The Romantics, my love letter to Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Chapel-Hill-Graduation.jpg So if you've read my books, you know that I have a thing for North Carolina. It's where I went to high school and college, and though I haven't lived there in some time, I still treasure the years I spent there. I've set two books in NC now, but both have been in fictional composite towns, little pieces of places I've loved and been inspired by, wrapped up into something new.

That's why I'm so excited about The Romantics, my newest book that comes out in just over two months from Abrams/Amulet. Because The Romantics is set in my favorite place in North Carolina (and one of my favorite places in the world), Chapel Hill.

If you haven't been to Chapel Hill yet, I'm sorry. You should fix that. Now. And if you have, you know how magical and wonderful it is, the perfect little blend of historical university, quirky college town, and Southern charm. (Seriously, you can see how beautiful it is in the silly graduation shot above. That's us in front of the Old Well, a Chapel Hill landmark.)

Even though it's set in a college town, The Romantics mainly follows Gael, a high school student who lives near campus. As he and his friends explore their hometown, I had the opportunity to take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of my favorite college haunts. Below are just a few ...

Cosmic Cantina: The best Mexican restaurant in the world. Home of the super burrito. The ultimate post-bar dive. Frequented by myself and two friends every Wednesday at midnight for four years. Visited in the book by Gael and his friends almost as frequently.

Franklin Street: Main drag for college students. I don't care how many of my favorite spots close, I will never stop loving this street. And even though Gael is in high school, he's spent his fair share of hours hanging on it, as well.

Hinton James: An abysmal, behemoth dormitory that holds a ton of Chapel Hill freshmen. Colloquially referred to as "HoJo," though most Howard Johnsons are probably a hell of a lot nicer. Residence to Sammy Sutton in the book.

The Morehead Planetarium: A gorgeous planetarium on campus, used mainly by students who want to fulfill their science requirement with something that's not Biology or Chemistry. (Actually, Astronomy was still quite hard for a non-science type like me.) Setting of a fictional first kiss in The Romantics.

Spanky's: One of the fancier restaurants on Franklin (meaning you might have to spend $10-15 for dinner, which is just about highway robbery for a college student). Their steak sandwich, the best thing on the menu (and our hero, Gael Brennan's, favorite food), is just $9.75, though. Seriously, go order it. NOW.

The above list is certainly not exhaustive, so you'll have to read The Romantics to find them all. But if you love Chapel Hill as much as I do, I have a feeling you're going to have fun reading this book.

The Romantics releases November 1. Pre-order it here.