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!)


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)

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:






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! 😉

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 . . .


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.


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.”)

The Good, The Bad, The Meh: The ‘Revenge’ Edition

By Michelle Andreani

For the past week or so, my nights have been filled with lies, bazillions of dollars, and ssssssssecrets. Par for the course, you might think, for a bon vivant such as myself. 😉

But not exactly. What I’ve really been doing,  in preparation for the premiere on Sunday (!!!), is powering through the first season of Revenge on Netflix. And HOLY MOLY. What took me so long?????? (Actually, this was the plan since I started losing track of the show a few episodes in. I’d just plug my ears to spoilers until I could binge-watch the entire thing, and then tweet my observations to people who were already like, three months OVER IT.)

I’m now up to episode 19 and I am on board, people. I am a passenger on the Revenge Express. And as wrapped up as I’ve been, I’ll admit there are some scenes where I find my mind wandering. It’s really no secret why: I just find some characters more compelling than others. Which, of course, got me thinking about writing. Continue reading

Crushes on Boys (and stuff)!


I was always a girl who had many crushes on boys. In school, from kindergarten on, there was always at least one boy with whom I was “in love.” By the time I got to high school, I was often crushing on someone in each of my classes!

Over the years, I’ve also been affected in the racing-heart/sweaty-palmed/ beyond-distracted way by some strange things, like . . .  a car that was at the park & ride I used to go to. An old, beat-up Chevy Nova. Dark yellow.

Sexy, kind of?

Also, the name Rhys/Reece/Reese makes me all dreamy. It can be a first (preferred), middle, or last name. But the magical, tingly feelings only appear for me if the name belongs to a male (and not a female. Or a type of candy).

Yum! But I can contain myself.

Then there’s always Anakin Skywalker from The Clone Wars CGI cartoon, of course. Every episode in which he appears, I turn to my husband at some point and say, “He’s so hot.”

Another unexpected crush I had once was on Cassandra Clare’s fan-fic version of Draco Malfoy. I was so smitten that I decided back then the song “Maps” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs was all about us: “They don’t love you like I love you.”

And, of course, I have had dozens and dozens of crushes on actors, musicians, and fictional characters from books and television. It’s normal. I’m fine with it. It’s fun, even!

But you know who I don’t get crushes on?

The male narrators in the books that I write.

In my first published novel, I found Seth to be a very attractive young man and I loved writing him. I have immense fondness for him to this day. Truly, I adore that boy, and I’ve had readers tell me that they feel the same way.

But the very idea of Seth + me = NUH UH. NO WAY. NEVER. *SHUDDER* *SOB*

I’ve recently alluded to, but never actually explained, the Garrett Hedlund (I swear, this is the last time I’ll type his name in this blog, Michelle!) craziness that’s been happening around here. Short story: Kyle, the narrator I’m writing in this book that Michelle and I are working on together resembles a young, blond GH. And somehow, Michelle and I both started crushing on GH in a big way.

For Michelle, this is not a bad thing at all! (Well, maybe she thinks so. But I don’t.)

But it is a bad thing for me. Having racing-heart/sweaty-palmed/beyond-distracted feelings for one’s narrators really works for some writers. I am not one of them. I need to love my characters completely to write them effectively. I also need to love them . . . chastely.  I can’t entirely explain why, but that’s how I feel. How can I lust for someone I know inside and out, who exists in the pages that I write simply because I decided that he should exist?

It is for this reason that I’ve now been avoiding GH movies and the millions of pictures of him on the internet. (But ZOMG! Have you guys seen this one? Where he’s in an old car? Reading a BOOK???? Ahem.)

It took a couple of weeks of hard work at GH avoidance, but I’m now able to totally separate my sad, adorable, funny, young Kyle from him. I have to be diligent though! I CANNOT SLIP UP ON THIS, YOU GUYS. Or who knows what will happen.

I’d love to hear about your crushes! Any weird ones that we should all know about? Any writers out there who want to tell us about the crushes you get (or don’t get) on your own characters? 🙂

My vision comes to life! (Mostly)


I’ve always been a little envious of writers like Jaclyn Dolomore who are able to sketch their characters. If I were to attempt such a thing, it would come out something like this:

redhairedsketch(Except, not really. I’ve never written a character with curly red hair.)

In the past, I’ve always relied upon the Candybar Doll Maker site to create customized cartoons of my characters so that I can “see” them better. It’s very fun because you have hundreds of eyes, noses, mouths, hair, clothes, backgrounds,  etc. to choose from.

Here are just a few of the (many, many) “dolls” that I’ve made over the years:


From left to right: Seth McCoy from Freefall all dressed up–by his standards (ignore his hair. I’ve never been happy with it); Rosetta Vaughn, also from Freefall; and Coley Sterling from Live Through This (dressed for a dance performance).

Aren’t they cute?????

But for this story that Michelle and I are writing, I decided that it might benefit both of us if, instead of cartoons, I found an actual person who resembles my main character. That way, I can be sure that we’re both seeing Kyle the way he’d look in, you know, a non-animated world.

