Hello all! We're now only THREE WEEKS away from Better Off Friends! It's always exciting when a new book comes out, but I am EXTRA excited for people to read this one. I also can't wait to meet some of you on the road (one of the best parts of being an author!). New events have been added since last week (with more to come). Just a reminder that if you can't make it to any of my events, you can order a SIGNED, PERSONALIZED copy from Boswell Books by calling 414/332-1181 (must order by February 25th!).
Last week I talked about the inspiration for Better Off Friends. Today it's how I developed the characters of Macallan and Levi.
When I started to tackle writing a book about a guy and a girl who are best friends, I spent a lot of time thinking about this guy and girl. How did they become best friends? How long have they known each other? I knew that I didn't want them to live next door to each other as that has been done a lot. I also didn't want their parents to have a relationship (since that's how Nate and Penny Lane know each other in The Lonely Hearts Club). Plus, I wanted the reader to "see" them first meet. So I decided from there that one of them would move to town. So that's how Levi came to move from Los Angeles to Wisconsin, where he meets Macallan on his first day of school in seventh grade.
But why would they become so close? By seventh grade, guys and girls have, for the most part, already self-segregated themselves. So I decided to give them something really random in common. I didn't want to do music, since I've done a lot of books with a music angle. So I created a fictitious BBC sitcom called Buggy and Floyd. What started as a way to get them to talk to each other, ended up being a pretty big theme throughout the whole novel. Plus, it was fun looking up British slang. Blimey!
Okay, so now they are talking, but what about them makes them become really close? I was on a plane when I was trying to figure this out. Then it hit me right as we were taking off. Macallan develops a strong bond with Levi and his family (especially his mother) because her mom has died. I've always written characters who have a fairly stable family (since that's my personal experience, save Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality, where the parents are divorced and Lexi's mom is, um, difficult. And that's the polite way to say it!).
After figuring out the basis of their relationship, I really dove into the characters. Macallan is strong, but has this tremendous loss that she has to live with every day. She's smart, quick witted, stubborn at times, and fiercely loyal. You do not want to mess with Macallan or anybody close to her. Seriously. Just don't.
Levi is a dude who tends to go with the flow (a lot of that came from when I decided he'd be from California). He doesn't want to cause problems and just wants to fit in (don't we all?). Together they are a perfect balance for each other (most of the time).
I probably spent almost a year (while writing Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality) slowly developing Macallan and Levi. By the time I was ready to outline the book, I knew them so well, it felt like much of the book wrote itself (especially the banter). I really love these two characters and hope that readers will, too!
Fun fact about Macallan's name: I was at a TEDxTeen signing at Scholastic a few years ago for Take a Bow where I met a girl named Macallan. I told her that I really liked her name as it was unique. Then I asked her if she wouldn't mind me using it in a book. So I took the post-it note with her name (which I still have). When I began working on Better Off Friends, I decided to name the main girl Macallan. A year later, I was at Scholastic again for the same event. I really hoped I'd see Macallan so I could tell her that I used her name. So I'm signing and signing. I get a book, look down at the post-it and see the name "Macallan." Now because I'm super professional, I looked up and said, "SHUT UP! I was so hoping I'd see you again! I named a character after you!" Then I demanded a picture.
I'm happy to report that I did send Macallan a copy of the book and she approved of her namesake. Phew!
Levi's name came from the fact that I liked the name. Although his last name, Rodgers, is after the GREATEST QUARTERBACK IN THE NFL. GO PACK!
On that note, I bid you all an awesome rest of your week. Stay tuned for a MAJOR giveaway this Friday. You didn't think I was going to forget the 50th anniversary of the Beatles arriving in the US, did you?