Isabel Bandeira is the generally charming author of Bookishly Ever After, the first book in a romantic contemporary series. I was pleasantly surprised by this funny and delightful novel and have loved chatting with Isabel on Twitter and following her numerous interests on Instagram. I am, obviously, thrilled to have her here today talking about her debut novel.
Miss Print (MP): Can you tell me a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?
Isabel Bandeira (IB): I’ve wanted to be a writer my whole life, even before I knew what writers were. My mom even has these embarrassing little “books” I made when I was very little because I loved books so much, I wanted so much to make my own. Unfortunately, when I was a senior in high school, bad advice from a really well-known kidlit author made me believe if I went to college for engineering, I’d never be a published author, so I gave up on my dream.
I remember, a decade later, looking at some of the stories I wrote in high school and crying because I thought I’d never write like that again.
Writing for fan RPGs and fanfiction helped me remember how much I loved writing, but I still didn’t believe I’d be able to do anything more than post little stories online and in fanzines. Then, in 2012, I traveled an hour an a half (straight from a skating competition, sweaty, sparkly, and all!) to go to one of Amy Plum’s booksignings. Meeting (translate: fangirling like crazy fangirl) her and hearing her talk about her writing process really inspired me to try again, and that feeling was solidified when, a few weeks later, I met Meg Cabot. Writers were real, nice people who worked really hard for their dreams. There wasn’t some magic formula behind it, like that writer in high school made me believe.
MP: What was the inspiration for Bookishly Ever After?
IB: I was writing a short scene for a no-kiss bloghop and had this image pop into my head of a bookish girl channeling her favorite heroines to impress a boy camp counselor. Although I hadn’t been planning on writing a contemporary at the time, the story really stuck with me, and when I was at a writing retreat and was given the prompt: “Your character falls in love at first sight,” this character came back to me full force and wouldn’t let me go (I honest to goodness giggled the whole time while writing that scene and a good chunk of it survived edits to become the beginning of Bookishly). I wrote Bookishly for fun while working on other books.
MP: In Bookishly Ever After Phoebe turns to her beloved YA novels when she needs advice on how to deal with a boy potentially having a crush on her. Excerpts from these books are included in your novel as Phoebe references them for tips and tricks (with understandably mixed results). Were any of the book excerpts you wrote inspired by actual novels? Or if you can’t answer that, can you share some of your current favorites?
IB: The answer is sort-of? When I outlined all of the books and characters mentioned in Bookishly, I tried to slip in some of the more common tropes I saw in a lot of the paranormal YA at the time. The “Golden” series, especially, showcased a lot of these tropes, from a feisty redheaded heroine destined to save the world to “insert paranormal creature of the month here” leprechaun love interest Aedan (his name was originally Liam, but there were so many Liams in YA at the time of publication that my editors suggested that I change it just because it would have been overkill).
It’s really hard to narrow down all my faves, especially since I love both contemporary and all variations of fantasy, from paranormal to classic fantasy. I love funny/fun writers like Meg Cabot, K.C. Held, Rahul Kanakia, Jen Malone, and Leah Rae Miller (and I haven’t even started talking MG awesomeness like Casey Lyall, Gail Nall, and Brooks Benjamin), and swoon over books by Jodi Meadows and Aprilynne Pike. Since it’s inktober (draw an ink drawing a day and post it!) at the moment, I’m craving a reread of Amanda Sun’s INK, and my dive into the wonderfully French superhero cartoon Miraculous Ladybug has me rereading Amy Plum’s Revenants series again.
MP: Phoebe is a self-proclaimed geek and proud of it. She knits, is part of the school band, and although she isn’t conventionally popular she has a tight group of friends. Would you have fit in with Phoebe’s group in high school? Can you tell me a bit about Teen Issy?
IB: Teen Issy was a geeky flute-playing, book-reading and -writing sciencelete who took science tests for fun and loved wearing homemade Star Trek t-shirts. I came to school an hour early for the “early classes” so I could take both art and band in addition to all my regular classes. I even was a letterwoman… in Academic Challenge (other schools might call it quiz bowl, with teams and buzzers and all that jazz). I’d like to hope Phoebe and her friends would have liked teen me.
