Character Valentines

Dearest Readers,

The events in The Way Back to You begin shortly after February 14th. But it’s the first Valentine’s Day since the death of Ashlyn, best friend and girlfriend of our narrators, Cloudy and Kyle. So we thought it would be more fun to share something from the previous Valentine’s Day—something from when Ashlyn was still alive.

What we have here are a note Cloudy and her (then) ­boyfriend Matty were passing back and forth during class, the eCard Ashlyn created for Kyle, and the eCard Kyle sent to Ashlyn in response. We hope you’ll enjoy! (And for more context, of course, we’ll love it if you check out The Way Back to You coming May 3, 2016!)

xo,

Michelle & Mindi

P.S. You can click on each image below to enlarge it. ♥

C&M-Valentine (1)

Valentine for Kyle (1)

Ashlyn Rose This picture reminded me of you for some reason. He just needs some mittens. I'm looking forward to hanging out. I'll pick you and those Junior Mints up at 5.Love Kyle (1)

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Where We Are: A TWBTY Timeline!

by Michelle Andreani

It’s been awhile since we’ve updated you on all things THE WAY BACK TO YOU. And so many things have happened! (That’s our excuse for being so bad at the updating. Things happening!) (We’re sorry.) But water under the bridge! We thought the funnest way to share what we’ve been up to is a photo timeline. So, please join us and here we go.

Sure, we wrote TWBTY on our computers, but so many thoughts, and starts, and details went into our character journals. Cloudy and Kyle really came to life in them. This is Mindi’s, packed full of Kyle Knowledge!

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While we relied on the internet (and our new best friend, Google Maps, specifically) for research, sometimes we needed to take matters into our own hands. Literally. When I was having a tough time rewriting a scene set in Santa Monica, CA, I drew my own version in my journal. And it helped that scene a ton!  (Map not to scale.)

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Writing and revising TWBTY was fun and lots of work and exciting and sometimes miserable. The misery was courtesy of this guy:

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*hates you*

Then! Finally! In June 2015, our draft was complete. And a couple months later, it was copyediting time. At that point, TWBTY was still all electronic, and it looked like this:

Copyedited TWBTY

November arrived sooner than expected, and along with it, pass pages! With those we were able to go through a hard copy of our story; one that was starting to look like a real book! And it required Post-Its. A lot of Post-Its.

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A lot of Post-Its

AND THEN.

IT HAPPENED.

TWBTY GOT ONE STEP CLOSER TO A BOOK-BOOK.

ARCS!!!

PRETTY ARCS. *pets ARCs*

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Hi, Arm silhouette!

Hi, Arm silhouette!

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And that’s where we are with TWBTY. I told you a lot had happened! Now we’re gearing up to share Cloudy, Kyle, Arm, and co. with all of you.  We hope you’re ready to meet them after all this time. 🙂

How It Started

BY MINDI SCOTT
Me with Michelle - March 2014

Photo by Dwayne Scott. March 2014

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been over three years since Michelle and I started brainstorming for the story we’ve been writing together. As you might have seen yesterday, our book is going to be published by HarperCollins, perhaps in late-2015 or early-ish 2016! (Edit: It will be summer 2016.) And if you haven’t, please check out Michelle’s post. We are so excited about this!!!!

I thought it would be fun to share Michelle’s and my original correspondence about the story that would become FAR FROM US, so I’ve pasted below two days’ worth of emails from 2011. Some of what we discussed in these first emails didn’t come to be at all (like our two narrators not loving the girl who died), but a lot of it will be in the book in some form. For extra context, here’s a one-sentence pitch Michelle and I put together very recently:

FAR FROM US is a dual narrative of heartbreak, hijinks, and healing, in which two grieving teens, Cloudy and Kyle, who have avoided each other for the past year, spend their mid-winter break traveling, along with a stray kitten, through Oregon, California, Arizona, and Nevada to see the organ recipients of Cloudy’s deceased best friend, who was also Kyle’s girlfriend.

