Hilary Graham on Bad Times, Good Writing

Most people know what it feels like to have a friendship end. Whether it imploded or simply slowly dissolved, losing a friend hurts. But Hilary Graham, the debut author of Reunited, has found the silver lining to getting friend-dumped: all that backstabbing suckiness makes excellent fodder for character development! Read what Hilary has to say about channeling the drama, and check out her new book, Reunited, in stores now.

Had I known that getting dumped by my best friend at age 14 would someday help me to land a book deal, my freshman year of high school might have been a bit less weepy. Or not.

But it did give birth to Reunited, a contemporary YA novel that tells the story of three ex-best friends who road-trip cross-country to attend the one-night-only reunion show of the band they once loved. It’s just further proof that sometimes our biggest heartaches can become the seeds of great fiction.

That doesn’t mean your art has to literally imitate your life. Thankfully, I’ve never had the pleasure of being trapped in a van for 2,000 miles with any of my ex-best friends. But because of my own friendship break-up, I was able to connect with those complicated feelings, giving my characters a layer of emotional authenticity.

So, am I suggesting that you go out and seek misfortune? Of course not. Nor will it make you feel any better, when tragedy does strike, to recognize it as a learning experience that it will someday help to broaden your characters’ emotional palettes. But over time, after your pain has lessened, there will be a silver lining. Because no matter how inventive you are, there’s no faking it when it comes to writing about matters of the heart.

These days, thanks in part to the Internet, you can write a story that takes place in Paris without actually going to Paris. (Though if you get a chance, please, go to Paris!) But if you don’t have the emotional resources to build rich inner lives for your characters, your story will inevitably fall flat. As writers, we’re always striving to get better at our craft. We read constantly. We rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. We go to critique groups and take classes. But some of the best writing doesn’t happen when we’re sitting at the computer. It happens just by living our wonderfully imperfect lives.



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