My Kind of Crazy: An Interview with Robin Reul
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The following post is from Food, Fitness & Fiction contributing editor Joshua Flores (pictured below).
From flammable “promposals” to an odd girl with a mysterious home life, My Kind Of Crazy (Sourcebooks Fire, April 5, 2016) by Robin Reul is simply thrilling. This coming of age tale explores the life of Hank Kirby and his new found friend Peyton Breedlove as they experience true friendship, love, and the challenges that come with growing up. This upcoming novel is sure to attract teens as well as adults who want a brutally honest take on the struggles of teens today and how our upbringing impacts the people we become; this is why I enjoyed the book so much. My Kind of Crazy shows that life is unpredictable and that in one way or another, there is crazy in us all.
JF: What elements of My Kind of Crazy were based on your own personal/high school experiences?
RR: While the actual life experiences of the main characters were completely fictional, the essence of what they did for each other, that deep friendship that grows in the midst of darkness, that first moment you find someone who sees how flawed you are and doesn’t walk away, is pulled straight from my personal history. When I was a teenager, I had a friend who helped do just that for me, and she left this earth far too soon—when we were 17, to be exact. I have long thought about a way to pay forward the imprint she left on my heart, as a silent thanks for likely saving my life. This is that story.
JF: How did you balance both the intensity and the humor in the book without making the plot seem unrealistic or too intense?
RR: I tried to do it through Hank’s voice. His snarky sense of humor and tendency to make light of everything is his way of coping with the curve balls of real life. I know a lot of people tend to do that, myself included, but sometimes things happen and it’s impossible to find a punch line. Those are the moments where we are forced to get real. I wanted to capture that in a way that would side wind the reader as much as it does Hank.
JF: Do you see yourself writing outside of YA contemporary fiction?
RR: Absolutely. I would also love to write adult fiction as well, but for now my brain is still spinning stories with teen protagonists so I think I’ll hang out here for a while.
JF: Will there be a follow up to My Kind of Crazy?
RR: Good question. I’ve definitely thought about it, and I have a few ideas where the story could go, but as of now, no immediate plans. But never say never!
JF: What are you currently working on?
RR: Currently I have several different projects I’m working on, and my editor and I still have to figure out which one would be the best follow up to MY KIND OF CRAZY. Unfortunately, I can’t say much more about it until then!
JF: What books/authors have inspired your writing?
RR: Too many to count. When I was younger, I loved Judy Blume and Norma Klein.
Now I am inspired by great books like The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp, Sweethearts by Sara Zarr, All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, Winger by Andrew Smith, The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner, and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli…the list goes on and on…stories that I can feel in my bones, that leave me in awe of the writing…sentences I need to go back and read several times—not because I didn’t understand them, but because they were so impossibly perfect.
JF: At what point did you know you wanted to write a YA novel?
RR: I’ve always been drawn to writing about this particular point of life. Maybe because so much happened to me there that helped put me on the trajectory to becoming who I am today. Maybe because I remember how important it was to feel like someone knew what I was going through at that point in my life, and I didn’t always find that solace in a person. Sometimes that needed friend came in the form of a book or a movie. I’d like to feel like I could provide that for someone when they needed it, even if only to let them laugh and escape for a few hours.
JF: How did you come up with the idea for My Kind of Crazy?
RR: I’ve dealt with a lot in my personal life over the years, and have learned that love and family and friendship can truly help carry you when you are unable to carry yourself. Also, things that happen to us are only a piece of our story, not our whole story, which is often so difficult to comprehend when one is a teen. I knew I wanted to find a way to share that reminder and instill hope. The idea found its voice in Hank and Peyton, and the story of their friendship and struggle to move past their life’s circumstances and help each other find light in the darkness. I wanted it to be funny though, even though it was dealing with some serious topics, so I knew their worlds had to collide in a way that made them both vulnerable from the start.
JF: How does music fit into your writing?
RR: I always make a playlist for every book with songs that remind me of the characters or I could imagine playing as the soundtrack to a particular scene. However, I actually prefer to write in total silence. When I am forced to write in a place where that is not possible, I have a loop of a waterfall that I listen to that effectively blocks out the noise without being too distracting.
JF: What is your ideal location to work on your books?
RR: I love to write in the center of my house. It’s light and cheerful, and I have these big front windows that look out onto the street and trees and the schoolyard of the neighborhood elementary school where both my kids attended. I find it very inspiring. I used to just stick my computer on the dining room table, but one Christmas morning I woke up and my dining room table had been replaced with a bona fide desk just for me, and it has officially been my writing cave ever since.
JF: When do you write? And do you eat or drink when you write?
RR: My writing day is usually during the week while my daughter is at school, and occasionally on weekends if I’m on deadline. It often involves a lot of coffee and sometimes—not gonna lie—cupcakes. I will start with hot coffee in the morning and switch to cold by about two or three. I guess you could say I sort of have a coffee problem.
JF: What are your top all time favorite books and why?
RR: It’s not young adult, but one of my top favorite books of all time is How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper. That voice was just amazing, and I knew the minute I read it I wanted to write just like him but for teens. He’s my favorite adult author. On the YA side, some of my absolute all-time favorites are The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp, Sweethearts by Sara Zarr, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, Going Bovine by Libba Bray, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Moonglass by Jessi Kirby, Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven…so many. What they all have in common is that the writing was so brilliant that it evoked all my senses in one way or another and made me laugh or cry, and inspired me to want to sit down and write. To me, the measure of a great book is when I’m sorry to let the characters go and then think to myself “I wish I wrote that.”
To learn more about Robin Reul and her work, visit her website.
Joshua Flores, a junior from Tustin, California is currently an editor for the Beckman Chronicle and enjoys both reading and writing. He spends most of his free time writing, and coming up with weird characters for the novel he is working on. You can follow him on Instagram at @booklover41899.
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