Recently I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing OneFourKidLit author Rachael Allen, whose young adult novel, 17 FIRST KISSES, was released yesterday! About the book:
Sometimes a girl has to kiss a lot of frogs…
No matter how many boys Claire kisses, she can’t seem to find a decent boyfriend. Someone who wouldn’t rather date her gorgeous best friend, Megan. Someone who won’t freak out when he learns about the tragedy her family still hasn’t recovered from. Someone whose kisses can carry her away from her backwoods town for one fleeting moment.
Until Claire meets Luke.
Luke’s adorable and he’s lived all over the world. But Megan is falling for Luke, too, and if there’s one thing Claire knows for sure, it’s that Megan’s pretty much irresistible.
With true love and best friendship on the line, Claire suddenly has everything to lose. And what she learns—about her crush, her friends, and most of all herself—makes the choices even harder.
In her moving debut, Rachael Allen brilliantly captures the complexities of friendship, the struggles of self-discovery, and the difficulties of trying to find love in high school. Fans of Sarah Ockler, Susane Colasanti, and Stephanie Perkins will fall head over heels for this addictive, heartfelt, and often hilarious modern love story.
- Congratulations on your debut, Rachael! 17 FIRST KISSES is truly a genuine, heartfelt story—what was your inspiration for the plot?
Thank you so much, Marci!
The short answer: When I was doing some house rearranging, I found a box of notes and magazine clippings and stuff from middle and high school. So, I’m sifting through this stuff, alternately laughing and cringing (oh, Justin Timberlake, you have come back to haunt me in the form of magazine clippings). I was struck by how my friends and I changed through the years these notes spanned, and I wanted to write a book that captured the same characters at different snapshots of their lives.
I thought of the title 17 FIRST KISSES, and the rest of the book came together from there.
The long answer: The story behind why I needed to write this particular book at this particular time is really long and also kind of sad, so I’ve posted about it separately on my blog. You can find it here.
- I loved that romance doesn’t take over the storyline, that the family struggles, friendship dilemmas, and self-discovery drive the plot. Did you use any outline/plotting methods to keep everything straight?
I did much more outlining with this story than I normally do. The structure kind of demanded it. I have an excel file where I listed “Chapter 1, Kiss #1, Chapter 2, etc.” with a one line description of what would happen in that scene(s). Being able to visually switch around plot points and see where the chunks of the past were fitting in with the present helped a lot.
I also wrote a lot of the “Kisses” before I wrote the present day scenes, so that helped me to feel like they had already happened. But once I was finished, man, oh man, if I changed one thing in a character’s past or present, it could create a mean butterfly effect, and then I’d have to spend hours reading over my ms again and making little tweaks.
- What have you learned from working with your editor?
My editor is Jen Klonsky, and she is AMAZING! She’s so much fun to work with because we’re both so in touch with our YA sides. I’ve learned a lot from her – the biggest thing being how to bring out bigger themes and arcs that I didn’t know were there.
One example is the relationship between Claire and her friend Amberly. Claire wants more than anything to get out of her small town and do big things with her life. She can’t understand how someone could be happy settling down there, and without meaning to, she has compartmentalized Amberly as a “fun friend” as opposed to a “serious friend”. Claire realizes that it’s her fault they aren’t closer, and that she’s really missing out on having this beautiful person be fully a part of her life.
I love this aspect of the book, and it wouldn’t even be there if Jen and also Susan (my agent) hadn’t encouraged me to dig deeper into this relationship and bring out this part of the story. Jen takes the characters and relationships I write and finds the magic in them.
- What other projects do you have coming up?
I’m working on revisions right now for the second book of my contract with Harper Teen. It’s called THE REVENGE PLAYBOOK, and it’s about four girls who aren’t necessarily friends banding together to beat the football team at their annual scavenger hunt. It’s been really fun to write because of all the shenanigans 🙂
- As this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you are afraid of and something you are not afraid of.
Something I’m afraid of: Dolls. Especially the old school porcelain ones that look like they’re trying to steal your soul with their glassy eyes. *shudders* I’m also afraid of cockroaches, gory horror movies, and people who don’t read.
Something I’m not afraid of: Blood/brains/eyes. I work in a lab, so I’m used to seeing that kind of stuff (I’ve even dissected human eyes before).
Thank you so much for interviewing me, Marci! I can’t wait to read THE ONE THING!
It was my pleasure, Rachael!
Rachael Allen lives in Atlanta, GA where she’s working furiously on her PhD in neuroscience. When she’s not doing science or writing YA, you can find her chasing after a toddler, a baby, and two sled dogs. Her debut YA novel, 17 FIRST KISSES, is forthcoming from Harper Teen. Rachael may or may not have had 17 first kisses…luckily she doesn’t kiss and tell.
Marci Curtis grew up in Northern California, where she went to college, met an amazing guy in a military uniform, and then proceeded to follow him around the United States until he married her. Two college-aged kids and one dachshund later, she lives in Maryland, where she laughs too loudly and eats peanut butter off spoons. Her YA contemporary debut, THE ONE THING, comes out in 2015 via Disney-Hyperion. Learn more about her at Marcilyncurtis.com.