While Glenville author Jennifer Dugan was stuck at home during the pandemic, she found an escape by writing about a quirky summer road trip helmed by two former friends.
That story will make its way onto bookshelves on Tuesday. Titled “Melt With You,” the queer young-adult romantic comedy follows Fallon and Chloe who go on a cross-country road trip in an ice cream truck to save their families’ business.
It marks the fourth young-adult novel Dugan has had published since 2019 when her debut novel “Hot Dog Girl” was released. “Verona Comics” and “Some Girls Do” were released in the ensuing years and she’s also written a few comics, including “Coven,” which will be out in September.
“For ‘Melt with You’ I wanted to really do another summer rom-com,” Dugan said. “That was completely drafted during the pandemic, and I started drafting it in the very beginning when we realized this wasn’t going to be a two-week thing.”
She thought back to all the experiences that made summer fun — including all the things everyone was missing out on.
“It was really wish-fulfillment. I was [thinking], ‘I wish I could be out having an adventure,’” Dugan said.
Similar to her other books, which all involved unusual jobs, Fallon and Chloe work at their moms’ ice cream company, called “Love at First Bite.” Each delectable flavor, which their mothers come up with, is named after a rom-com trope.
When their moms have an opportunity to take their business to the next level and present their ice cream to venture capitalists in Texas, the former friends have to step up to the plate and work a series of food truck festivals across the country.
They also have to deal with the fallout from last summer, when they hooked up right before Chloe went off to college and, because of a string of misunderstandings, stopped speaking to each other.
The road trip follows a route similar to one Dugan took in 2019, and she names a few local landmarks and routes that longtime residents will recognize.
“I like to sprinkle in [locations] where local people will realize that I’m a local author and recognize some of the settings,” Dugan said. “In ‘Verona Comics,’ I had Stacks espresso, which is a coffee shop that I love. I tried to put Easter eggs for locals in all my books because I think it’s just so fun. I wouldn’t be doing this job without the support of the community.”
Writing the book during the pandemic, especially when most people were home and unable to go many places, was challenging.
“I think that the hardest part was to just get up every day and keep working and hitting deadlines when I couldn’t go to a coffee shop or people-watch to find inspiration or ideas,” Dugan said.
Dugan became a full-time author roughly a year before the pandemic hit.
“There was definitely a big learning curve. There’s just a lot more to it, like social media managing, and it’s running a whole small-build business,” Dugan said.
She’s found a supportive community on Instagram and TikTok.
“TikTok has been just huge for books. They really embraced my book that came out last year, ‘Some Girls Do,’ and they just took it just off the map and in terms of sales,” Dugan said.
“I have some amazing BookTokers who . . . [put] up a copy of my book behind them while they film an unrelated video and I’ll see a huge bump in sales. There’s a massive correlation.”
That’s been especially important during the pandemic when nearly all in-person author events were called off.
“This is my first in-person launch since ‘Hot Dog Girl.’ I haven’t had an in-person launch since 2019. My second book ‘Verona Comics’ came out right after everything shut down. So there weren’t even bookstores open and we hadn’t really figured out the pivot to virtual. So this is going to be really nice,” Dugan said.
To celebrate the release of “Melt with You,” Dugan will be in conversation with fellow author Isabel Sterling at Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Sterling is an LGBTQ advocate, foster mom and author of “These Witches Don’t Burn,” “This Coven Won’t Break” and “This Spell Can’t Last.” For more information on the event visit Northshire.com. For more on Dugan’s books, visit jldugan.com.