Author Interview with Taylor Jenkins Reid

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I‘m at my ultimate Word Nerd self to introduce my interview with Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of the woefully wonderful “Forever, Interrupted” and “After I Do“, which will be released in a matter of days – July 1.

Taylor is a new author who’s already had wild success with her first book, and I know her second won’t be any different (and apparently the publishing industry knows so too because Taylor just finished her THIRD book!). I’ve had a Twitter friendship with Taylor for about a year now, after I fangirled to her about “Forever, Interrupted”.

Since then, we’ve shared random geekisms, and I feel overwhelmed by an author taking the time to truly connect with her readers. In fact, I was approached by a PR team from Taylor’s publishing house to do this interview, but after some delay, I tweeted Taylor about how I hadn’t heard back from the team yet (and how annoyingly eager I was). If you need any more proof of what a kind person she is, she tweeted me her email address, and sent me responses within an hour of me sending her my questions. So, without further ado, here is the interview, and don’t forget, “After I Do” comes out in FOUR days.

1. Many women’s fiction novels focus on finding love, but yours have focused on losing it. What is it about that devastation you find inspiring, and why do you think your readers seem to connect with it?

Taylor: Hahahah. I’m embarrassed to admit this but until you just put it into those words, I did not realize that is what I was doing. I’m drawn to heartbreak because I think it’s where we show our true colors and because heartbreak is one of those things that can really shape us. But I honestly didn’t see myself as writing about losing love until this question. This is like when someone reads your book and sees some sort of beautiful imagery you didn’t intend and you just nod your head and go, “Yes, yes, I did that on purpose. I’m just that smart.”

2. Marriage, in all of its turmoil and elation, will always seem to provide great inspiration, and possibly will always be looked at as something to strive for. How do you balance these qualities honestly when writing about them?

Taylor: Well, I think that’s exactly why it’s fun to be honest while writing about them. Marriage is often the ending of a love story. “They met, they fell in love, they got married. The end.” I wanted to tell a story about how hard marriage truly is, about how when you get married, that is just the beginning.

3. What questions do you ask yourself when you begin to craft an outline for your book? Do you focus on the characters or the story first?

Taylor: Normally, I will get excited about a feeling or a concept that I want to explore, and then I’ll figure out what sort of story would be a natural place for that feeling to come up. Once I have the story, I’ll start thinking about what type of people will make the story come alive.

4. When creating your characters, what have you noticed develops first- personality, looks, voice? Do you think one is more important than the other?

Taylor: For my main character, definitely voice. I start writing as them and then try to figure out, based on the writing, who they are. Are they funny? Are they smart? What do they want out of life? What are they missing? Sometimes, I will immediately know the other characters, as if they sort of show up fully formed, or I’ll just get a glimpse and extrapolate on that. For some reason, as I started writing, I kept seeing Ryan as the kind of guy that wears t-shirts that should be, maybe, a quarter size smaller. He struck me as the kind of guy that’s just big in the shoulders and arms. I have no idea why! I just saw it that way. And that informed his personality and his perspective.

5. “After I Do” is your second novel. What were some of the challenges and triumphs you noticed between writing book two and book one, “Forever, Interrupted”?

Taylor: Self-doubt is the biggest. You write a book, you are proud of it, people like it, and then when you sit down to write the second one, poof, all your confidence is gone. I was convinced this book was terrible through every draft.

I’m also not a person that likes telling stories linearly, but I didn’t want to tell this story back and forth, like Forever, Interrupted. I wanted to do something new. So that was a real struggle.

6. What are some of your quirks when writing? Dead silence? Snacks on hand? Napkin notes in coffee shops?

Taylor: Dead silence and iced tea. I won’t sit down to write without a big drink at my desk. It used to be Diet Coke but, luckily, I have rid myself of that particular vice. (For now.)

7. How did your journey of writer to published author unfold? Have you always enjoyed living in the fictional world of books?

I really fell in love with novels in college. In high school, I was the person that never read the book in English class. I didn’t know what I was missing. Once I got to college, I started reading for pleasure and the whole world opened up to me.

In my early twenties, I realized that I wanted to be a writer, but I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant. Living in Los Angeles, the obvious choice is to be a screenwriter, but I wasn’t sure that was where I wanted to start. So I decided to write a short story, just to see if I could. And it turned into a novel. That’s when I realized what I wanted to do.

So I scrapped that novel and set out to write a whole new one. And that was Forever, Interrupted. After that came After I Do, and I just finished my third book to be published, Maybe in Another Life. And I have never been more confident that I have the career I never knew I always wanted.