While writing Bookishly, I was very conscious of making sure I reflected the kind of high school I remembered, where people of all types hung out together, cheerleaders and football players also took AP classes, and most people flew in this limbo space between super popular and outcasts. I remember early mod AP English where everyone traded chocolate covered espresso beans while someone gushed about cosplaying Princess Serenity from Sailor Moon at our prom. My friends and I were unapologetically geeky and loved it.
Teen Issy was also INCREDIBLY oblivious about boys. I realized someone I had been crushing on had tried to ask me to the prom and that I had turned him down without even knowing it… four years after the fact. *pats past self on the head comfortingly* Em would have had a field day with teen me.
MP: Were any places in Bookishly Ever After inspired by actual locations you have visited?
IB: Yes! Lambertfield and its surroundings were modeled after parts of Camden and Burlington counties in Southern New Jersey, and the camp is a mish-mosh of camps Ockanickon and Inawendiwin in Burlington county. I love the barrens, from the smell of the cedar water to shaking the sugar sand out of my shoes after a walk in the woods.
Dev’s description of his grandfather’s plantation was after a friend’s farm in Maharashtra state in India, which I visited a few years ago. It’s just as lovely and magical as he describes.
MP: In addition to being a novelist, you are an engineer in your day job. Not to mention being an archer, figure skater, and artist. How do you balance all of these interests? What does a typical writing day look like for you? What about a typical work day?
IB: I’m really tired all the time!!!
Just kidding. I did give up a lot of things, like lots of TV time, going to the movies, or socializing with coworkers at lunchtime in order to do everything I do, but it’s been worth the sacrifice.
The thing I love about skating and archery (and ballet, before my injuries made me give it up) are that I need to focus when I’m doing these sports, letting my brain “turn off” about writing and my day job. When I skate, it’s all about the music and making sure my body is in the right position to jump, spin, or do footwork, and archery is all about the target and controlling my position. Because I do these for fun, my only competition in either sport is just me, and since there’s no pressure to go to the Olympics (hahahahahaha), they’re both places where I can celebrate little successes without stressing over goals. I make time for all of these, my family, and art because I know that a healthy me can’t revolve around work or writing or computer screens.
A typical weekday starts at 5am–I wake up, get ready for work, and then either answer emails or write (sometimes at the coffee shop on the way to my day job). I have an hour commute, so if I’m working on a plot or revisions, I sometimes voice record my thoughts while driving in to work. If I don’t have work meetings at lunchtime, I’ll either write or answer email/social media, though lately I’ve also been sketching because I’m taking part in inktober. After work, I eat dinner and then either write or fall asleep on the sofa.
Weekends have more writing squeezed in between family time and my skating lessons.
MP: Can you tell me anything about your next project? (Any chance of a full Mirror House novel down the line?)
IB: We’re finishing up edits on DRAMATICALLY EVER AFTER, and book 3 of the Ever After series is on my to-do list to finish. I have a fun “procrastination book” I’m working on right now just for me, but I don’t know if that will ever see print–right now, it’s just for fun.
All of those books in BEA had to be outlined in full and properly researched so I could keep track of their plots and make them read as believable, so it’s not impossible. I’d love to write Phoebe’s books if there’s enough interest for them! Marissa and Cyril were a lot of fun to write, and I loved all the old Victorian superstitions I learned while researching facts for that “series.”
MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?
IB: Don’t be afraid of rejection and don’t be afraid of hard work, because writing is definitely work. Take care of your instrument–if you type or handwrite, let your hands rest and wear supports if you need them. If you voice dictate, take care of your voice. Get away from your writing once in a while and live in the world. Read, play, and recharge. And remember, what works for me might not work for you, so take all writing advice with that in mind.
Thanks again to Isabel for taking the time to answer my questions and being generally pleasant and lovely at BEA this summer.
You can also check out my review of Bookishly Ever After.