I read Love & Other Unknown Variables last year and immediately fell in love with Shannon Lee Alexander’s story telling! It was such a wonderful, heartwarming story that as soon as I finished I wanted more from her! Thankfully I didn’t have to wait too long! Her second book, Life After Juliet is a companion book to Love & Other Unknown Variables and focuses on Charlie’s sister Becca!
Before I share our interview with you, how about all the book details!Life After Juliet by Shannon Lee Alexander
(Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)Published by Entangled Publishing, LLC on July 5th 2016
Genres: Death & Dying, Love & Romance, Social Themes, Young Adult
Becca Hanson was never able to make sense of the real world. When her best friend Charlotte died, she gave up on it altogether. Fortunately, Becca can count on her books to escape—to other times, other places, other people...
Until she meets Max Herrera. He’s experienced loss, too, and his gorgeous, dark eyes see Becca the way no one else in school can.
As it turns out, kissing is a lot better in real life than on a page. But love and life are a lot more complicated in the real world...and happy endings aren't always guaranteed.
The companion novel to Love and Other Unknown Variables is an exploration of loss and regret, of kissing and love, and most importantly, a celebration of hope and discovering a life worth living again.
Describe LIFE AFTER JULIET in 5 words.
Bookworm looks up. Finds life.
LIFE AFTER JULIET is a companion book to LOVE & OTHER UNKNOWN VARIABLES, what made you think you had to tell Becca’s story?
I didn’t expect to write LAJ, but my editor asked, “What happens to Becca?” Suddenly, I wanted to know. So I began thinking about what would happen to a shy, awkward girl like Becca after losing someone special like Charlotte. I wondered what it’d feel like to try to get back to “normal” when your norm wasn’t up to social standards. And I wondered, now that Becca knows there is a world outside of the pages of her books, can she be happy hiding out in the stacks any longer? Or will she long for the feeling of friendship again?
Once all those questions took root, I had to start writing. And as I wrote, I realized that Becca’s story was exactly the story I needed to tell right now, because I’m still trying to process my grief, still learning to carry it, even eight years after losing my friend, the one LAOUV is dedicated to, to ovarian cancer.
What was the hardest scene for you to write in LIFE AFTER JULIET and why?
There was a really difficult scene that I wrote that ended up getting cut. At the time, I was playing with coping mechanisms that Becca might resort to while dealing with her grief, and in this scene, she was cutting as a means of relief. It was brutal to write. In the end, it wasn’t right for Becca or the story, so I went in a different direction.
Can you share (without spoilers) a line or section of LIFE AFTER JULIET that is your favorite?
I always liked this bit from the beginning of the book. It really captured for me exactly how Becca was feeling about life after Charlotte had left.
I’m not sure how long I’ve been back in school. I don’t really do days anymore. Time is measured in pages. I’ve read 3,718 pages since Dad dropped me off on the first day. It’s been 108,023 pages since Charlotte died. I’ve read 150 pages since I stepped on the bus this morning. It’s been ten pages since I thought of Charlotte.
She’s not coming back, and I don’t know what else to do, so I keep turning the pages.
People often say that you should write what you know, did you do that with this story?
I believe you should write what you know, but also what you want to know. In LAJ, I did both. I was in theater in high school, so that setting is very familiar to me. My high school theater teacher wasn’t anything like Mr. Owens, the director at Sandstone. She was generous and wonderful, but there was a certain experience (it’d be spoilery to go into details) of mine in high school that was similar to that of Becca’s experience with Romeo and Juliet.
Writing, for me, has always been a way to figure things out for myself. Grief is something I’ve been struggling with for years now, and in writing LAJ, I was able to understand grief and its role in my life in a better way. In that sense, I was using Becca as a means to get to know something about life and myself.
What message would you like readers to take away from LIFE AFTER JULIET?
I hope that readers understand that grief isn’t a thing you “get over,” but is a thing you carry with you for the rest of your life. And that’s okay. You can be grieving and still be a whole and happy person.
Since we’re talking 2016 books, what upcoming 2016 release (besides your own) are you most excited to read and fangirl over?
I’m a major Potterhead, so my whole family is eagerly anticipating July 31 and the release of HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD. We have plans to purchase multiple copies and stage a reader’s theater production of it while we’re on vacation. I love my geeky family!
When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I like hanging out with my family, playing board games (Harry Potter Clue!), reading, snuggling with my dog, Harriet Potter, and yoga.
Is coffee consumption a hobby? I like that, too.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee. It’s a beautifully written middle grade story about a girl and a fox and the connection between them. I’m only a quarter of the way into it, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to get some stitches in my heart when it’s all over.
Any advice for aspiring writers?
Make sure the writers who are giving you critiques aren’t afraid to be honest. Gold stars may feel good, but they don’t improve our writing. My critique group, the YA Cannibals (motto: We eat our own), was essential to me becoming a published author. And while they always point out parts of the story they like, they are honest enough to tell me where I can improve.
Who are your writing heroes?
Writers I admire are Harper Lee, Alice Walker, Madeline L’Engle, Chris Crutcher, Kate DiCamillo, John Green, Patrick Ness, and Rainbow Rowell (I hand sell more of Rainbow’s books than my own because I love her work so much, and I NEED everyone to read her stories and talk to me about them!).
What’s next for you? Are you working on anything right now that you can tell us about?
I’m working on a new project, set in a new town, with all new characters, and a very different (and surprisingly dark) feel to it. It’s about secrets and ghosts and finding freedom. It’s going to be wicked awesome, and that’s all I’m going to say about it!
What one newer YA Novel do you wish you had when you were a teen?
FANGIRL. I wish I’d had Rainbow Rowell’s FANGIRL right before going to college. It would have made everything that was about to happen to me so much more understandable. It would have made me feel less alone. And because Levi, obviously.
Tell us 3 random facts about you.
- I don’t eat beef because cows’ have cute faces.
- I prefer Dunkin’ Donuts coffee to Starbucks.
- I have a dashboard hula guy in my car. His name is Dean, and I dress him in various costumes according to the season. He’s an excellent co-pilot. Also, he has a pet unicorn named Agnes.
Favorite Song (right now): “My Shot” from Hamilton
Favorite Book (right now): Ugh. Pass! Too difficult!
Favorite TV Show/Movie: Sherlock (How much longer must we wait? Come back!)
Favorite Word: Shenanigans
Favorite Color: Teal, but red is irresistible to me for accessories.
Favorite Curse Word: Eep! *Checks over shoulder to be sure kids aren’t around.* The f-word. Super cathartic to say.
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