FYI: These emails are unedited. Michelle’s are in black and my responses are in blue. The conversation ends abruptly because all the emails that followed are incredibly lengthy and detailed; we’d decided at that point that we were really going to write this. It took a while to start it, though, because I was on deadline with my second novel for all of 2011. 🙂

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

From: Michelle Andreani
To: Mindi Scott
Sent: Fri, April 22, 2011 6:26:47 AM
Subject: RE: Does this sound stupid?

Hey! I know you’re in the middle of your first draft right now, so sorry to bother you! 

But I had an idea on the ride up to work and wanted to share it before a) I forgot it, and b) before I thought about it anymore, only to find out it’s stupid. (I think the subject line of this email is perfect, btw.)

So, this is it: A girl whose best friend/sister/boyfriend/parent/miscellaneous loved one has died, and she somehow goes to find the people who received this loved one’s donated organs. Wouldn’t that be an interesting road trip??

Is that gross?! Or creepy? Or too sentimental? 

Okay, sorry again. Back to work!

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Date: Fri, 22 Apr 2011 11:38:26 -0700
From: Mindi Scott
Subject: Re: Does this sound stupid?
To: Michelle Andreani

Ha, I’m so glad we’re able to keep using this subject line!

I don’t think it sounds stupid! It sounds like it has the potential to be very, very emotional. I think it’s more along the lines of sentimental than gross or creepy, but it wouldn’t have to be TOO sentimental. There are all sorts of possibilities as far as who she will encounter, who (if anyone) will go with her, and what sorts of revelations she’ll have along the way!
 ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
From: Michelle Andreani
To: Mindi Scott
Sent: Fri, April 22, 2011 11:57:18 AM
Subject: RE: Does this sound stupid?

Thanks for the input! I have no intention of writing this any time soon (besides, saving the road trip for OUR story, woo!). I just wanted your opinion 🙂Hope your writing is getting done!
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Date: Fri, 22 Apr 2011 12:03:49 -0700
From: Mindi Scott
Subject: Re: Does this sound stupid?
To: Michelle Andreani
 

See, and when I read this idea, I was thinking, Hey! I wonder if we could use this for Claudia and Kyle. But then I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want you to feel like you’re being held back from working on any stories that strike your fancy on account of me! 🙂
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
From: Michelle Andreani
To: Mindi Scott
Sent: Fri, April 22, 2011 2:48:35 PM
Subject: RE: Does this sound stupid?

Hahaha! Well, as soon as I thought Road trip!, I of course thought of our story, but I didn’t want to say anything because what if you hated this organ donor nonsense?? 

 
PS: I think Claudia might be Stormy again, because I’ve since had interactions with a Claudia I didn’t care for…
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Continue reading

‘The Power of Vulnerability’

by Michelle Andreani

And-now-that-you-dont

I’m trying to make this a short intro because I really, really, really just want you to watch this video. Especially if you’re someone who, like me, struggles with self-worth and those three slippery words: “I am enough.”

In her powerful TED Talk, Brené Brown calls people who feel worthy of love and belonging “the Wholehearted.” (Which I. am. crazy. about. The Wholehearteds sounds like the coolest club ever!) She also discusses human connection, and how she discovered, through research, that vulnerability might be at the center of it all. Vulnerability is an incredibly significant topic for me, both personally and fictionally — one of our characters has her own vulnerability issues (teaser!), and I am so glad my own research led me to this. I felt understood as I listened. I feel like I can understand more as I write.

Now, I know it’s twenty minutes long, and you’re like, “That’s 19:30 minutes too long for something on YouTube without cats, you monster!” But I promise! Brené is so engaging and funny and she speaks DIRECTLY TO YOUR SOUL and you will possibly spend many more minutes afterward looking up every other thing she has done ever. Like I did!

