What if you’d been living your life as if you were dying—only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you?
When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, whom she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her arch nemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger and reliving some childhood memories). But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission.
Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she’s said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she done irreparable damage to the people around her, and to the one person who matters most?
Julie Murphy’s SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY is a fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality.
JM: I’m so happy to be here! Thanks for having me!
LG: SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY has a fantastic premise – a girl with incurable cancer decides to seek revenge on those who’ve been mean to her, and then, when all is said and done, she goes into remission. What was your inspiration for this story?
JM: Until recently, I had worked with teens at a public library. At one of our gatherings, the teens and I got into a heated discussion about the zombie apocalypse and where we would all barricade ourselves should we be stranded in the library. This topic quickly evolved into a discussion about all the things that we weren’t allowed to do in a library that we might do if all bets were off. And that’s where it all began. Here I am on the OneFour KidLit YouTube channel, talking more about my inspiration while my cats steal the show.
LG: How much research went into the story in regards to Alice’s diagnosis and treatments?
JM: When I wrote the first draft, I actually hadn’t decided what kind of cancer Alice had. I consulted with a few medical professional friends and the ever trusty internet quite a bit as I weaved in the details of her illness. But most my research time was spent reading blogs written by cancer patients. Have a glimpse into their situation and mindset was invaluable. People who had lived really full, incredible lives were emotional wrecks. Witnessing their struggle was a painful necessity. There’s nothing pretty about cancer, but I am forever grateful to those who have chosen to document their journey.
LG: You wrote the book from both Alice and Harvey’s perspectives, and also in two timelines – before remission (then) and after (now). Was it hard going back and forth between voices and time periods? Did you write it chronologically, or how it appears in the book? Did you prefer one voice over the other?
JM: It was actually a very natural thing. I didn’t write chronologically. I love both of their voices in such different ways. After being with one of them for a few days, it was kind of a relief to get into a new headspace.
LG: Alice is a strong, raw, determined character. She does some things, especially to Harvey, that aren’t always likable, yet we’re still able to cheer her on. Why did you create her like that? Was it hard?
JM: I wanted to create someone who was the antagonist of her own story. Sure, Alice is strong, but like all of us, her greatest strengths can also be her greatest weaknesses. Alice toes this line. For example, Alice is honest, and sometimes you love her for it, but at other times it’s her greatest downfall. My hope was that she would feel human above all, and I think that’s what makes it possible to cheer for her. It was definitely a challenge, but Harvey created this wonderful balance that only made my job easier.
LG: Can you tell us a bit about your writing process, and your follow-up novel?
JM: Well, I used to be a total pantser, but after selling my second book on proposal, that just was not going to work. Book two, DUMPLIN’, has had an outline since day one. It’s definitely morphed, but the heart of the story has remained. Since I’m still writing DUMPLIN’, I can’t say much but I can give these hints: fat girl, small town, Texas, Dolly Parton, beauty pageant, best friend love, secret summer romance, and grief.
LG: How has the debut process for you been? Any advice for the Fearless Fifteeners?
JM: Everything happens at once. Publishing is all about stretches of painful silence, and then flurries of action. Enjoy the flurries, and learn the value of the silence. It’s all about balance. (Something I don’t think I’ll ever finish learning.)
LG: And, last, since this is a fearless community, what’s something you’re afraid of, and something you’re not afraid of?
JM: I am terrified of cicadas. I am not terrified of failure. Been there. Done that.
Julie Murphy lives in North Texas with her husband who loves her, her dog who adores her, and her cat who tolerates her. When she’s not writing or trying to catch stray cats, she works at an academic library. SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY is Julie’s debut novel. Julie can best be found on her website , Tumblr , or Twitter .
|Lauren Gibaldi is an author and public librarian who lives in Orlando, FL with her husband and overflowing collection of books. She likes dinosaurs, musicals, and the circus (two of which she’s participated in. Hint: It’s not being a dinosaur). Her debut YA novel, THE NIGHT WE SAID YES, will be released summer 2015 with HarperTeen/HarperCollins.|