1. What challenges come with writing a companion novel?
Paralyzing self-doubt. That’s the biggest hurdle I’ve had to cross in publishing a second novel. When writing LOVE AND OTHER UNKNOWN VARIABLES, I was in a vacuum—no expectations except my own (and eventually those of my critique group). But since I began writing LIFE AFTER JULIET, I’ve been keenly aware of many eyes waiting and watching for this story to unfold. Becca Hanson was a secondary character in LAOUV, but one that most readers identified with (since she’s a bookworm herself). She was the perfect kind of character to use to insert yourself into the story as a reader. I didn’t do that consciously, but I began to realize that’s what she was for so many of LAOUV’s readers—a backstage pass into the action.
Since so many readers identify with her, they’ve brought to her moderately fleshed out character their own sets of expectations and beliefs. Which meant that when I presented my first draft to my critique group, I got ten people telling me I had gotten Becca all wrong. And each of their ten interpretations of how I should have written her was VERY different.
At that moment, I realized every LAOUV reader who picked up LAJ would possibly react that way. I completely froze—walked away from writing the story for months while I worried about what to do with Becca. How could I possibly make everyone like her? How could I possibly fulfill all those expectations? Why did I think I could write this story?
And then I remembered that I was writing this story because it was a story I needed to tell, and Becca—my Becca—was going to help me get it done. In the end, you can really only ever hope to write stories that you yourself will like. If other people like them, too, then that’s an added bonus!
2. Do you have a favorite play?
My favorite Shakespearean play is A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That was always my favorite unit when I was teaching. I’d bring in these silly costumes and we’d do reader’s theater in class. There was always a lot of laughter and some great discussions that ensued.
In high school, I was a huge musical theater fan (although I cannot sing in any sort of key). That was back when Andrew Lloyd Webber had twenty-two billion plays on Broadway all at once. My absolute favorite was Phantom of the Opera. I listened to it about as obsessively as my daughter listens to Hamilton today.
The success of Hamilton makes me so happy, too, because I felt like it’d been a while since there’d been anything huge that swept up young people and introduced them (in a big way) to musical theater at its finest!
3. What snacks (or rewards) get you through a rough writing day?
All the Swedish Fish in the history of ever.
4. So, Romeo. If Romeo were to instantly fall in love w/one of today's leading lady characters in YA, who would it be?
Wow! I love this question!
I’m going to say he’d fall for Cath Avery from Rainbow Rowell’s FANGIRL. Cath, at first glance, is shy, sweet, vulnerable, and a little naïve, which feels like the kind of girl impetuous Romeo would swoon over. He’d be able to appreciate her obsession with crafting the perfect romantic scene, too. I don’t think Romeo would be Cath’s type, though. I’m not sure he’s got enough substance for her.
5. I cried while reading LOVE AND OTHER UNKNOWN VARIABLES (such a fantastic book!). Will LIFE AFTER JULIET have this same effect you think, or would you consider it a lighter book than L&OUV?
LAJ is a very different kind of book. It’s a book about living with grief, which isn’t so much about the big, painful, heart-wrenching stuff and more about the everyday, small, heart-building stuff of life. In a lot of ways, the highs and lows of LAJ are mirror images to those in LAOUV. Like Becca, it is quieter than Charlie’s story, but just as important.
They are both, I hope, equally funny though. You may not cry as much, but you’ll get plenty of fun and a sweet, swoony romance.
6. What is a fav line(s) from LIFE AFTER JULIET?
“I was just an outline of a girl before Charlotte arrived. She filled in all the lines with color and life and, I don’t know, good stuff. Now that she’s gone, I feel unmade again.” ~Becca Hanson
The spotlight is no place for a bookworm.
Until she meets Max Herrera. He’s experienced loss, too, and his gorgeous, dark eyes see Becca the way no one else in school can.
As it turns out, kissing is a lot better in real life than on a page. But love and life are a lot more complicated in the real world...and happy endings aren't always guaranteed.
The companion novel to Love and Other Unknown Variables is an exploration of loss and regret, of kissing and love, and most importantly, a celebration of hope and discovering a life worth living again.
5 stars: "I hung on every word and I'll think about it for a long time to come. Becca was brilliant, and I get her. Darby, she was special, Victor was a great crazy friend. Of course Max, there just couldn't be anyone better suited for her than Max. Listen to me... I’m talking as if they are real! Now that's the sign of a great book." - Natasha Platt
5 stars: "Great read for a book lover... Epic love at it's best!!!" - Socially Awkward
Shannon Lee Alexander is a wife and mother (of two kids and one yellow terrier named Harriet Potter). She is passionate about coffee, books, and cancer research. She spent most of her time in high school hiding out in the theater with the drammies and techies. Math still makes her break out in a sweat. She currently lives in Indianapolis with her family.