All of us have been unlucky in love at one time or another. But would you pay someone to break up a relationship for you? Meet The Break-Up Artist -- a hilariously delightful young adult novel that needs to be on your reading list ASAP!
The story follows 16-year-old Becca -- a.k.a the break-up artist -- who after witnessing the damage that love can do, starts her own business breaking up couples for one hundred dollars via PayPal. Genius, right? But everything changes when Becca receives an offer to break up her old friend Huxley - the most popular girl in school - and her star football player boyfriend. She then has to plan her most challenging scheme of her career, all while trying to keep her relationship with her BFF above water.
I'm just going to be completely honest -- I really loved this book. I connected and identified with the main character and couldn't get enough of her infectious personality. Pretty much The Break-Up Artist is the best thing since sliced bread (and by the way, this is coming from someone who lives off of bread).
I was fortunate enough to catch up with author Philip Siegel to get the inside track on his entertaining debut.
What was the inspiration behind your book The Break-Up Artist?
I've always been kind of cynical about romance, and the idea of a person who breaks up couples for a job had been rolling around in my head for years.
The funny thing is, much of my inspiration for the book didn't come from high school memories, but from people and events in my adult life. I watched a few friends wind up in unhealthy relationships, pairings that were a wrong fit from the start. It's a tough situation because many times, you can't be honest with them. There's this pressure to pair up, so people who want to be in relationships won't listen to reason.
I learned that my situation wasn't unique. Lots of people out there have friends in bad relationships, and it can cause divisions among friends. People change when they get into relationships, usually for the better, though sometimes for the worse. Becca, my main character, was born out of that frustration.
Tell me a bit about your background.
I grew up in suburban New Jersey, and that's where The Break-Up Artist takes place. I majored in radio/TV/film at college with the hopes of writing for television. I never thought about writing books. I never took any fiction writing classes. It wasn't until I was in an airport bookstore, coming home from spring break sophomore year. I picked up The A-List by Zoey Dean and devoured it on the plane. Then I read the next book in the series. Then I moved onto Gossip Girl. I loved them! They were fast-paced, funny, filled with great dialogue. Totally up my alley. A professor suggested I try my hand at writing a book like this. Four years, one move to Chicago, and two trunked manuscripts later, I wrote The Break-Up Artist.
There are a TON of movie references in the book. Why all the references and are you a movie buff yourself?
I love going to the movies, talking about movies, eating movie theater popcorn. All of it. I've been a big movie buff since I was a kid -- but not a movie snob. I remember being twelve and obsessed with Clueless and Fargo, so much that I made the latter my AOL screen name. There are references to movies like "Chinatown" and "Reality Bites" I slipped into The Break-Up Artist. For instance, Becca's last name is Williamson, named after Kevin Williamson, the guy who wrote Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Dawson's Creek. (For the keen observers, I semi-quoted My Best Friend's Wedding in the first question.)
What is the message that you want readers to get while reading your book?
That love does exist. It's just not some fairy tale filled with only highs. Real relationships -- friends, lovers, family -- take work and can be difficult, but they're ultimately the most rewarding.
Becca has seen those close to her become hurt because of love and becomes jaded by relationships. How do you think this applies to teens today?
There's a ton of excitement around dating when you're a teen, obviously, but not every teen dates. It can be tough watching your friends get into relationships when you're not, especially at that age when dating is a huge, huge deal. Friendships get forever altered when you add a significant other into the mix. You almost feel left behind. It's tougher now since teens get bombarded with other people's relationships via social media 24/7.
Do you have any authors that you look up to?
Caroline B. Cooney and Lois Duncan, because they were the only authors I read for fun as a kid, on those rare occasions I did read. I really admire how well-crafted their stories were, and that they were so prolific. I hope to emulate their type of success. And even though she's younger than me, I look up to Kody Keplinger. I absolutely adore her books and the space she's carved out for herself in the YA contemporary landscape.
If you had to describe your book in one word, what would it be?