Guest Blog by Stephanie Perkins: Changing a Life

February 24th, 2010 • Kate

StephDreamI never expected that writing a novel would change my life.

I mean . . . okay. That’s a lie. I totally did. I hoped that if I were ever lucky enough to reach publication, I could quit my day job and work full-time from home. In my pajamas. (The pajamas were a crucial part of my ambition.) But I never imagined that the actual process of writing would change my life in a much more dramatic way.

It would change me.

Anna And The French Kiss is set in Paris. The idea came to me in a dream, and unlike Stephenie Meyer who also had a dream, and was like, “Awesome! A cute boy in a meadow!” my earliest thoughts were more along the lines of, “Aw, crap. A cute boy in Paris.” I knew nothing about the French — the language, the culture, the country. And I’d certainly never cared.

But I really wanted to know more about that cute boy.

So I learned about Paris. I’ve described my research process on my blog in detail here, but it was, in short, endless. And intense. The narrator of my novel shares many of my anxieties about being thrust into a new culture; it was the only way I could have written it. As Anna had to learn something, I did too. As Anna grew more comfortable in her surroundings, I did too. And somewhere along the way . . . we both fell in love.

I am a timid person by nature. I make excuses for social gatherings so I can watch marathons of Jane Austen films. I’d rather take a sixty-minute detour than ask someone for directions. And if an orange accidentally rings up at double the price, I keep my mouth shut in fear of appearing unpleasant.

The thought of renting an apartment in a country whose first language is NOT English would have been unthinkable before Anna. But because I had to make her brave, somehow I’d made myself brave in the process.

This January, I rented that Parisian apartment. I stumbled my way through ordering in restaurants and purchasing cell phone minutes and, yes, asking for directions. I said “Oui!” to every question thrown at me. And I had the best month of my entire life.

I am a braver, happier person because I wrote a book.

So that novel you’re putting off because the idea is too big or too scary or too hard? You aren’t doing yourself any favors. Write the book. And let it change you.

Anna and the French Kiss will be published by Dutton in December 2010. Stephanie’s blog about her experiences in Paris is well worth a read. Learn more about her and other kt literary clients here.

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15 Responses to “Guest Blog by Stephanie Perkins: Changing a Life”

  1. Mandy Says:

    The summer I spent living with a French family in Toulouse was probably one of the more terrifying summers of my life. I've never been more afraid to talk (and I'm quite the talkative person), but I would do it all again. It was also one of the best experiences of my life.

    And I totally understand about research being scary. Sometimes it's hard to dive into something you don't know. I have a tendency to buy all the books I can find on a subject and read them but then be too scared to ask real people questions because they might think I'm nosy or some sort of poser. Thanks for the encouragement to not be afraid and just dive in.

  2. write-brained Says:

    I so loved this post. It IS scary to take chances and step away from familiar surroundings and ideas! I look forward to reading your book!

  3. Frankie Says:

    Great post and I love Stephanie! Can't wait to read her book:-)

  4. Jenny Says:

    Thank you for this Stephanie. It's always really scary to try something new, especially when you're an introvert by nature. I can absolutely identify with you on that. People like us need a little push and inspiration every once in a while, so again thank you for this post!

  5. Stephanie Says:

    Stephanie,

    Oh joy was this touching to read. I've often felt like I've lost my mind the past year since I've been writing my first novel. It is intimidating.

    I've fallen in love with these people in my head, and I've often had to sit back and remind myself that they aren't real.

    Mine, too, stemmed from a dream. There was nothing flowing or consequential about mine–except the way this boy looked at this particular girl. That was the only thing that stood out in my mind. And so I wrote about the way he looks at her and what she does to him.

    It's been scary and daunting, and I've find myself crying over these not-real people, but I wouldn't take them to save the world.

  6. Kiersten White Says:

    Oh, Steph, sometimes I love you so much it hurts.

    This is so, SO true. My fears weren't about learning something new, mine were about completely and totally committing myself to a dream and having it all amount to nothing. And it was terrifying. But making that commitment? Best thing I ever did!

