Robin spoke with fellow author Kate Watson about her contemporary YA novel, just published by Sourcebooks. Robin’s a member of the Sweet Sixteens, an online group for authors debuting in 2016; Kate rolls with the Swanky Seventeens.
About the Novel
Despite the best of intentions, seventeen-year-old, wisecracking Hank Kirby can’t quite seem to catch a break. Case in point: his attempt to ask out the girl he likes to prom literally goes up in flames when he spells “prom” in sparklers on her lawn…and nearly burns down her house.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Peyton Breedlove, a brooding loner and budding pyromaniac, witnesses the whole thing. Much to Hank’s dismay, Peyton takes an interest in him—and his “work.” The two are thrust into an unusual friendship, but their boundaries are tested when Hank learns that Peyton is hiding some dark secrets, secrets that may change everything he thought he knew about Peyton.
About the Author
Robin Reul has been writing stories since she was old enough to hold a pen. Though she grew up on movie sets and worked for years in the film and television industry, she ultimately decided to focus her attention on writing young adult novels. And unlike Hank, she does not know how to ride a bike. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, son, and daughter. My Kind of Crazy is her first novel. Find her at robinreul.com, and on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.
Let’s get CRAZY
Kate: First off, MY KIND OF CRAZY is hilarious, yet it deals with some heavy themes. How did you pull off such a careful balancing act between the heavy and the light emotions in the book?
Robin: Thank you! It is indeed a tricky thing to try to write. Despite some of the darker issues the book deals with, I wanted it to be hopeful and honest and convey the special connection between these two young people. I didn’t want it to be depressing; the goal was to have the reader feel upbeat and hopeful at the end of the story, and I knew Hank’s voice, as well as many of the supporting characters, would be the key to making that happen. Humor is a coping mechanism for Hank, and that shows a certain vulnerability that will hopefully allow readers to become emotionally invested in him and root for him. When you add humor to an otherwise dramatic scene, I think it urges the reader to pay attention in a different sort of way, focusing less on the darkness. There was a tipping point though where I had to decide if I wanted to make this more of a black comedy or a humorous story with dramatic elements that dealt with some serious issues. I had feedback in earlier drafts pushing me to take it in one direction or another, and I opted for the latter and it feels like it was the right choice for the story I set out to tell.
Your main character, Hank, is complex and funny, and his voice feels so authentic. What was it like writing a male protagonist? What is the key to a genuine voice, in your mind?
Oddly enough, writing from the male point-of-view comes much more naturally to me. I truly prefer it. Maybe because I have such teenage boy humor. Generally, I try to write a story from the point-of-view of the character who is the most interesting and has the most growth potential along the journey of the story. I don’t think it matters if you are a woman writing as a boy or a guy writing as a teenage girl as long as you do your homework and can create a three-dimensional character who can tell a good story in a unique voice. The key to a genuine voice is relatability. Teens are savvy and nothing can pull them out of a story faster than when it shows an adult wrote it. Voice is personality, where the character becomes three-dimensional. The key to a genuine, unique voice is being able to read your characters’ dialogue aloud and each voice is distinguishable enough that you can tell which character is speaking.
You have roots in Hollywood–what prompted the change to writing YA? Which do you prefer?
I’ve been writing all my life, but growing up my dad was a film producer, and I used to travel on location with him, so I spent a good chunk of my childhood on movie sets. No surprise, I went on to major in Film in college and worked in the industry for several years, during which I was not focusing on writing. I had kids, did the stay-at-home-Mom thing, and got back into writing via a UCLA Screenwriting certificate program when my son was a toddler. I wrote the world’s worst no-one-will-ever-see-it screenplay, but it served to grease the wheels and reawaken my love of writing. I started writing for teens because all the movies and books and TV shows that left the greatest impact on me and my writing were all set in those angsty, brooding, on-the-verge teenage years. I’ve focused full-time on writing young adult novels for the past six years now and MY KIND OF CRAZY is my third YA novel but the first to get published. It’s hard to say which I prefer because I think my writing is actually far more influenced by films I’ve seen than books I’ve read. I am a very visual writer – as I am creating the story it is playing out as a scene in my head, often with a kickass 80’s soundtrack. I think I like the freedom and flexibility that comes with writing a novel more though. Screenplays are far more restrictive in format but they are so much fun to write. I guess my answer is I love both and hope to keep writing both.
What was your process like in writing MY KIND OF CRAZY? When did you first get the idea for it?
I was working on revising another project when Hank’s character showed up in my head and I ended up writing the entire first chapter in one sitting. It flowed out of me easier than anything I’ve written and so I knew I had something. I ended up abandoning the revision and focusing on MY KIND OF CRAZY, which I wrote during the day while my daughter was at school over the course of the following seven months. I had long wanted to tell a story about friendship and the power of human connection to help us reconnect to life. I’d had a dear friend in high school who passed away much too young (we were 17), and she had been that sort of friend for me in a really dark period in my life. I wanted to write about how that connection with someone who truly understood me and didn’t run from me because I was broken at that critical juncture in my life propelled me on a journey of healing my heart and reclaiming my sense of self-worth. However, I didn’t want to focus on the darkness and the loss. I wanted it to honor the spirit of our connection and the wonderful things she brought to my life, and I finally found that voice and the vehicle in Hank and Peyton’s story.
“American Beauty” or “Good Will Hunting” (impossible to choose – please don’t make me!)
Book(s) on your bedside table right now?
YOU WERE HERE by Cori McCarthy, WE ARE THE ANTS by Shaun Hutchinson and FIRSTS by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn.
Character from a book/movie/TV show you most identify with?
Scarlett O’Hara in GONE WITH THE WIND.
First literary crush?
My first literary crush was this character Ethan in Norma Klein’s book BREAKING UP. He was the main character’s best friend’s older brother (stlll with me?) and they kissed and it was scandalous and it gave me all the feelings back then. I so wanted them to be together, but it was so wrong and complicated everything, but I found myself waiting anxiously for the next time he’d appear on the page.
Music you most like to write to?
Anything classic rock or 80’s.
Favorite writing food?
Chocolate, followed by a chaser of something salty, followed by more chocolate. Rinse down with caffeine. Repeat.
Can we be best friends? Um…I mean…asking for a friend…
OMG I am so totally down with that. We can go to Claire’s and get those BFF charms that you split in half. 😉
Where to order MY KIND OF CRAZY:
About the Interviewer
Like every little girl, Kate Watson dreamed of studying philosophy in college and being a director at a private university one day. Then she grew up, became a wife and mother, and realized she should do the responsible thing and write for a living. She grew up in a village in Alberta, Canada, and currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her adorable husband and two children. Her novel, SEEKING MANSFIELD, debuts in Spring 2017 with JFP.