginning of the book as adults at the end. It was exciting to bring them all home, to take stock of everything that had changed in their lives, and to hint at what kind of future they have ahead of them.

What was the hardest plot point or character to write?

The character Gee was the hardest to write, although in some ways he's also the most important. At first I thought he was hard to write because we're so different — he's a teenage boy, a North Carolinian. Eventually I realized I was having a tough time writing him because he was holding some of the experiences and emotions that are closest to my heart and experience. Once I saw that, the book cracked wide open.

Write a movie poster tag line for the book:

One tragedy. One town. Two unforgettable families.

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