Anyway. I stumbled on this when I very much needed to hear these things, and I thought you might need to hear these things. So, here. ❤

Phobia: Recordings of My Own Voice

BY MINDI SCOTT
239/365: 08/27/2013. Invention of Telephone

Photo by peddhapati

I don’t know what it is, but few things make me cringe more than hearing a recording of my voice. Over twenty years have passed since this happened, I still have a clear, uncomfortable memory from when I was around age 14.

(Side note: This was the very early-90s when few people had cell phones or voicemail. Instead, entire households shared one phone number and had devices called “answering machines” where callers could leave recorded messages that were played back later on a speaker than anyone in the room could hear. *shudder*)

So I was visiting my friend Mignonne for whom I’d left a message earlier that day. Someone forgot to erase it or hadn’t yet listened to it perhaps. Much to my mortification, Mignonne’s dad started playing the messages on the machine and said, “There’s one from Mindi on here.”

Hearing my own voice on the recording, I suddenly jumped up from the couch screeching, “Turn it off! Turn it off!”

I think Mignonne’s whole family probably looked at me like I’d lost it juuuuuust a little bit.

My feelings about hearing my voice haven’t changed. Even though I did a few vlogs (most of them during the summer of 2010 before my first novel came out), I’ve never gotten used to it. I did watch a few of the videos, but not all. Some of them, I know that I will never be able to subject myself to.

Anyway! That was my lead-in to let you know about the fun podcast that I recent was involved in with Sarah and Laura at the Clear Eyes, Full Shelves blog! I haven’t listened to it yet (you know, because of my phobia), but I totally invite you to do so. 🙂

The topic we explored is “Personal Agency” and how it applies to characters in fiction (including my own) taking control of their own lives. We also veered off into sub-discussions about zombies, Vince Howard (a wonderful character on the TV series Friday Night Lights), and Courtney Summers (an author whom I ADORE).

We were very, very chatty, so the entire conversation is split into two parts. Sarah has put together posts at her blog for each part. Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here. I’ve gotten feedback that some listeners have learned a few things from what I had to say about my approach to writing, which is exciting to me. If you listen to the podcast, I hope you’ll like it!

That Time I Fangirled My Own Character. Sort of.

by Michelle Andreani

First, a little background: Remember when Mindi and I blogged about what Kyle and Cloudy look like? When figuring that out, we decided to use actual humans as a reference. Since we were writing the same characters, we needed the same pictures in our heads.  A good plan, yes? Yes! I agree.

The unfortunate part of all this was I didn’t know the name of the Cloudy-ish girl I’d chosen. (I’d saved the photo a few years ago — for another WIP — and never bothered to add her name when doing so. NICE FORESIGHT, MICHELLE CIRCA 2009.) It would’ve been nice to see if she looked Cloudy-ish in any other photos. And I felt rotten for not being able to credit her and the photographer in my post. Alas! In the end, it didn’t seem completely necessary to know who she was. So, that was that.

But then . . . it wasn’t!

Because God and MTV put Catfish on the air, which brought Google Image Search into our hearts and lives. Finally, I was able to find out this Cloudy-ish girl’s name! (FYI: It’s Devynne. And I only omit her last name in the hopes that she never, ever sees the nerdiness this hath wrought.) So, yep, I was VERY EXCITED when I found out. Very!

I rushed to edit that previous post, and finally give credit where it was due.  A few days later, I innocently clicked on a WordPress link (fine, it was an EW article about The Vampire Diaries), and I saw that I had a notification pending. A pretty, yellow star! It was this notification:

devynne_note

Guys.

WHAT.

NO.

BRB.

It was terrifyinggggggg.

Right away, I discounted the possibility that this was an Impostor Devynne . . . I don’t know why. Because I felt like it? After that, I was able to focus on the reality of her knowing I’d based a fictional character ON HER FACE. And clearly, she was now commenting to say I was big time creep, and to quit it already, oh and also she’s calling her lawyer.

But that wasn’t her comment at all.  She was full-on lovely — especially considering it is maybe not the most normal thing to stumble upon yourself in this context. She didn’t think I was crazy! Or, I mean, she didn’t SAY IT in text form, which totally counts legally!!!!!

So, then things went a little like this:

I’m serious. I had the kind of out-of-body experience that only comes from the purest, code-red kind of fangirling. Obviously, Devynne is not Cloudy. She is her own person, and very much incredibly separate from the Cloudy I know. But for a little while, just like when I met Max Irons (swoooon), it was sort of like this person who doesn’t actually exist did, well, exist. And she’d broken through and talked to me.

So I texted Mindi, and while I’m sure she was like, “Hey, that’s cool, just maybe calm the eff down?”, she nonethless gave me the sage advice to reply in a gracious and complimentary manner. So I did — at least, I hope I did. (After a looooot of agonizing, obviously.)

And I think I succeeded! Maybe not. I haven’t heard from any lawyers., though. That’s something! 😉

More Than Words

BY MINDI SCOTT

The other night as I was falling asleep, I came up with an idea for a blog post! My mind was going crazy with how great it was going to be:

I’ll write about [this] and [this] and [this]! And I’ll find a picture of [this] to include. Oh, and also use [this] as a cute anecdote. (And why can I never spell that word? Antecdote? Antidote? What?) Then I’ll embed the video for the song “More Than Words” at the end to tie it all together. YES!!!!!!

A funny thing happened. As you might guess from all the brackets above, I woke up the next morning with no recollection of anything that the Super-Great Blog Post was meant to include except for the video. I’ve thought about it long and hard, but the idea has not returned to me.

This meant that I had a choice to make. I could continue to not have a post on “We Have Words” featuring “More Than Words,” or I could, you know, post the video for no good reason at all.

This is it. This is what I have to do:

 

I think I made the right choice.

(One thing I do want to say about this, which probably has nothing at all to do with my blog post that is forever forgotten: This song and the video for “More Than Words” by Extreme came out when I was in eighth grade. I remember that there was much tittering amongst my friends and me about the fact that that one guy flips off the camera while playing guitar. As I’ve gotten older, I’d come to think that we were silly and clearly knew nothing about how guitar playing works to think he did that on purpose. HOWEVER, re-watching this video all these years later, I can see that we were truly onto something. In this somewhat long song where a number of different guitar parts are played and various angles are shot, why does the camera zoom in precisely when his middle finger is lifted, and only then? WHAT WERE THEY TRYING TO GET ACROSS?)

When Characters Become Real. I Mean, Like, Really Real

by Michelle Andreani

Have Mindi and I ever told you about Matty? We really, really like talking about Matty.

He’s been one of the funnest characters to write so far: silly and playful and sweet. And dreamy. There, I said it. But despite bubbling up with inner charm, Matty needed some outer-ness, and the first thing that struck me about Matty was that he’d have a killer smile. (Also a rest-of-his-body, and probably hair, but a face-brightening grin was what I automatically associated with him.) So, when I came across this gif of a smirky Max Irons . . .

. . . I instantly thought: “MATTY’S SMILE! MATTY’S SMILE IS ON YOUR FACE, MAX IRONS!”

And I was also like: “*giggles coquettishly*”

I digress. (But seriously, let’s talk about Matty being dreamy sometime, yeah?) This gif has an overall Matty-ness to it and, thankfully, Mindi seemed on-board with this vision. All was well!

Fast forward some months to this February, when I was visiting a dear friend in Washington, DC. As luck would have it, Stephenie Meyer (yes, that one!) was on a small-ish book tour promoting her new novel-turned-movie, The Host. And her DC stop just so happened to coincide with my DC vacation. Stars aligned, I tell ya!

Oh, wait. I feel obligated to tell you here that I like the Twilight series. Sometimes I even like it a lot! I am okay with this. And while I like it for various reasons, I know that many people dislike it for various reasons, and we agree to disagree, and hooray for different opinions! (But if you are one of those people who cannot agree to disagree, I must direct you here. Thank you.)

