Better Off Friends

Countdown to Better Off Friends: 1 Week! The Events, Giveaways Galore and HUGE THANKS!

Hello all! I remember when I finished the page proofs for Better Off Friends in May thinking it was going to be FOREVER until the book would finally be out. But we are almost here! We are ONE WEEK away from Better Off Friends being out in the world!


I've already talked about the inspiration,  characters, and setting, so I thought I'd have this last pre-release blog post be about where you can pre-order a copy of the book, where you can see me this spring, AND where you can win one of EIGHT signed books being given away! That's right, it's the PAR-TAY post! Plus, I have a special note for each and every one of you below (see Final Thoughts). 


Since I can't be everywhere at once, the lovely folks at Boswell Books in Milwaukee are currently taking pre-orders for anybody who wants a SIGNED, PERSONALIZE copy of Better Off Friends (or any of my books!). I'll be there on the 25th signing away, so if you want a signed book give them a call at 414/332-1181.


Below are the current list of events I'll be doing this spring. I do know I'll for sure be in Los Angeles and Philadelphia area, but don't have that information yet. As always, keeping checking my EVENTS page for updates. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014
7:00 p.m.
Better Off Friends launch event!
Boswell Books
2559 N. Downer Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53211
For more information

Wednesday, February 26, 2014
6:30 p.m.
Books and Company
1039 Summit Ave.
Oconomowoc, WI 53066
There'll be CULVER'S CUSTARD, so bring your sweet tooth! 
For more information

Friday, February 28, 2014
4:30 p.m.
811 Elm Street
Winnetka, IL 60093
For more information

Monday, March 3, 2014
7:00 p.m.
Presentation/signing for WUD Publications Lit Fest
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Union South
1308 W. Dayton Street, Madison, WI 53716
I'll be talking more about the publishing process at this open to the public event, but also answering any and all book questions! A Room of One's Own bookstore will be selling books afterwards.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014
6:00 p.m.
Portage Public Library 
253 W. Edgewater, Portage, WI 53901
For more information

Tuesday, March 18, 2014
7:30 p.m.
WORD bookstore
123 Newark Avenue, Jersey City
The Mutual Admiration Society Reading with Kate Brian (Hereafter), Susane Colasanti (All I Need), Michelle Hodkin (The Evolution of Mara Dyer), David Levithan (Two Boys Kissing), and Rebecca Serle (The Edge of Falling)
For more information

Sunday, March 23, 2014
1:45-2:30 p.m.
Books of Wonder
18 W. 18th Street
New York, NY 10011
For more information
This is part of The New York City Teen Author Festival, click here for the full schedule of events.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014
6:00 p.m.
Teen Author Reading Night
NYPL - Jefferson Market Branch
425 Avenue of the Americas (at 10th Street), NYC
I'll be reading along with Claudia Gabel and Cheryl Klam (Elusion), Gwendolyn Heasley (Don’t Call Me Baby / The Art of Goodbye), Emmy Laybourne (Sky on Fire), Marie Rutkoski (The Winner’s Curse), Jennifer E. Smith (The Geography of You and Me), and Jess Verdi (The Summer I Wasn’t Me).
For more information

Saturday, April 26, 2014
9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Alief Taylor High School
7555 Howell Sugar Land Road
Houston, TX 77083
For more information



I'm so fortunate that a group of awesome Wisconsin bloggers are not only reviewing and doing blog posts this week leading up to the release, but each will be giving away of a signed book. That's right, EIGHT CHANCES TO WIN A SIGNED BOOK! (HUGE thanks to Liza at WhoRuBlog for spearheading the #BetterOffInWi blog tour!)

Feb 16 Liza – WhoRuBlog – Review & some more recipes & giveaway of a signed book

Feb 17 Sarah – Novel Thoughts  - Review and and giveaway of signed book

Feb 18 Jaime and Erin – Fiction Fare – Quotes from the book with Wisconsin references & giveaway of a signed book

Feb 19 Andrea – Mrs. Payan Reads – History of Culvers and giveaway of a signed book

Feb 20 Erica – The Book Cellar – (still to be determined) & giveaway of a signed book

Feb 21 Heidi – YA Bibliophile – Irish references and giveaway of a signed book

Feb 22 Rachel – As told by Rachel – Pictures of places mentioned in the book from Wisconsin and giveaway of a signed book

Feb 23 Kelly – Belle of the Literati – WHEN HARRY MET SALLY: Can girls and boys be friends? Kelly is asking her friends for for their thoughts!

Feb 24 Jillian – Heise Reads and Recommends – Reviews from Students & giveaway of a signed book


I keep having to pinch myself that my FIFTH book is about to come out. Not only that, this Thursday will mark my third anniversary as a full-time author. Three years ago, I thought I'd take a year off to write and see where that would lead me. Never did I think I'd still be doing it three years later. It isn't easy being a full-time author (hello health care premiums and paying loads in taxes!), but it's the best job. I don't take it for granted for one minute. I have no idea where I'll be in a year, but I do know this: each and every day I wake up and get to have the best job in the world, and it's because of YOU. Authors are nothing without people to read their books. Thank you for making my dreams come true.

XOXO, Elizabeth

Countdown to Better Off Friends: 2 Weeks! The Setting

Hello! Can you believe it? We are only TWO WEEKS away from Better Off Friends! Before I talk about the setting of the book, there are a few exciting things that have happened/will happen this week. First, yesterday RT Book Reviews exclusively revealed the FIRST TWO CHAPTERS of Better Off Friends. Happy reading!

