Samantha Markhum on her new YA rom-com, Love, Off the Record

"I did a lot of editing and rewriting around her feelings, trying to get it just right."


Two aspiring reporters compete for a top spot on their university newspaper in Love, Off the Record, the new rivals-to-lovers YA rom-com from Samantha Markum. With a charismatic cast of characters, chemistry filled romance, a touch of mystery and  discussions surrounding body image that are equal parts empowering and emotional, Love, Off the Record is a charming read you don’t want to miss.

To celebrate its release, we had the pleasure of asking Samantha a few questions about everything from body diversity to upcoming projects and more.

Hi Samantha! I’m so excited to get to talk to you today about your newest YA novel, Love, Off the Record. For readers just hearing about it, how would you best sum it up in one sentence?

Thanks so much for having me! Love, Off the Record is about two college freshmen named Wyn and Three who are fighting for a lone reporter spot on their university newspaper while also, unbeknownst to them, falling for each other on an anonymous campus-only dating app.

Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind the book and Wyn’s story?

I just love college as a setting for YA novels! Freshman year can be so chaotic and emotionally fraught, it’s the perfect time to get characters into sticky situations and big moments of growth. It’s also a time when a lot of friendships fall apart, or people are separated from their friends, and I loved the idea of writing someone who was very lonely—that was super interesting to me after writing my first two books, which are both centered around these really great friend groups that feel like a family. Going into this book, I wanted to dive into a character who didn’t have friends, and wasn’t good at making them—honestly, someone I could’ve really related to at that age! So much of this book was really about putting together a story I would’ve loved when I was eighteen and in my own emotionally fraught freshman year of college.

What was it about Three’s character that made you decide to write his own story, after first meeting him in your 2022 novel, This May End Badly?

Oh, this is an easy one haha. Three was the original love interest in This May End Badly! It didn’t last long—literally right up until the moment Wells is introduced, which happens in chapter one! But that was originally supposed to be a romance between the biggest players in a prank war between two rival boarding schools, and then Wells did what he does best and strongarmed Three right out of the way. And then Three spent the next two years knocking on a door in my brain going, “Um, hello? I think I’m due my own book?” Which he was, and here we are!


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I absolutely adored your approach to writing Wyn’s relationship with her body. It was both emotional and beautifully empowering to read. What was your thought process while writing it?

I’m so glad you liked it, because this was probably the toughest part of writing Wyn’s story for me! I did a lot of editing and rewriting around her feelings, trying to get it just right. There’s actually an author’s note at the beginning of the book that talks about how Wyn is not always kind to herself, and she’s definitely not the “perfect” plus size person. She has moments of backsliding, of negativity, of internalized fatphobia, and of expecting external fatphobia. She, like me and so many others, has acquired a lifetime of trauma that makes her expect certain reactions to her body, especially from a potential romantic partner. And that isn’t something that’s resolved on the page, because the truth is, that’s a journey that will be lifelong for most of us.

So with Wyn, I really just wanted to write a character who can remind readers that there is nothing shameful or ugly about being fat, while also being someone with complex feelings about her body, who readers can hopefully see themselves in—again, someone I would’ve loved to read about when I was eighteen, and even now far past eighteen!

If you were to give Wyn and Three’s story a soundtrack, what would it be and why?

Well, I definitely have a whole playlist that, of course, starts with “Sabotage” by Beastie Boys. You know, the most romantic song in existence haha. But a soundtrack of their story, that would probably be “zodiac sign” by Taylor Bickett. It’s basically a diary entry from Wyn about Three!

Do you have any further reading recommendations for readers looking for more body diversity within their book?

Definitely! Talia Hibbert, Jenna Miller, Kelsey Rodkey, Crystal Maldonado, Christen Randall, and Ashley Schumacher are all writing fat characters! Also Love Is a Revolution by Renée Watson, I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee, and There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon. And there is a ton of positive fat rep happening in adult romance now too, which is amazing!

Finally, are you currently writing anything new and if so, is there anything you can share with us?

I am working on something new! I can’t share too much, but I can give just a couple of tropes: brother’s best friend, and what I’m calling grumpy/sunshower, because she really wants you to think she’s all sunshine, but she is all rain on the inside!

Get your copy of Love, Off the Record by Samantha Markum here.

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