My friend and I were all over that signing, if only because Stephenie Meyer is not the most accessible of authors these days. (And the signing was at Politics and Prose, a DC bookstore I’ve always wanted to get to.) But I’ll be honest, I was equally excited when I found out there’d be additional guests at the event – some handsome actor-types from the film.

UM SMILEY MAX IRONS TO BE EXACT.

Apologies for the bad quality. I blame the adorable smiles! (That's costar Jake Abel to his right.)

Adorable Boy Smiles screw with photo quality, I say! (That’s costar Jake Abel on the left.)

You guys. Beholding Max Irons was like seeing Matty in the flesh. (Only not, of course, because Max Irons is Max Irons and not a fictional teen boy. But still!) Seeing this person who so resembles a character in our book was a surreal moment – especially when he flashed that grin. (*giggles coquettishly*) It was as if, at least for a few minutes, Matty had come to real, flesh-and-blood life. How often do writers get to experience that? So, it was a total thrill for me – and Mindi, once I texted her the photo – considering how much time Matty spends locked up in our heads. Sometimes characters need to stretch their legs, I guess. 😉

And you’ll be happy to know that smile is just as effective in reality as it is in that gif above. Totally Matty-worthy.

(PS: If you think this makes me sound like a creep, just WAIT until my next post, wherein I ask the question: “Can you fangirl your own character?” And answer it with: “I don’t know BUT I DID.”)

Very Superstitious (aka The 1st Book I Read This Year Will Dictate Everything)

by Michelle Andreani

So, I used to have this ritual: my first read of  a fresh year had to be a book I loved. The first published words I read in January had to be magic. And I know that’s kind of flashing my OCD membership card, but what better way to start a new year than with some good reading mojo?

To ensure true book love on January 1st, the book I read had to be one I’d already fallen in love with. I mean, new books were too unpredictable! What if I hated this new book? Or worse. What if it was a meh-fest and I didn’t even care enough to hate it? Are you kidding me? MY YEAR WOULD BE RUINED.
looking-for-alibrandi

But this year, something happened.

My library books were reaching their due date.

I was itching for something different.

And so, my first book of 2013 was brand new.

A risk!

. . .

Fine, it was a Melina Marchetta book. Not really a risk, admittedly, because it’s a statistical impossibility to read a bad Melina Marchetta book since “a bad Melina Marchetta book” is like, not even a thing. It was a (maybe strategized) cheat, for sure, to choose this one from the pile, but it totally counts as a new read (and you can’t take that away from me!). The book was Looking for Alibrandi. And I did love it. It made me laugh and tear up and most definitely swirled up some good reading juju for 2013.

So, yep, I broke my old ritual (have mercy). I didn’t start this year with the security of words I already know and love, but with shiny, exciting new words that I never saw coming. And that’s not a bad way to start fresh. 🙂

Now, tell me! What was your first read of 2013?

Here’s to 2013!

by Michelle Andreani

Whew, 2012! It’s been quite a year — and frankly, not one I’m sorry to see go. But that’s not 2012’s fault. You see, I put a lot of pressure on this year to be The Year. I expected big things in my writing, big changes in my professional and personal lives, and 2012 certainly has a nice symmetrical sound do it, so why wouldn’t this be The Year?! My Year.

2012 never stood a chance. Poor thing.

These past 365 days were hardly a loss. I traveled more than I ever have in a single year, and I wrote more than I did in 2011. But compared to my 2012 Expectations of Glorious Glory (I wanted to visit the UK, which I didn’t. I wanted to write an entire novel, which I didn’t.), these accomplishments sound … wimpy. And that’s stupid.

So, here’s to a frothy new year! One not weighed down in expectation and stress from the get-go, but helium-filled with possibility and promise. Goals that make us bright and better. The little accomplishments that make us proud of ourselves, and make the little failures seem not so bad. And milkshake rewards, of course!

Let’s do this, 2013. Here’s to a happy, happy one. 🙂