Second, Scholastic, This is Teen and I are having a Twitter party this Thursday, at 7pm EST to celebrate Singles Awareness Day (otherwise known as Valentine's Day--HA!). I'll be answering YOUR questions, so send them using #BetterOffFriends. Can't wait to tweet you there!

Twitter VDay

Last, but not least, in two weeks I hit the road. Check out my EVENTS page to see if I'm coming near you. If not, you can pre-order a SIGNED copy from Boswell Books. Info on the page.

Now onto Better Off Friends! I've already talked about the inspiration and characters, so today  I'm going to talk about the setting. 

Better Off Friends is my first book to take place in Wisconsin, where I was born and raised. It's funny because I never purposely didn't set a book there. So when I started working on the book I thought I'd set it in Wisconsin (an unnamed Milwaukee suburb). Generally the settings of my books don't have a huge influence over the novel, but slowly and surely, Wisconsin made it's way into the fabric of the story.

When you're growing up, everything is normal to you. It wasn't until I went to Syracuse University that I realized how many things are very Wisconsin. One of my favorite examples is my first day in my dorm room. I asked someone if they knew where the bubbler was. "What's a bubbler?" was the response. I didn't realize that people outside of Wisconsin call the thing you drink water from a water fountain, not a bubbler. So Bubbler became my nickname freshman year. Awesome.

I also didn't realize that Friday night fish fries were a very Wisconsin thing. Seriously, pretty much every restaurant in Wisconsin has fish fries on Friday nights all year round. It's a meal of beer battered fried fish, baked beans, choice of potato, tartar sauce, cole slaw, and if you go to an old-school place, corn fritters with honey butter. 

And don't get me started on the cheese curds and frozen custard (basically a richer version of ice cream). Yum.

Hmm, I'm starting to figure out why I always gain weight when I'm home...

Anyways! Since Levi is new to Wisconsin in Better Off Friends, I was able to introduce him (and readers) to some of the awesome parts of growing up Wisconsin. Oh, and I was also able to fit in many references (some subtle, most not) to the Green Bay Packers. Yep, I'm a cheesehead.


Wisconsin isn't the only setting in Better Off Friends. One of the characters goes to Ireland. I spent a month in Ireland a couple years ago and was really taken by the tiny village of Dingle. So when I needed to figure out a good city, I decided to set it in Dingle. I don't want to say too much about this section since I'm totally against spoilers of any kind!

Downtown Dingle (which is basically two streets!) Dingle peninsula

I only wish that I realized at the time that I was going to set a book there, I would've stayed longer. You know, for "research!" I love research (as do my parents who I "forced" to go to Culver's for custard and out for Friday night fish fry when I was home. Oh, the humany!).

So that's a little about the where of the book. Now I must sit and tap my foot impatiently for the next two weeks until Better Off Friends is officially out!

XOXO, Elizabeth

Countdown to Better Off Friends: 3 Weeks! The Characters

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?

XOXO, Elizabeth 

Countdown to Better Off Friends: 4 Weeks! The Inspiration

Hi all! I'm so excited because in only FOUR WEEKS, Better Off Friends will be out in the world! To celebrate the release, I'll be doing a blog each week leading up to the release giving some insights to the book. This week: the inspiration! 

Before I do that, a few things: I'm going to be in Wisconsin and Illinois publication week (with more events to be announced soon, I can say at this point that I'll be in Houston for TeenBookCon on Saturday, April 26th!). For details on my schedule, head over to my EVENTS page. If you can't make it to any of my events, and want a signed book, you can pre-order it here, please be sure you put in the comments section that you want it signed and to what name you wane me to put in it (like Sara or Sarah)

Now that's out of the way, exciting news: I got to finally hold a finished copy in my hands last week, thanks to my editor, David Levithan!

David and I with our baby!

It was actually a conversation with David that led me to write Better Off Friends. One day, we were taking the bus home (we live near each other), when David mentioned that Erin Black, his colleague over at Scholastic, was talking about how she wanted a YA When Harry Met Sally... which is an awesome movie about a guy and a girl who become best friends, but as Harry said in the beginning of the movie, " and woman can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way." I loved When Harry Met Sally... so I told him to let me think about it.

Over the course of a year (while I was working on Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality), I thought about it. A book about a guy and girl best friend who may or may not become something more isn't new ground. So I wanted to tell the story in a different way. One of my favorite parts of the movie are these interstitials where older couples banter about how they met. In these few seconds you really get a sense of their relationship. I wanted to have that in my book between each chapter (that would alternate between the guy and the girl). All I knew was that it would just be banter and the only way you'd know who was talking was the typeface. I thought there was no way I was going to get away with it. People might find it confusing.


I also really wanted to show the growth of the characters and their friendship, so I wanted the book to take place over a few years. Originally, Take a Bow was going to be four years of high school and I was told that I needed to make it only one year (with flashbacks, and for that story it was the right call). So I thought I wouldn't get away with doing Better Off Friends over five years.

Then I began working on the characters of Macallan and Levi. How did they become friends? What are they both like? I came up with certain scenes and scenarios and began outlining the story with index cards. I didn't breath a word about the interstitials or timeframe to my editor, and let the proposal (which is a rough outline and sample chapters) speak for itself. The interstitials ended up being everybody's favorite part! Hooray!

Once I got the green light, I began writing Better Off Friends over two years ago. Since I spent nearly a year building the characters in my head, it was a really fun book to write as I knew so much about them. Although there were some tears as well.

I'm really proud of this book. I hope you like reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Only four weeks left to go!

XOXO, Elizabeth