Kim, what was your inspiration for writing THIS IS NOT A LOVE LETTER?
This was the book I had to write. A good friend disappeared two weeks before we graduated from high school. He stopped by a barbecue and I talked to him. He said he was going for a run down by the river and then he'd be back, but he never made it back. He was one of the only African-Canadians living in our mill town in Northern British Columbia, and right away, a lot of us suspected a hate crime. We searched for him for days through the woods in the pouring rain, but we didn't find him. At that time, I started talking to him in my head, telling him what we were doing, hoping he'd send me a mental message so I could find him. This is why I wrote This Is Not A Love Letter as an account Jessie tells Chris, entirely in her head. I wanted the reader to be in the moment-to-moment experience of the search for Chris, but also in the intimate world of their relationship, so the reader could feel their love for each other.
What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?
I can tell you some books I love very much with some similarities to mine, ones I've read in the last six months. The most recent book I read that I love is Hate, Love and Other Filters by Samara Ahmed - beautiful writing and great tension. I also love Together at Midnight by Jennifer Castle, a stunning book about the nature of kindness. It will leave readers inspired to reach out to others. All American Boys by Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds is a perfectly told story that deals with racism and power. I learned so much as a writer in terms of craft from this book. I also love Tamara Ireland Stone's Every Last Word, which made me cry, and is all kinds of beautiful.
How long did you work on THIS IS NOT A LOVE LETTER?
This book took longer to write than I would have liked, but I had to find the right way to do it. It was about three years and I rewrote from scratch two times.
What did this book teach you about writing?
I think there was a fire behind this book, a heat, which gave me the passion to keep rewriting it. Without that heat, it would have been hard to keep rewriting until I felt like I hit on the way I needed to write it.
What do you hope readers will take away from THIS IS NOT A LOVE LETTER?
I hope they take an honest look at their biases and the way they judge others. Even writing it, I had to be real with myself, and see the ways I've judged others in the past. It's only then that you can make a change. I would hope that people would see their judgements regarding race, appearance, weight, mental illness, beauty, socio-economics, sexuality, and every other bias. I hope they learn to love more fully, as I feel I did through the course of writing. We can always give more love to our friends, our family, our partners, and even strangers. The beautiful thing is when we do this, we get that love back.
What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?
I like to go for a walk or a run, and just let my mind wander and think about my story, until I get feverish to write. Then, I sit down and write.
What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
Keep writing. Keep growing as a person. Access your truth, the parts of yourself that you are most afraid of, and give that part so much love. Then direct that part, that hot burning core of you, into a novel. Don't give up. Keep writing. Love yourself through it all.
What are you working on now?
I wrote a middle grade called An Almost True Story Except for the Bear, about a girl who's trying to recover from being beaten by her stepfather, and who meets a bear in the woods, who may or may not be real.
ABOUT THE BOOKThis Is Not a Love Letter
by Kim Purcell
One week. That's all Jessie said. A one-week break to get some perspective before graduation, before she and her boyfriend, Chris, would have to make all the big, scary decisions about their future--decisions they had been fighting about for weeks.
Then, Chris vanishes. The police think he's run away, but Jessie doesn't believe it. Chris is popular and good-looking, about to head off to college on a full-ride baseball scholarship. And he disappeared while going for a run along the river--the same place where some boys from the rival high school beat him up just three weeks ago. Chris is one of the only black kids in a depressed paper mill town, and Jessie is terrified of what might have happened.
As the police are spurred to reluctant action, Jessie speaks up about the harassment Chris kept quiet about and the danger he could be in. But there are people in Jessie's town who don't like the story she tells, who are infuriated by the idea that a boy like Chris would be a target of violence. They smear Chris’s character and Jessie begins receiving frightening threats.
Every Friday since they started dating, Chris has written Jessie a love letter. Now Jessie is writing Chris a letter of her own to tell him everything that’s happening while he’s gone. As Jessie searches for answers, she must face her fears, her guilt, and a past more complicated than she would like to admit.
Purchase This Is Not a Love Letter at Amazon
Purchase This Is Not a Love Letter at IndieBound
View This Is Not a Love Letter on Goodreads
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Have you had a chance to read THIS IS NOT A LOVE LETTER yet? Have you re-written a book from scratch multiple times? Do you direct the hot burning core of yourself into your writing? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!
Jocelyn, Halli, Martina, Anisaa, Charlotte, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann