Author Interview: Lynn Weingarten on The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers

Lynn Weingarten author photoLynn Weingarten’s clever fantasy The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers came out in 2011. This sly modern fantasy introduces readers to a very unique group of girls who use magic (and sometimes common sense) to break boy’s hearts. Today, Lynn is here to answer some questions about her book.

Miss Print (MP): Can you tell us a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?

Lynn Weingarten (LW): I’ve loved writing for as long as I can remember. There was a writing program at my elementary school, which I was a part of, where kids wrote stories and submitted them to magazines. I ended up getting one published in a kids writing and art magazine called Stone Soup and I remember being SO EXCITED at the time. I got a free year’s subscription as payment, which was awesome.

I wrote a lot during high school and was part of the school’s literary magazine.  In college, I majored in English and did a concentration in creative writing. Shortly after I graduated, I got a job as an editorial assistant at Alloy Entertainment, which was an amazing job. I worked for and with fantastically smart and creative people from whom I learned a ton.

After about five years there, I left to write full-time.  Right after I left I sent an email to everyone I knew in publishing just letting everyone know what I was doing. Scholastic got in touch and said they were looking to do a book which would come with a little bag of clues, and so I came up with a plot to fit about a girl following clues to try and find her missing sister, and that ended up being Wherever Nina Lies (although by the time the book came out the bag of clues had been replaced with drawings). I signed with my first agent when it was time to negotiate a deal with Scholastic. I knew her because she’d represented a few of the authors I’d edited.

MP: What was the inspiration for The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers?

LW:A friend of mine was reading a non-fiction book targeted at men who wanted to become “pick-up artists”. I read the book too, just because I was curious. And then started thinking about how it would be fun if there were a group of girls who did a similar thing. The SSH grew out of that.

MP: Your debut novel, Wherever Nina Lies, was a mystery with quite a few surprising twists. The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers is a fantasy (which still has a few twists to keep readers on their toes). Did moving to a different genre change your writing process or how you approached the story?

LW:I started writing both books with a definite beginning and ending in mind, and knowing a few big plot beats that I wanted to put in the middle of each. With Wherever Nina Lies, I actually stopped writing about a third of the way through, and wrote out a chapter-by-chapter outline for the rest of it (since the twisty turny nature of the thing gave me a lot more to keep track of!). With Secret Sisterhood the process was a little bit looser because there weren’t as many loose ends to tie up (both because it’s not a mystery and because I knew there’d be a second book).

MP: One of my favorite things about this book is the opening. (“In the beginning, there was Lucy Wrenn, standing all alone out in front of her school on the first day of sophomore year, with a seductive little message written on her stomach in Sharpie marker.”) It really sets the tone for the story with the plot to come and also the fairytale quality of your narrative. Did you always know that this would be the opening sentence of the book?

LW:Thank you very much, I’m very glad you like it! I actually didn’t remember, so I poked around in my old emails, and this is what I found. When I first sent the chapters to my then agent, it opened a bit differently (I was planning to write the book in first person at the time):

“In the beginning, there was me.

Or, well, if we’re going to get TECHNICAL about it, before me there were a few thousand years

of other people and before that very hairy cave people who looked sort of like monkeys and before that

very hairy monkeys that looked sort of like people and before that a bunch off other stuff like other

types of monkeys and dinosaurs and whatever.”

And by the time it was on submission, the first sentence was very similar to what ended up in the book, but not identical (the main character was named Rachey, for one thing!).

“In the beginning, there she was, sweet little Rachey Wrenn, standing all alone out in front of her school on the first day of Sophomore year, with a seductive little message written on her stomach in Sharpie marker.”

MP: This story starts when Lucy’s heart is broken and, in trying to win back her ex-boyfriend, she is given the chance to become a Heartbreaker. If you had the chance to become a Heartbreaker in high school would you have taken it? What about now?

LW: Haha, no definitely not. The girls were fun to write about and, hopefully, fun to read about, but in real life, they’d be a terrible group to be a part of.

MP: Olivia, Liza and Gil are the beautiful, mysterious Heartbreakers who approach Lucy to join their sisterhood. Of the three, did you identify more with one Heartbreaker? Was one more fun to write than the others?

LW: I don’t think I identified with one more than the others, and while I enjoyed writing all of them, Liza’s sassiness made her extra fun.

MP: Olivia, Liza and Gil all help Lucy prepare to break her first heart. Part of their training involves magic. But a lot of their advice, such as wearing interesting accessories or never seeming too eager, is more prosaic and generally sound. How did you choose what tips and tricks the Heartbreakers would impart to Lucy throughout the story?

 LW: Some of the tips are just things I’ve noticed myself over the years and I also read a few books.

MP: When you started writing The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers did you know it would be the first in a series? Do you have a set arc in mind for Lucy’s story?

LW:I always knew there were going to be two books and I knew from the start how I wanted book two to end. While I knew the general shape of Lucy’s arc, I wasn’t entirely sure how I was going to get there.

On a related note: From looking at some reviews online, I’ve realized a lot of readers don’t know that there is (and always was) meant to be a sequel. It makes sense of course, since there’s no explicit indication of that in the book (and certainly a certain kind of conclusion is reached at the end of book 1). But in retrospect I wish I’d put TO BE CONTINUED!!! Or something at the end. I think it becomes somewhat of a different book if you think that’s the entire story.

MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project? (Or just if we’ll be seeing more of Colin in the sequel!)

LW:There’s a bit more Colin and a lot more Tristan in book two. It’s called The Book of Love and will be out in Fall 2013. I’m currently working on a proposal for something new, but it’s too early to say anything because who knows what will happen with it!

MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?

LW: I know everyone has heard this a million times already, but write a lot and read a lot is pretty much the best writing advice I’ve ever heard. I’d suggest reading a lot in all genres, not just one in which you hope to write. If you’re only reading one genre, say YA books, it’s easy to get stuck writing in a “generic YA voice” or trying to imitate your favorite author without meaning to. And ultimately, writing in your own voice is how you’re going to do your best work. Also, as often as possible, remind yourself that this is fun, even if it doesn’t always feel like that every second. And oh, read Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott, because it is amazing.

Thanks again to Lynn Weingarten for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find more information about her books on her website.

If you want to read more about The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers check out my review!

Lynn has also been kind enough to send me some temporary tattoos to give away in tandem with this interview. If you’d like to be entered to win leave a comment below by SEPTEMBER 17, 2012.

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