I Googled images of  “blond teen boys.” After a quick glance at the, er, revealing results, I turned on “safe search” and tried again.

It wasn’t long before I learned that my plan was very seriously flawed; it was tough to find a real person who looks the way I see Kyle in my head.

After a while, though, I found this photo:


This is a grown-up man (actor Garrett Hedlund*, I eventually learned) and Kyle is only seventeen. But if I picture this guy younger and blonder, it’s close to how I see Kyle.

For a few months, it seemed as close as I was ever going to get. (Which was good enough for Michelle and me to be able to see the same Kyle, of course.) But the other day, Michelle found this and sent it to me:


It’s Garrett Hedlund again (a.k.a. “Kyle-Guy” as Michelle and I sometimes call him), but this time he’s younger and blonder and so very much the way I picture Kyle! The uniform is wrong because Kyle plays baseball, not football. But still! It’s Kyle! Looking much better than a cartoon.

Oh, what the heck! We can have both, right? 😉

*Michelle or I really need to tell you about the Garrett Hedlund LUNACY that’s been going on with both of us  lately. But that will be another post on another day!

She’s Got the Look(s)!

By Michelle Andreani

Whenever it comes to describing what my main characters look like, I always clam up a bit. Maybe it’s because I write in first person, so I’m basically living in their heads, and it all feels a little like describing my own appearance. (Which, ugh, am I right?) But moving past that, it’s also one of the funnest parts of dreaming up a character. This person you created can have a face! Any face! And curly hair or pink hair or no hair!

Normally, I have a pretty good sense of what my character looks like from the start, and it was no different for Cloudy. I knew she was an interesting shade of blonde, that she was petite but not under 5’4, and that she had the face of someone you almost want to punch. Almost. Which, you know, sounds like a good foundation for a human being. But since Mindi would also need to envision Cloudy, we figured something more specific was in order.

I Google Imaged my heart out, eventually finding that I wasn’t really happy with any of the potential Cloudys. It was all very frustrating until I remembered that I might already have one at my disposal. . .

I’d saved this photo years ago, assigning her to another character I was writing at the time. Aside from the guilt I felt at stealing said character’s identity, I knew the girl in this photo had a distinct Cloudy-ness to her.

I wish I knew who this real girl is! If you do, share? 🙂
Photo credit: Elle Girl Magazine

See?! This is just the kind of photograph someone would take of Cloudy. (Maybe at a party where there are old birdcages and free-range oranges?) She’s got that look in her eye, that I-dare-you-to-mess-with-me look; that I-am-untouchably-cool-in-a-rocking-chair quality. Which is so utterly Cloudy, you guys, you don’t even know.

Unfortunately, her hair color isn’t exactly that shade I’d imagined. And her eyes might be the perfect shade of Cloudy, but, well, I can’t see them too clearly. After a little random searching on Pinterest, I found something close to what I was looking for:


The caramel-y blonde of Brigitte Bardot’s hair was definitely getting warmer. And the girl on the right? Her dark blue eyes were pretty much exactly what I was looking for! High five, Pinterest!

Of course, it can be hard work to Frankenstein these actual human beings into resembling your imaginary character. Those are the times when you have to take matters into your own hands by picking up your Wii remote. (That We Cheer 2! Always helping with the research.) So, I made my very own Cloudy, as best I could.

Look at her, all smiley! But I don’t really get the white streaks in her hair — the game decided to add those in. Hmm. Does it think Cloudy’s stressed?

Why would it think that? . . . 😉

ETA: GUESS WHAT EVERYONE? The lovely model in the chair is: Devynne Scilingo! Thanks to Catfish: The TV Show for inadvertently solving my troubles, along with being totally gripping. High five!

Smells Like High School

Steph and Mindi

Stephanie Perkins & me in Seattle, April 2012. Photo by Sarah S. Moon


I have always had a thing for men’s cologne. In my teen years, I’d spray myself with samples at the men’s fragrance counter instead of the women’s so that I could take sniffs of Sexy Man Smell on my wrist all day long.

Weird, right?

So, when someone tweeted a few weeks ago that author Stephanie Perkins uses fragrance as part of her writing process*, I became inspired to try it for myself. Because mmmm! Cologne!

Since I’m not picky, I bought a sporty Adidas scent (Dynamic Pulse!) for, like, eight dollars. My husband took a whiff and said, “Yup. Smells like high school.”

Exactly what I’m going for!

Whether or not my narrator, Kyle, would actually wear this brand (I’m kind of thinking not), I have to say that I’m very glad that I SU1HMDA4NDMtMjAxMjA1MDctMTYxMi5qcGcborrowed this idea from Stephanie. I’ve only been using the fragrance idea for about a week, but I find it to be a very cool technique for connecting with my character. I’m hoping that as I continue learning his voice, inhaling this scent during writing sessions will trigger Kyle-ness in my brain make me more productive and effective at writing him.  (Ha! Do I have high hopes or what?)

*I wish that I could tell you more about how Stephanie uses fragrance, but I have no idea! I can’t find the original tweet and I don’t know who posted it. Useless!



