First, a bit about the book:
The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegel.
To be published: April 29, 2014
by: Harlequin Teen.
Some sixteen-year-olds babysit for extra cash. Some work at the Gap. Becca Williamson breaks up couples.
After watching her sister get left at the altar, Becca knows the true damage that comes when people utter the dreaded L-word. For just $100 via paypal, she can trick and manipulate any couple into smithereens. With relationship zombies overrunning her school, and treating single girls like second class citizens, business is unfortunately booming. Even her best friend Val has resorted to outright lies to snag a boyfriend.
One night, she receives a mysterious offer to break up the homecoming king and queen, the one zombie couple to rule them all: Steve and Huxley. They are a JFK and Jackie O in training, masters of sweeping faux-mantic gestures, but if Becca can split them up, then school will be safe again for singletons. To succeed, she'll have to plan her most elaborate scheme to date and wiggle her way back into her former BFF Huxley’s life – not to mention start a few rumors, sabotage some cell phones, break into a car, and fend off the inappropriate feelings she’s having about Val’s new boyfriend. All while avoiding a past victim out to expose her true identity.
No one said being the Break-Up Artist was easy.
Sounds great, right? Here's Phil with more:
Jess: Welcome, Phil! I'm so glad you could join me. To start us off, "Twitter Pitch" THE BREAK-UP ARTIST to me (140 characters or less).
Phil: Becca runs a business breaking up couples, and is hired to split up her school's uber-couple, the homecoming king and queen.
J: Well if that isn't conflict waiting to happen, I don't know what is! THE BREAK-UP ARTIST clearly has such a fun concept behind it (with so much potential for things to go wrong). Where did the inspiration for that come from?
P: I’ve always been a fan of the movie MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING, and I wanted to write a character like the one Julia Roberts plays. She schemes and is the self-proclaimed bad guy, but you root for her anyway.
At the same time, I had some friends in bad relationships a few years ago. Not abusive-bad, luckily, but just really wrong pairings. These couples were not meant to be; dating these guys had changed my friends – and not for the better.
This was a tricky situation for me. How do you tell a friend that she should break up with her boyfriend? If I tried to broach the subject, they’d come up with excuses. It’s always awkward. I realized that I was not alone, that lots of other people have had this dilemma. Becca was borne out of that frustration.
J: Was it ever hard to get into the head of a teenage girl to write from Becca's perspective? Did you have any techniques you used?
P: I never tried to write like a teenage girl. Readers would see through that in a second. I just wrote a character that I would want to read and hoped people would like her, too. The inspirations for many of the teenage characters are based on adults I know now. Here’s a secret about adulthood: none of us ever truly grow up.
J: That's kind of reassuring, actually! What has been your favourite part of writing the book?
P: I loved plotting out the story. Since I studied screenwriting in college, plot structure was ingrained in me. It’s fun writing a character into a corner or figuring out how to get them from Point A to Point B. This was especially true for Becca’s break-up schemes. The main break-up scheme in the book is a slow burn that builds and builds, and I’m really proud of it.
J: I'm definitely looking forward to reading how she manages to pull some of those schemes off! Was there a specific book that inspired you to start writing?
P: Here is where I should put something literary, but I’m going to tell the truth: It was THE A-LIST and GOSSIP GIRL book series. I picked up THE A-LIST at the airport in college and read it on my flight. I immediately bought the next book. Then I moved onto GOSSIP GIRL (this was before the TV show). I had always assumed that YA books were so serious and filled with description. I was never a big reader growing up, and mostly read what was assigned in class. But these books were more my speed: funny, fast-paced, lots of dialogue. They inspired me to try my hand at writing a book.
J: Oh, I devoured those Gossip Girl books when I was younger. They're entertaining, for sure. If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
P: Probably Audrey from AUDREY WAIT! by Robin Benway. They would get along so
well, and their conversations would be of epic, GILMORE GIRLSian potential.
J: Can you share a favourite quote from THE BREAK-UP ARTIST?
P: One of my favourite, non-spoilery quotes is from Becca’s sharp-tongued sister Diane, who’s had a falling out with her circle of friends. While this exchange doesn’t give you insight into the main plot, I always crack up when I read it. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy it, too.
“And Erin looks great, too. Diane, have you sent her a card yet?” My mom asks. I move my legs as she takes back her place on the bed.
“Congratulating her for having the baby.”
Diane rolls her eyes. Leave it to my mom to turn a bonding moment into a nag session. “Why am I congratulating her for giving birth? She probably had an epidural.”
“He’s about to turn one, and you haven’t even acknowledged him.”
“I don’t think it’s right to congratulate someone for having an ugly baby. It will only encourage her to have another one.”
J: Ha! I can't wait to read more! Can you share a secret about THE BREAK-UP ARTIST?
P: Becca’s last name, Williamson, is an homage to writer Kevin Williamson, who created one of my favorite shows as a teen, DAWSON’S CREEK, as well as SCREAM and I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER. (He also created THE VAMPIRE DIARIES.)
About the author:
Philip Siegel grew up in New Jersey, which he insists is much nicer than certain TV shows would have you believe. He graduated from Northwestern University and promptly moved out to Los Angeles, where he became an NBC Page (proof below). He likes to think that the character of Kenneth on 30 Rock is loosely based on his life rights. Currently, he lives in Chicago and does his best writing sandwiched in between colorful characters on the El.
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