TIFFANY SCHMIDT: BOOKISH BOYFRIENDS

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“I was an under the covers nightlight reader with a serious addiction to the books that came from the musty section of the library.” This is the first line of the answer to the first question I asked Tiffany…but it might as well be the beginning of one of her novels. Either way, I’m hooked. Read on—and I think you will be, too. 

Welcome to the blog, Tiffany—and congrats on the release of your newest YA novel, BOOKISH BOYFRIENDS. What’s it all about, and what inspired you to write it?

I was an under the covers nightlight reader with a serious addiction to the books that came from the musty section of the library. Don’t get me wrong, I devoured stacks of Babysitters’ Club like most other girls in my elementary class, but I was also heavily into getting the stinky old books sent via interlibrary loan. Among these were all of Louisa May Alcott’s children’s books (I didn’t read her more risqué adult books until college!) and anything by Lucy Maud Montgomery. The day I stole my older sister’s Austen anthology was a game changer—and no, she never got it back. I didn’t just love these books and devour them, I wanted to live in them. I mourned when I finished a beloved book—it was worse when I ended a series. How could there be no more shared pages? How could my time with those characters be over? I made up all sorts of epilogues and sequels where I moved in next door to the March sisters or down the street from Green Gables. And sorry Jane and Anne and Amy, but those boys were all going to fall in love with me…

BOOKISH BOYFRIENDS is the story of a fifteen-year-old girl who is convinced boys are so much better in books. And she gets the chance to test that theory out when the boys at her new high school start to strangely resemble the heroes they’re studying in her English class. 

So, basically BOOKISH BOYFRIENDS is lifelong wish fulfillment in novel form. Who among us hasn’t secretly imagined their favorite hero or heroine stepping off the page into their real life?

You’re a former teacher, right? Tell us your story—how did you transition from teaching to writing, and did your journey have any twists or turns?

I was lucky enough to teach sixth grade for seven wonderful years. I wrote my first and second novels before and after school and crammed into weekends, and school breaks. I queried and signed with my agent during that time too. 

Deciding not to go back to teaching after having my twins was a really difficult choice. I loved my students and our time together, and while I wanted to make a go of this writing thing, my first book had been in submission limbo for several months. Two days after I sent in my resignation letter I received a phone call from my agent—my first novel, SEND ME A SIGN, had sold! I remember responding with calm, quiet, “Really? You’re sure?” My poor agent was so confused and disappointed I wasn’t whooping and shouting with joy… until I clarified that we were having this whole conversation while I rocked two sleeping babies. 

I do miss working with students sometimes—but the great thing about school visits is that they’re all my favorite parts of teaching, without the report cards and grading 🙂 

You’ve written two contemporary YA novels, as well as a contemporary thriller series. I read the description of your ONCE UPON A CRIME FAMILY series and was totally sucked in: “A series of romantic-thrillers inspired by fairy tales and set within the high-stakes world of crime families and organ trafficking.” I’ve got to know—where did the idea for these books come from? Which fairy tales did you choose—and why?

When I taught I made my students keep a Things I can’t let go of section in their writing notebook. This was where they’d record things that interested and intrigued and haunted them. It might be a headline or a snippet of conversation they’d overheard or something they’d read a book about once or a niche interest.

Most of my book ideas come from my own Things I can’t let go of lists. For me, the impetus of this series was a fairy tale I’d hung on to since a child, The Princess and the Pea. I’d been convinced my parents were skipping pages or reading it wrong because the princess was so incidental in the story. I wanted answers: why was the girl alone at night in a rainstorm? Where had she come from? Where was her family? And most importantly to a stumble-bumble-skinned-knees-and-bruised-elbows child, why was it appealing that she bruised from the pea under the mattress. 

Since I never found satisfaction in the original tale, I decided to write my own—one that centered the princess and didn’t just make her the outcome in someone else’s marriage plot. But I wanted a modern story and wanted to replace royalty with some other group that would see themselves as above the law and not governed by its structures— enter crime families. My ‘princess’ — Penelope—has an autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise easily. She’s also the daughter of a crime family that buys and sells human organs. I love the juxtaposition of a girl who’s treated as very delicate being at the center of a very dangerous situation. And of course, Penny is much stronger than anyone believes—she just has to learn this for herself!