    You helped, by the way.

    And anyone on the planet who doesn't read ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS will be sorry. Mostly because I'll hunt them down and hit them over the head with the book until they admit that it's the Best Book Ever.

  7. Amy Says:

    Yes! I was terrified to take improv even though I needed the background to write (upcoming) Book 3. I wanted to throw up when I merely enrolled.

    And… here I am a few months later. Starting the third-level class in less than a week. Doing this for serious. Loving it. It's still terrifying, but I've stopped wanting to puke.

  8. Stephanie Perkins Says:

    MANDY: See, I'm already convinced that you're a braver person than me! You lived with a strange family for an entire summer! In TOULOUSE. (Which, by the way, I am totally jealous of.) I have the same problem with asking *real* people questions, but the handful of times I have, I've found people flattered and THRILLED to be asked for help. Knowing that people enjoy sharing what they know has helped me be braver with that situation. Once you start asking, you'll be happily surprised at how easy it is! 🙂

    WRITE-BRAINED: Thank you so much! And thank you again!!

    FRANKIE: So happy to see you here! Thanks, as always, for being so encouraging.

    JENNY: You are very, very welcome. I'd imagine a lot of us writers are introverts by nature. Putting myself out there is SO nerve-wracking, but every time I've done it (usually with a push from someone else), the results have been better than I could have ever dreamed. Be brave! 🙂

    STEPHANIE: I *get* that. My characters are REAL to me, too. When you spend so much time with them . . . well, frankly, I've never understood authors who are able to make that disconnect. My hope is that it makes for strong, character-driven fiction! That's what I *tell* myself, at least. Tee hee. (And your dream sounds WONDERFUL.)

    KIERSTEN WHITE: I love you, too. So so so much. What would I do without you? Probably curl into a ball and die. (Not that I'm feeling melodramatic today or anything.) I'm so happy you committed yourself to that dream. I *know* it wasn't easy, but I also knew it was the RIGHT dream. And, um . . . how great did it turn out? Pretty much in the most awesome fashion possible. Because you are awesome, and everything you touch turns to awesome. Like King Midas. He should have asked for the awesome touch. I am totally rambling. Shutting up now. Bye-bye.

    AMY: I seriously could NOT believe it when you signed up for improv! Even now, the idea makes my stomach queasy. That has to be the bravest act I've seen in a long, long time. I'm thrilled it's going so well!! (Roller derby next? I hope?)

  9. Sandy Shin Says:

    Thank you for such a wonderful post, Stephanie. I completely identify with your paragraph about being a timid person by nature. This post has definitely inspired me to try new things now, both in life and in my writing. 🙂

  10. Lysh Says:

    I read all of these posts but usually never comment. Anyways, this was a REALLY great guest post! I'm pretty timid myself. And I've done some crazy, courageous things in my life. I usually think I'm a Gryffindor. But I've been having a little fear about my writing and then putting it out there. So this was inspiring. Looking forward to your book! And to reading your blog. 🙂

  11. Stephanie Perkins Says:

    SANDY: Thank you! Your comment makes my heart warm and fuzzy. I wish you the best of luck!!

    LYSH: Thank you so much. I love your Harry Potter comparison, because that's how *I* always think about it! ("Gryffindor, Steph! Be a Gryffindor!") Good luck finding the courage to put your work out there. Maybe this will inspire you? (It inspires me): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hidvElQ0xE

  12. Myrna Says:

    Steph, I have the timid thing going on too. That's part of why I followed your blog without having my own for such a long time.

    Your novel comes out ten days before my birthday. Guess what I'm buying for my birthday and not waiting ten more days to read?

  13. Stephanie Perkins Says:

    MYRNA: I followed blogs for several years before starting mine, too. And yours is already so successful! (Because you are fabulous.) Also, picture me with a big ol' grin on my face. I'm honored you'd consider ANNA a birthday present!! I can't wait until you can read it.

  14. Life Says:

    Glad to hear you become a braver and happier person.

    But i am not good at writing, anyway else to improve?

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