Research?! I’m so excited! But I’m so … scared.

Here’s something you might like to know about my character, Cloudy: she’s a cheerleader. A cheerleader, you guys! This fills me up with happy soda bubbles because 1) I’ve sort of been in love with cheerleading forever and ever and ever, and so 2) I’ve wanted to write a cheerleader since I learned that characters need to do stuff.

Unfortunately, growing up in schools that barely had athletics programs has left me with a cheerleading info-void. And even more unfortunately? Countless viewings of that Saved by the Bell episode when Bayside thinks they’ll win a cheerleading competition by making Screech have an apoplectic fit in a tiger costume, only to have Valley kidnap Screech! and all hope of the Golden Megaphone is dashed! until Zack and Slater save the day by pouring ants into some guy’s tail-hole or something. Yep, countless viewings of that doesn’t even scratch the surface of all there is to know about the intensely demanding and real sport of cheerleading.

So, this calls for research. And how’s a girl with lots of enthusiasm but not much exposure go about it?


My DVR is just like Dumbledore’s Pensieve. Except not at all.

Thankfully, ESPN and other sports channels televise cheerleading competitions – a true display of straight-up talent; not to mention the greatest ponytail-engineering you’ll ever see.

Use modern technology to become the cheerleader: 

I gave my cheerleader blue hair a la Karou from DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE. (Wouldn’t Karou make the sickest cheerleader?? OMG imagine it. Do it.)

While playing We Cheer 2 probably isn’t as taxing as an actual cheer routine, it’s sort of close! Plus fun. And exercise-y. Oh, that Wii. So many things.

Read My Face Off: After all that ESPN and Wii-ing (Wiiing?), it’s obvious there’s more to cheerleading than Friday night football games. These girls and boys work HARD. Which means if Cloudy’s practicing her pom-poms off, she’s up on her terminology – so I need to be, too. My current favorite place on the internet is If you’re a cheerleading nerd like I am (or, like, an actual cheerleader), it has lots of great, useful info to read up on; and so far it’s been a fantastic resource.

Make Sure to Leave Room for Intrigue(!):

Another fantastic resource? American Cheerleader magazine. I mean, probably. In a tragic turn of events, there isn’t a single hard copy to be found in the city of New York. (Or Seattle! Mindi checked.) So, I’ve resorted to begging family and friends to keep an eye out for it. The search is on!

Build from past experience (kind of): I guess I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my own little dalliance with cheerleading, way back in my pre-tween days. I certainly wasn’t nearly as awesome as the girls on ESPN (or my Karou cheerleader), but I still smile when I think back on it. That’s what I remember most – having the best time with a group of girls I never would have met otherwise – and that’s what I want Cloudy to keep in mind. That cheerleading is more than counting your trophies.

(Of which I have two, justsaying.)


Obviously, research is the funnest! I do plan on stepping it up as I learn more about Cloudy; but for now, I hope I’m doing okay. I mean, We Cheer 2 doesn’t just give out that All-Star rating to just anyone, do they?

Oh. It’s a points thing? . . . Did you see my trophies? 🙂

Death Cab for Kyle


Backstory: For the book Michelle and I are working on together, we’re writing alternating first-person viewpoints. She’s writing the girl (Cloudy) and I’m writing the boy (Kyle).

So, hey! Look what I saw this weekend as part of my Kyle research!


What? You can’t tell what that is? Okay, how about this:


You still can’t tell? And the title of this post didn’t give it away? Okay, look at this:


Yes! Death Cab for Cutie was at the Paramount in Seattle! And I went! For Kyle’s sake!

You see, part of my writing process involves choosing music that can help me to better channel my characters. It’s Very Serious Business, this whole finding-my-character’s-voice thing.

When things are going awesomely with a manuscript, I might be able to get away with listening to lots of band while I’m writing, as long as they fall into a particular genre. When I’m struggling, I might have to listen to one song on repeat for days on end. It can be kind of rough (especially when that song is “See You Again” by Miley Cyrus), but isn’t as dreadful as it sounds. Really!

But when I’m only a few chapters into a project (like I am with this book) I usually allow myself to listen to songs performed by only one band/artist until I feel that I’ve completely found my character’s voice and can branch out.

For Kyle, that one band happens to be Death Cab for Cutie. It’s all Death Cab all the time around here, even when I’m not writing. Which means that when I found out Death Cab would be playing in Seattle, I had no choice except to make sure that I was there, right?

At this point, I can kind of map out Kyle’s emotional progression that I imagine will take place during the course of the story with three specific Death Cab songs. (I think there is a fourth song that should be in the mix, but I haven’t uncovered it yet.) Last night, Death Cab, along with the Magik*Magik Orchestra, performed two of those three songs, and it totally brought tears to my eyes.

Yay for  fun and inspiring outings that I can call “character research”!

(I found this video on YouTube. It was taken at a different stop on Death Cab/Magik*Magik tour. The strings and final lines of this song SO affect me. Beautiful!)