BOOKISH BOYFRIENDS veers from the contemporary and thriller genres into romantic comedy…otherwise known as rom-com. Quite a change from organ trafficking! What made you decide to go in this direction with your writing?

I contain multitudes 🙂 That’s the simple and honest answer. I love a weepy story like my first book, SEND ME A SIGN, or a self-discovery story like BRIGHT BEFORE SUNRISE. I loved researching the scientific and political aspects of the ONCE UPON A CRIME FAMILY books. And nothing has been as much fun as splashing around in the details of my favorite classic novels while writing BOOKISH BOYFRIENDS and its sequel. 

These books may all seem dissimilar, but I think they have threads of continuity. They all are tales of empowerment. They all feature strong bonds of friendship and family. They all contain kissing scenes and swoons. I don’t know what I’ll write after the BOOKISH BOYFRIENDS series is complete, but it’s probably fairly accurate to assume it won’t be like anything I’ve written before. 

What’s the single best piece of advice about writing someone’s ever given you—and the best piece of advice you can give?

Early in my writing career Jonathan Maberry talked about rewarding yourself for getting words written. Essentially setting conditions where you’re positively reinforcing yourself for getting your butt in a chair or words on a piece of paper. He sets a daily goal and then if he achieves it he reinforces that behavior. He gave examples like a piece of chocolate or putting money in a vacation account or watching a certain TV show. 

I love this advice. I’m not necessarily a word count person, but I’ve adapted it for my own use. My favorite candy is Skittles. I only let myself eat them while revising, but then I let myself have one Skittle for every page I revise. It sounds silly and simple, but it works. I am so motivated to get out my rainbow pens and sit down with freshly printed pages. It’s completely Pavlovian, but revision has become my favorite step in the writing process. 

My best piece of advice is a little counter-intuitive. Especially since I just told you Jonathan’s advice worked for me. But it’s that your writing process is yours. Do not feel like you have to adopt anyone else’s. There is no right or wrong way to write a novel. There’s no magic trick or secret shortcut. Sometimes early in my career I ended up chasing other people’s processes. I’d read about how X author woke up early—so I’d change my schedule to try that. Then I’d read about how someone else did the Pomodoro method, so I’d buy a kitchen timer. This author had her first draft bound at Staples, so I was there with my frequent shopper card after I typed THE END. This one swore by index cards — this one had a binder. This one never revised while drafting, this one stopped writing each day mid-sentence…  I was running myself in circles trying to incorporate everyone’s process.

But none of them were my own. It’s trial and error to find out what works for me. It can change by novel, by the mood I’m in, by the scene I’m writing. I needed to learn to trust my own instincts and also to be aware of the things that made me more and less productive. So my advice is to trust yourself—it’s great to experiment and try new things with your process—you might find something great that works for you. (For the first time in my career I’m currently outlining a book before I begin!) But there’s no HAVE TO or YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG. 

Basically, You do you. 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Boys are so much better in books. At least according to Merrilee Campbell, fifteen, who thinks real-life chivalry is dead and there’d be nothing more romantic than having a guy woo her like the heroes in classic stories. Then she, her best friend, Eliza, and her younger sister, Rory, transfer to Reginald R. Hero Prep—where all the boys look like they’ve stepped off the pages of a romance novel. Merri can hardly walk across the quad without running into someone who reminds her of Romeo.
 
When the brooding and complicated Monroe Stratford scales Merri’s trellis in an effort to make her his, she thinks she might be Juliet incarnate. But as she works her way through her literature curriculum under the guidance of an enigmatic teacher, Merri’s tale begins to unfold in ways she couldn’t have imagined. Merri soon realizes that only she is in charge of her story. And it is a truth universally acknowledged that first impressions can be deceiving . . .

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tiffany Schmidt spent half of her childhood in the library and the other half in time-out, which was the perfect recipe for becoming a writer. She is the author of several young adult novels, including Bookish Boyfriends, Send Me a Sign, Bright Before Sunrise, and the Once Upon a Crime Family series. A former sixth grade teacher, she lives in Pennsylvania with her impish twin sons, their rascally baby brother, a pair of spoiled puggles, and her very saintly husband. Find her online at TiffanySchmidt.com, or on Twitter and Instagram @TiffanySchmidt.

