How did you start writing The Beautiful Between?
I began writing The Beautiful Between a long time (and about fifty different titles) ago – I just looked it up in my old notes, and apparently I wrote the first paragraph in February of 2006! When I started, I knew the basic story, and the names of the characters, but I didn’t know whether it would be a romance, whether it would be funny or sad, and I didn’t know yet that Kate and Connelly’s mother were such big parts of the story. The story began with this notion of a lonely girl who imagined high school through the prism of a fairy tale, and as I wrote I just hung on to that girl, to her friendship with Jeremy, and figured out what their story was as well as I could.
In what ways are you like Connelly? Have you had any of her experiences?
Like Connelly, I had an elaborate fantasy life when I was in high school (I still do), and so a lot of her fantasy life was inspired by my own. My parents divorced when I was very young, so just like Connelly imagined that she had a fairy godmother to help her sleep, when I was little I imagined that my father was there when I couldn’t sleep. Actually, I think that was part of what turned me into a writer – I was alone a lot as a kid, and I made up stories to keep myself entertained, and eventually, I started writing them down.
If Connelly could be friends with any female character from any YA novel, who would you choose and why?
I thought pretty hard before answering this question. First, I thought Liesel Meminger from The Book Thief; then I thought Elizabeth Bennett from Pride & Prejudice (even if that technically isn’t a YA novel), but I finally landed on Lyra Belacqua from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Now, maybe those books aren’t technically YA either, but I love them so much that I’ve decided that they have to count as YA so I can answer this question. I think Connelly, with her elaborate fantasy world, would love to know a girl who lives in what Connelly would think of as a real life fantasy world. And I think Connelly would love Pantalaimon, Lyra’s daemon. Connelly had a lot of imaginary friends growing up; but maybe she wouldn’t have needed them had she had a daemon of her own.
In what ways do you and your sister (also an author) inspire each other?
I think the most inspirational thing about my sister, Courtney, and the thing that makes me most proud of her, is this: she decided, a long time ago, that she wanted to be a writer. She did other things too, (like go to law school and become an attorney), but she never let go of her dream to be a writer, and she never stopped writing – And now, she is a writer, and whatever else she does, she will always be a writer.
What is your strongest high school memory?
January, sophomore year: the invention of the annual half birthday bash. My actual birthday is right in the middle of summer, and as anyone with a summer birthday knows, that means I never got to bring cupcakes into class, and if and when I did throw a party, hardly anyone ever came because they were at camp, or on vacation, etc. So when I was fifteen, I decided that I’d had enough and came up with the half birthday bash, a dinner for my girlfriends and me every January. For the first ten years, it was at California Pizza Kitchen, but a few years ago we moved it to Rosa Mexicano. The tradition continues to this day (though I no longer insist on having candles on my desserts). I almost never make a big deal about my actual birthday, but the half birthday bash is like my own private Christmas.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Do I have to pick just one place? I want to go everywhere! I want to go to Versailles, and see the doorway that Marie Antoinette escaped through (before she ended up in the guillotine). I want to go to New Zealand, and take the Lord of the Rings tour where you actually get to see the Shire. I want to go to the Grand Canyon and face my completely irrational fear that I will slip and fall in. But I guess if I had to choose just one place to go, I would probably choose to go home – I know that sounds odd, maybe even really dull; I do want to see the world, and I hope that I will get to visit and live in lots of amazing places. But if I had to pick only one place, it would probably be the place where I feel happiest and safest, where I’m surrounded by the people and the things that mean the most to me: my home.
Other than a writer, what other occupations have you had/considered?
Actually, I have another occupation – I work in the marketing department at Random House Children’s Books, and truth be told (I’m not just saying this), both jobs – writing and marketing kids’ books – are my dream job. I always knew that I wanted to work in book publishing, and I always knew I wanted to write, so I don’t think I really had much of a choice in deciding whether I was going to do both!
What is one book you think most teens should read?
Wow that’s a hard question! I think what we read, and which book ends up feeling like the one we “should” have read, is deeply personal. I will say this, though: If I were stranded on a desert island, the book that I would want, and the one that I would recommend to others, is one of those enormous short story anthologies, with something by everyone from Herman Melville to Woody Allen. And I would totally encourage everyone to keep one or several of those anthologies in his or her home – they come in handy when it feels like there is everything and nothing left to read.
Thanks so much, Alyssa!
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