A Young Writer on How Her Debut Novel Helped Her Overcome Heartbreak
Author Krystal Sutherland is the kind of girl you wish could be your best friend. She’s clever and candid and, at 25, both wise beyond her years and fearlessly fearless. Unfortunately she can’t be your best friend, because she lives in Hong Kong and that’s really far away, but reading—and inevitably re-reading—the native Aussie's forthcoming novel is the next best thing.
Our Chemical Hearts, the cover of which we're psyched to premiere here, is a book about first heartbreaks ingeniously described as "John Hughes meets John Green." If that alone doesn't make you want to read it immediately, her interview will. Your next favorite YA read doesn’t come out until next fall, but as you’ll be able to tell by her thoughtful advice here, it’ll be so worth the wait. (Disclosure: “Worth the wait” is one of those sayings that’s infinitely overused, but in this case, it’s totally justified. You’ll see what we mean.)
Your book is bound to make a big impact on girls. Are there any authors that affected you in a major way when you were growing up?
Scott Westerfeld, writer of the Uglies trilogy, because he’s so fantastic with his fans, and he’s so passionate about writing for teenagers (because he knows teenagers are so passionate about reading!). Once, during my senior year of high school, I emailed him some questions for a project and he answered them, so I basically became a writer on the off chance I might get to meet him one day and fangirl in person.
Speaking of your high school self, what advice would you give her?
Being a teenager is hell and life will be so, so different once you escape the cruel and unusual punishment that is high school. You’re not as shy as you think you are. The world is bigger and more interesting than you can imagine. Hang in there, because being an adult is pretty rad. You get to eat chocolate whenever you want. Like, there’s a 7-11 under Future-You’s apartment, and she’s going to get some chocolate in her fluffy PJs right now because that’s what adults do.
In Our Chemical Hearts, Henry Page (great name btw) has never been in love until Grace Town comes along. What advice do you have for a girl who's never been in love and feels left out?
Oh, I’ve been there. All your friends are in and out of these dramatic relationships and you’re just there like, “Yeah, so, am I an alien or something?” I’m not gonna tell you to wait for your “soul mate” or “The One” because ugh. Go out and be awesome. Do interesting things. Find what you’re passionate about and pursue it relentlessly. The rest will come. (And if it doesn’t, you can always adopt lots of cats.)
How did you get over a broken heart (other than by writing a book—albeit loosely—about it)?
Time. A broken heart is like a wound: You can stitch it up and try to make sure it doesn’t get infected, but in the end, only time will heal it. Though listening to a lot of Taylor Swift and Adele songs while running angrily is also quite useful.
What's the best thing you learned from enduring the torture that is heartbreak?
That you won’t always get what you want, and this will sometimes be a blessing.
How exactly do you go about starting your debut novel? Where do you begin such a huge undertaking?
I sat down at a computer and started typing…eight years ago. The first story I wrote was terrible. The next was slightly less terrible. The third one had a plot, so that was a definite improvement. The fourth one—the one that would become Our Chemical Hearts—I liked enough to try and get published.
What's your advice for someone who has a story to tell but might be a little intimidated by the process of writing (especially a novel)?
My advice is twofold: a) you are good enough and b) find your voice. Once you believe the first, it’ll be easier to discover the second. When you look at the journey ahead and see a road walked by giants, it’s very easy to become discouraged. But I promise you that all of them—every single one—once stood where you stand. Only you can tell your story. Let the quiet fire that lights in you show you the way forward.
And with that, you should order Our Chemical Hearts. It's out September 6th, which gives you just enough time to write your own debut novel before Krystal's hits shelves.