Bookish Boyfriends website: BookishBoyfriends.com

“I was an under the covers nightlight reader with a serious addiction to the books that came from the musty section of the library.” This is the first line of the answer to the first question I asked Tiffany…but it might as well be the beginning of one of her novels. Either way, I’m hooked. Read on—and I think you will be, too. 

Welcome to the blog, Tiffany—and congrats on the release of your newest YA novel, BOOKISH BOYFRIENDS. What’s it all about, and what inspired you to write it?

I was an under the covers nightlight reader with a serious addiction to the books that came from the musty section of the library. Don’t get me wrong, I devoured stacks of Babysitters’ Club like most other girls in my elementary class, but I was also heavily into getting the stinky old books sent via interlibrary loan. Among these were all of Louisa May Alcott’s children’s books (I didn’t read her more risqué adult books until college!) and anything by Lucy Maud Montgomery. The day I stole my older sister’s Austen anthology was a game changer—and no, she never got it back. I didn’t just love these books and devour them, I wanted to live in them. I mourned when I finished a beloved book—it was worse when I ended a series. How could there be no more shared pages? How could my time with those characters be over? I made up all sorts of epilogues and sequels where I moved in next door to the March sisters or down the street from Green Gables. And sorry Jane and Anne and Amy, but those boys were all going to fall in love with me…

BOOKISH BOYFRIENDS is the story of a fifteen-year-old girl who is convinced boys are so much better in books. And she gets the chance to test that theory out when the boys at her new high school start to strangely resemble the heroes they’re studying in her English class. 

So, basically BOOKISH BOYFRIENDS is lifelong wish fulfillment in novel form. Who among us hasn’t secretly imagined their favorite hero or heroine stepping off the page into their real life?

You’re a former teacher, right? Tell us your story—how did you transition from teaching to writing, and did your journey have any twists or turns?

I was lucky enough to teach sixth grade for seven wonderful years. I wrote my first and second novels before and after school and crammed into weekends, and school breaks. I queried and signed with my agent during that time too. 

Deciding not to go back to teaching after having my twins was a really difficult choice. I loved my students and our time together, and while I wanted to make a go of this writing thing, my first book had been in submission limbo for several months. Two days after I sent in my resignation letter I received a phone call from my agent—my first novel, SEND ME A SIGN, had sold! I remember responding with calm, quiet, “Really? You’re sure?” My poor agent was so confused and disappointed I wasn’t whooping and shouting with joy… until I clarified that we were having this whole conversation while I rocked two sleeping babies. 

I do miss working with students sometimes—but the great thing about school visits is that they’re all my favorite parts of teaching, without the report cards and grading 🙂 

You’ve written two contemporary YA novels, as well as a contemporary thriller series. I read the description of your ONCE UPON A CRIME FAMILY series and was totally sucked in: “A series of romantic-thrillers inspired by fairy tales and set within the high-stakes world of crime families and organ trafficking.” I’ve got to know—where did the idea for these books come from? Which fairy tales did you choose—and why?

When I taught I made my students keep a Things I can’t let go of section in their writing notebook. This was where they’d record things that interested and intrigued and haunted them. It might be a headline or a snippet of conversation they’d overheard or something they’d read a book about once or a niche interest.

Most of my book ideas come from my own Things I can’t let go of lists. For me, the impetus of this series was a fairy tale I’d hung on to since a child, The Princess and the Pea. I’d been convinced my parents were skipping pages or reading it wrong because the princess was so incidental in the story. I wanted answers: why was the girl alone at night in a rainstorm? Where had she come from? Where was her family? And most importantly to a stumble-bumble-skinned-knees-and-bruised-elbows child, why was it appealing that she bruised from the pea under the mattress. 

Since I never found satisfaction in the original tale, I decided to write my own—one that centered the princess and didn’t just make her the outcome in someone else’s marriage plot. But I wanted a modern story and wanted to replace royalty with some other group that would see themselves as above the law and not governed by its structures— enter crime families. My ‘princess’ — Penelope—has an autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise easily. She’s also the daughter of a crime family that buys and sells human organs. I love the juxtaposition of a girl who’s treated as very delicate being at the center of a very dangerous situation. And of course, Penny is much stronger than anyone believes—she just has to learn this for herself!

