Isabel Bandeira's Bookishly Ever After is an "ode to book nerds," starring a 16-year-old girl who takes all her romantic advice from heroines in her favorite books. (Sound like anyone you know?) Bandeira shares a look behind the writing process for her new YA novel, revealing that it was just as much fun to write as it is to read.
Bookishly Ever After was a pure joy to write and very different from any of my other writing projects before it. I hadn’t planned on writing a contemporary, so I decided to write the story just for fun while querying other projects. Because I thought this manuscript was never going to see the light of day, I allowed myself to fearlessly play with my characters and the story.
While plotting out the book, I dove back into memories of my own high school and early college days—not for the actual events, but to get back in touch with the feelings that had surrounded being a teen. I pulled up memories of trying—and failing—to impress my crushes and lunches with my friends. I remembered freezing on the bleachers in band during football games and crushing on popular boys who didn’t know my name while missing signals from sweet boys in my class. Heartbreaks came rushing back to me, and I relived bad (and good) first kisses.*
I also let myself have fun. I may have danced around my family room while blasting the Partridge Family from my record player and plotting out scenes. Or giggled at my own antics while trying to figure out hand and arm positions for kissing scenes to avoid the dreaded “octopus arm syndrome.”**
The “books” Phoebe reads throughout Bookishly Ever After turned into writing exercises as well as something I could work on when I needed a break from the main story. Because I had to make the book excerpts look and sound like they were written by different authors, I changed writing tenses, points of view, and had specific “voices” for each of the “authors.” Plus, I enjoyed writing in many different genres—early revisions of Bookishly had fantasy and more contemporary excerpts that ended up getting cut or replaced, but still taught me a lot in the process of writing them.
I didn’t intend for Bookishly Ever After to become more than a fun writing exercise, but while I was having fun, the story had other plans. By the time I was done, this little project had turned into a book-shaped thing. And I’m so glad it did.
* OK, I have to admit that I didn’t need to go back too far for those. I’m still something of an introverted, socially awkward adult, after all.
** I cannot confirm or deny if this happened in my work cubicle while writing during lunch breaks.
Growing up, Isabel Bandeira split her time between summers surrounded by cathedrals, castles and ancient tombs in Portugal and the rest of the year hanging around the lakes and trees of Southern New Jersey, which only fed her fairy-tale and nature obsessions. Even though she’s a Mechanical Engineer and tones down her love of all things glittery while designing medical devices during the day, it all comes out in her writing. In her spare time, you’ll find her at the dance studio or at the rink, working on her jumps and sit spin. Bandeira lives in South Jersey with her little black cat, too many books, too much yarn and a closetful of vintage hats. She is represented by Carrie Howland of Donadio and Olson, Inc. Visit her at isabelbandeira.com.