Alice Kuipers on writing about a heartbreaker

Author Alice Kuipers talks about writing about heartbreak in her new book, 40 Things I Want to Tell You:

When I first started writing about Amy Finch, aka Bird, I knew only that she needed her life to be very ordered and controlled.  Like a lot of people who find it hard to just let go, Bird feels the need to tell other people what to do with their lives, just as she makes sure her own life is very rigid.  She starts an online advice column that becomes very popular and she really enjoys telling other teenagers how to fix their problems.  Except, Bird is just starting to have real problems in her own life.  Things with her parents are getting worse and worse – they are always fighting – and things with her perfect boyfriend are, well, just not so perfect.  His name is Griffin and he lives next door.  They’ve been friends forever, and they slipped into a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship, but now Bird can’t figure out why she doesn’t feel about Griffin the way she feels about Pete, the new, hot boy at school.

It was really challenging to write about Bird as her dilemma deepens.  She is the sort of character who actually doesn’t know herself very well and so capturing her sense of order on the page, while watching her make a total mess of her life was fun.  I wanted to sit her down and tell her to learn to be herself, to listen to her heart.  Poor Griffin is head over heels in love with Bird and she keeps pretending to herself that she loves him back.  She actually doesn’t mean to be breaking his heart, but she’s so deep into her situation that she can’t figure out what to do about it.  And then she ends up getting herself into more and more trouble.  Very fun to write!

One of the things I loved writing about Bird was her To Do Lists.  She writes lists for everything and at one point in the novel she writes a list trying to figure out the pros and cons of having sex with Griffin.  She really can’t see that the simple fact she has to write the list indicates she doesn’t have the right sort of feelings for him.  I love the way that as the book goes on, Bird has to loosen up and forgive herself.  She has to let herself make mistakes, do things that aren’t on her lists, live a life that she doesn’t organize perfectly first on her computer screen.  Bird is compassionate and loving, but not to Griffin.  Once she comes to understand that about herself, she’s a whole lot better of a person – but it might just be too late for her and adorable, sexy Pete…

— Alice Kuipers

Check out Alice’s newest book, 40 Things I Want to Tell You, on sale February 21st.

For more writing tips check out Alice’s blog here. And stay tuned to the Savvy Reader — next week we will announce more ways to get great tips from Alice!

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