BOOKISH BOYFRIENDS veers from the contemporary and thriller genres into romantic comedy…otherwise known as rom-com. Quite a change from organ trafficking! What made you decide to go in this direction with your writing?

I contain multitudes 🙂 That’s the simple and honest answer. I love a weepy story like my first book, SEND ME A SIGN, or a self-discovery story like BRIGHT BEFORE SUNRISE. I loved researching the scientific and political aspects of the ONCE UPON A CRIME FAMILY books. And nothing has been as much fun as splashing around in the details of my favorite classic novels while writing BOOKISH BOYFRIENDS and its sequel. 

These books may all seem dissimilar, but I think they have threads of continuity. They all are tales of empowerment. They all feature strong bonds of friendship and family. They all contain kissing scenes and swoons. I don’t know what I’ll write after the BOOKISH BOYFRIENDS series is complete, but it’s probably fairly accurate to assume it won’t be like anything I’ve written before. 

What’s the single best piece of advice about writing someone’s ever given you—and the best piece of advice you can give?

Early in my writing career Jonathan Maberry talked about rewarding yourself for getting words written. Essentially setting conditions where you’re positively reinforcing yourself for getting your butt in a chair or words on a piece of paper. He sets a daily goal and then if he achieves it he reinforces that behavior. He gave examples like a piece of chocolate or putting money in a vacation account or watching a certain TV show. 

I love this advice. I’m not necessarily a word count person, but I’ve adapted it for my own use. My favorite candy is Skittles. I only let myself eat them while revising, but then I let myself have one Skittle for every page I revise. It sounds silly and simple, but it works. I am so motivated to get out my rainbow pens and sit down with freshly printed pages. It’s completely Pavlovian, but revision has become my favorite step in the writing process. 

My best piece of advice is a little counter-intuitive. Especially since I just told you Jonathan’s advice worked for me. But it’s that your writing process is yours. Do not feel like you have to adopt anyone else’s. There is no right or wrong way to write a novel. There’s no magic trick or secret shortcut. Sometimes early in my career I ended up chasing other people’s processes. I’d read about how X author woke up early—so I’d change my schedule to try that. Then I’d read about how someone else did the Pomodoro method, so I’d buy a kitchen timer. This author had her first draft bound at Staples, so I was there with my frequent shopper card after I typed THE END. This one swore by index cards — this one had a binder. This one never revised while drafting, this one stopped writing each day mid-sentence…  I was running myself in circles trying to incorporate everyone’s process.

But none of them were my own. It’s trial and error to find out what works for me. It can change by novel, by the mood I’m in, by the scene I’m writing. I needed to learn to trust my own instincts and also to be aware of the things that made me more and less productive. So my advice is to trust yourself—it’s great to experiment and try new things with your process—you might find something great that works for you. (For the first time in my career I’m currently outlining a book before I begin!) But there’s no HAVE TO or YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG. 

Basically, You do you. 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Boys are so much better in books. At least according to Merrilee Campbell, fifteen, who thinks real-life chivalry is dead and there’d be nothing more romantic than having a guy woo her like the heroes in classic stories. Then she, her best friend, Eliza, and her younger sister, Rory, transfer to Reginald R. Hero Prep—where all the boys look like they’ve stepped off the pages of a romance novel. Merri can hardly walk across the quad without running into someone who reminds her of Romeo.
 
When the brooding and complicated Monroe Stratford scales Merri’s trellis in an effort to make her his, she thinks she might be Juliet incarnate. But as she works her way through her literature curriculum under the guidance of an enigmatic teacher, Merri’s tale begins to unfold in ways she couldn’t have imagined. Merri soon realizes that only she is in charge of her story. And it is a truth universally acknowledged that first impressions can be deceiving . . .

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tiffany Schmidt spent half of her childhood in the library and the other half in time-out, which was the perfect recipe for becoming a writer. She is the author of several young adult novels, including Bookish Boyfriends, Send Me a Sign, Bright Before Sunrise, and the Once Upon a Crime Family series. A former sixth grade teacher, she lives in Pennsylvania with her impish twin sons, their rascally baby brother, a pair of spoiled puggles, and her very saintly husband. Find her online at TiffanySchmidt.com, or on Twitter and Instagram @TiffanySchmidt.

Bookish Boyfriends website: BookishBoyfriends.com

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