Today Rachel Vail, author of many books, is here to give me an inside-scoop on the life of Charlie from If We Kiss, including what is next for the character... *Sequel Alert!*
GC: The title for your book, If We Kiss becomes the thesis for the entire novel; did the title, or the idea for the story come to you first and what real-life experiences did you draw from to write it?
RV: The title of the book actually came after many, many drafts had been written. In fact, the book started as a short story. I wrote One Hot Second about a girl who developed a crush on a boy she didn’t really like instead of on the boy she was going out with. It’s a really tricky situation, one with which so many girls (maybe including high school me!) struggle – and as I wrote it, I fell in love with her voice. I could hear Charlie telling her story as I started writing. I couldn’t get her witty, self-doubting voice out of my head, even after the story was done– and that’s why I decided she needed a full book. As much as the kisses in this book change everything in Charlie’s life, though, I always thought IF WE KISS was more about the impact of feeling jealous of a best friend than just about kisses.
GC: Was there any point in your life you thought you made very foolish choices in love, and if so, what did you take from those times in your life?
RV: Of course!
My mistakes in love, like most of my mistakes, tend to occur when I am acting against what I know is right – for me, or morally.
I used to get really into the feeling that I was the only one who could understand or heal a friend (or boyfriend), or that I was uniquely able to weather his or her storms. I guess I liked drama.
What I have learned is that if nobody else sticks around for that person’s nastiness, maybe there’s a good reason. I don’t have to be a hero or a martyr to be a good friend. I am happier, and can have more fun, and be more productive – if I surround myself with smart, kind, fun, funny people, and then try my best to deserve their wonderful company.
Also, I learned that not every relationship is terrific, and sometimes, without blame or even too much sadness, you can drift away from people when your paths diverge. You get to keep the memories of good times like an emotional scrapbook, but you don’t have to live in it forever.
GC: Can you tell us about your first kiss? Was it any good, or something you would rather forget?
RV: My first kiss was great – and we have it on film!
I was in fifth grade, playing Kim MacAfee in Bye, Bye Birdie. My first boyfriend in real life was a sixth grade boy playing Hugo (my character’s boyfriend in the show.) At the curtain call of the first performance, we met center stage. He handed me a bouquet of flowers – and kissed me on the lips. I was surprised but, I thought, handled it really well. Until I saw the film my father (!) had taken. As soon as the kiss ended, I wiped the kiss right off my lips with the back of my hand.
There is no denying this moment of loveliness and social grace on my part – it is preserved on film and was witnessed by basically everybody I knew… including my future husband… who was also in the play! (But he did not become my boyfriend for another 14 years after that fateful day.)
GC: What is next for you as a writer?
RV: I am writing a bunch of new novels, including… a sequel to IF WE KISS!
GC: And finally, since this is an event to celebrate Love, would you share your most romantic memory, or share a story that epitomizes ‘Love’ for you?
RV: I’ve been married to a guy who is my best friend for 17 years. The truth is, some of the most romantic moments for me are simply those when he stays home a little late in the morning just so we can have a cup of tea together and hang out a few minutes longer. But maybe the one specific example that hits me right now is the morning last November when our younger son was in the hospital. As we waited together to get the test results, sitting in hard plastic chairs beside the hospital bed where our sweet little guy was sleeping off the anaesthesia, my husband took my hand. He didn’t say anything. In the midst of this life we’re living together filled to the brim with wit, opinions, wisdom, and laughter, we had no words, and no need for words. He blinked back a tear; I did, too. We waited, together, holding hands. When the doctor came in with good news, our tears and our words and our smiles flowed freely again. But in that silent moment of holding our breath, he held my hand just exactly the way I needed him to.