Saturday, October 28, 2017

0 Julie Halpern, author of MEANT TO BE, on not looking back

We are thrilled to have Julie Halpern pop in to talk about her latest book, MEANT TO BE.

Julie, what was your inspiration for writing MEANT TO BE?

I was looking for something a little different than the usual contemporary humor I write. As a fangirl of many scifi and fantasy fandoms, I went through a period where I was reading a lot of fanfiction and spending time on tumblr. I loved the "Imagines," where people would post a picture from a show along with a fantastical thought of what it would be like if XYZ happened with a character from a TV show. The "soulmate" imagine popped up quite a bit, the idea that soulmates were predetermined in some way and the reader's soulmate ended up being their favorite character from their favorite TV show. I originally thought I might try writing a piece of fanfiction with this idea, but it was just too huge an idea to contain. I didn't want to be tied to characters already in existence, and the pieces of it that I found most intriguing were: what if you didn't like your soulmate? What if you didn't want a soulmate? What would this world be like? That's where MEANT TO BE came from.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

This book has a lot of sex scenes. It was what came out as I wrote, and I write what my character dictates. But I knew I was writing a young adult novel, so I felt like I had to revise the sex scenes over and over and over again so as not to make myself feel like a creepy old lady. I think the scenes are all pretty funny, though. Or at least I hope they are! I try to keep things as real as possible. As far as scenes I really love, I am quite fond of the final chapter.

What do you hope readers will take away from MEANT TO BE?

I always want my readers to laugh. And I hope it inspires people to take charge of their lives and find something worth traveling the world for.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

Years ago my husband (children's book author and illustrator Matthew Cordell) and I used the book "Children's Writers and Illustrator's Market," published each year, to help us create a proposal for a picture book we wanted to make together. We sent the proposal out to nineteen different publishers, received eighteen rejections, and were lucky enough to receive a single "maybe." One year after we sent out the proposals, the "maybe" turned into a "yes." We were very lucky to be pulled from the slush pile. That was "Toby and the Snowflakes" (Houghton Mifflin). From there, Matthew started his career in illustration. As a middle school librarian and surrounded by young adult novels, I wanted to try my hand at writing one of my own based on my experiences in a mental hospital in high school. I wrote it during my long commute on a train. I entered a contest for a first novelist, didn't win, and then sent the manuscript to an editor my husband had been working with. She had just moved to a new imprint and was looking for new work. It was the right person, the right book, at the right time. I was very lucky (I keep using that word, but I think luck and timing have a lot to do with getting published). I have since worked with Liz Szabla at Feiwel and Friends on all of my novels.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

No. I have slowly become aware that I am a good writer, in the sense that pacing and story and character and plot all come together well and naturally for me. Not that every moment of every novel is easy to write, but I do feel that I know what I'm doing. Could I explain or teach it? I'm not so sure.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I usually reserve a small study room at my public library for two hours a day. I can't have noise, so I bring a white noise machine and ear plugs. I hand write my books, so I have notebooks, pens, and Post-its, plus tons of gum. I chew a piece for a bit until it gets hard, then I spit it out and pop in another. I try to write in chapters, meaning I don't like to have to stop in the middle of a chapter. I almost always have some sort of date book to help me organize events in my story, and I always have to keep a list of the characters' names because I am terrible with remembering names.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Don't look back. Looking back and revising as you go is an easy way to never get it done. Write your book until you finish a first draft. That's a huge accomplishment. Then you can go back and rip it to shreds.

What are you working on now?

I'm just starting a young adult novel that I'm co-writing with Len Vlahos about a boy and a girl who go through a break-up. We have never worked together, and it's so interesting to send these back and forth emails during the brainstorming stage. I'm excited to start writing the book.


Meant to Be
by Julie Halpern
Feiwel & Friends
Released 10/24/2017

In a world where the names of MTBs—"meant to be" mates—appear on the body at age eighteen, a girl must decide whether to believe the phenomenon or follow her heart.

It started happening a few years ago: the names of MTBs—"meant to be" mates—appeared emblazoned on the skin at age eighteen. Agatha's best friend has embraced the phenomenon and is head over heels in love with her MTB. But Ag isn't so sure. As she searches the interwebs for her MTB (who has a common name, no less) she finds herself falling for a co-worker at the local amusement park. Is he a better match? What does Agatha really want in a mate, and moreover, what does she want for herself?

With her trademark wit and irreverence, acclaimed author Julie Halpern explores an age-old question: Who are we meant to be with? Readers won't be able to resist knowing the answer.

Purchase Meant to Be at Amazon
Purchase Meant to Be at IndieBound
View Meant to Be on Goodreads


JULIE HALPERN is the author of five young adult novels and one picture book for young readers. Maternity Leave is her first novel for adults. Prior to her life as full-time mom and author, Julie was a school librarian. In her imaginary spare time, she enjoys traveling, watching television for grown-ups, and eating baked goods. Julie lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, author and illustrator Matthew Cordell, and their two children.


Have you had a chance to read MEANT TO BE yet?

Julie uses notebooks, post-its, and a date book to organize her project. How do you organize yours?

Blocking a two hour period at the library is a great way to ensure productivity. Do you have any tricks to keep your butt in the chair?

Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Charlotte, Jocelyn, Anisaa, Erin, Martina, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

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