Jennifer, 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?
There is a scene at the end between Stella and her mom that I wrote and rewrote countless times while drafting. It’s a pivotal moment in the book – the moment after Kevin and Stella’s relationship really bottoms out – and it’s shared between a girl who is being torn apart by fresh sorrow and a mother who is perhaps starting to realize that her attempts to hold her own relationships together might not be going so well. And so we watch as Stella tries to strike the right balance of mourning and processing her own feelings while feeling empathy for her mom; and we watch as her mom tries to strike the right balance of compassion and pragmatism and emotional honesty. It’s a loaded scene, and there’s a lot going on. And also, it was hard to find enough different ways to phrase “and then Stella started crying even harder” – so that was a challenge as well.
How long did you work on IMAGINE US HAPPY?
I worked on IMAGINE US HAPPY for over two years. It was kind of a crazy, transitory period in my life, which spanned graduating from college, getting my first real job, and all the usual post-graduate woes (finding an apartment, trying to figure out what making new friends looks like outside of college, and so on and so forth). There were times when writing IMAGINE US HAPPY felt like a much-needed island where I could escape from the chaos of daily life, and other times when writing IMAGINE US HAPPY felt like one more thing that I didn’t know how to do properly and would probably fail at. There were a couple weeks when I would be up at 7:30, working my “real” job from 8 to midnight, and then writing from midnight to 3 a.m., leaving me with a total of 4.5 hours a night to sleep. How I know that the rose-colored glasses of hindsight are a real thing is that now I look back on that period of time with so much fondness, and I’m bizarrely excited for if / when I go through the same thing with my next book.
What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?
I really appreciate the power of a good writing ritual, because I have writing friends who will sit down in their coffeeshop and put on that playlist and then just churn out thousands and thousands of words, which is inspiring to watch. But what I’ve learned about myself is that I mostly make up writing rituals for myself in an attempt to procrastinate on writing, and that if I can make myself get off Facebook, close out the 15 tabs of cat GIFs that I have open, and turn off the Wi-Fi, it doesn’t really matter if I’m in the library or listening to a Spotify playlist with 2 hours of ambient forest sounds or attempting to bribe my muse with chocolate cake at a coffeeshop.
ABOUT THE BOOKImagine Us Happy
by Jennifer Yu
Harlequin Teen; Original edition
Some love stories aren’t meant to last
Stella lives with depression, and her goals for junior year are pretty much limited to surviving her classes, staying out of her parents’ constant fights and staving off unwanted feelings enough to hang out with her friends Lin and Katie.
Until Kevin. A quiet, wry senior who understands Stella and the lows she’s going through like no one else. With him, she feels less lonely, listened to—and hopeful for the first time since ever…
But to keep that feeling, Stella lets her grades go and her friendships slide. And soon she sees just how deep Kevin’s own scars go. Now little arguments are shattering. Major fights are catastrophic. And trying to hold it all together is exhausting Stella past the breaking point. With her life spinning out of control, she’s got to figure out what she truly needs, what’s worth saving—and what to let go.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Have you had a chance to read IMAGINE US HAPPY yet? Do you use writing rituals to procrastinate? What do you use to bribe your muse? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!
Jocelyn, Halli, Martina, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann