Philip Siegel grew up in New Jersey, which he insists is much nicer than certain TV shows would have you believe. He graduated from Northwestern University and promptly moved out to Los Angeles, where he became an NBC Page. He likes to think that the character of Kenneth on 30 Rock is loosely based on his life rights. Currently, he lives in Chicago and does his best writing sandwiched in between colorful characters on the El.
Below is my interview with author of The Break-Up Artist, a great novel about a high school girl who learns the value of friendship and relationships. After receiving rave reviews, both from others and myself, I wanted to dig a little deeper into the story.
Becca, the main character, has been burned in the past by her supposed best friend back in the day. Do you think she was justified in becoming the “Break-up Artist?”
I think justified is a tricky word. She had her reasons for doing what she did. They were the right reasons for her, and it’s up to the readers to decide if they were the right reasons for them. Becca had good intentions as the Break-Up Artist. She wasn’t breaking up couples just to be cruel. In her own Becca way, she just wanted to make the world a better place.
Self-awareness was – to me – one of the underlying themes of the novel. Why do you think that an outsider can more clearly see what is gong on in someone else’s life that they can’t see for themselves, and how does this relate to the characters in your novel?
No matter how self-aware we think we are, we can never be truly objective about ourselves. We can easily rationalize things to ourselves that we would never let fly with another person. We judge an overweight person for eating a Whopper while we sit back and drink soda. We hate our friend’s new boyfriend while ignoring the flaws in our own partners. Hypocrisy is human nature! Becca is a person who thought she had fauxmance all figured out, and then she proceeded to fall for it hook line and sinker. The most interesting characters are ones who say one thing and then do the exact opposite. The story comes from examining how and why they make those decisions.
As this was your debut novel, how was your writing process? Was it a long journey, something that was years in the making, or was it a story that just flowed out with relative ease?
THE BREAK-UP ARTIST was the third novel I’d written, and the first I ever tried to get published. I had been writing fiction for over 4 years. I have zero background in it; I studied screenwriting in college, so I had to teach myself a new style of writing. And that entails reading a lot and then writing a lot. The idea for this story was kicking around in my head for a while, and I began writing it summer of 2011. I wrote 2 drafts of the story in about 6 months. My biggest stumbling block up until that point had been abandoning manuscripts after the second draft. Revision is tough, especially when the second draft was okay but not great. And it had to be great. I made a resolution in 2012 to follow through with my writing and finally build up the courage to send it to agents. Now here we are today 🙂
Many who are reading this are aspiring authors. Is there any advice you would like to give them?
I have SO MUCH ADVICE. But my favorite piece is this: “Writing isn’t fun. It’s work.” It’s fun thinking up ideas and picturing scenes and characters in your head. When we sit down to actually write, though, many times it doesn’t flow or the story doesn’t come out like we imagined. It’s frustrating. I rarely ever have days where the writing pours out of me. I have to push out the words every day. It’s hard work. It’s not fun. Hard work is rewarding and fulfilling and challenging and frustrating, but it’s not fun. Hobbies are fun. Going to the movies is fun. So if you want to write professionally, you need to change your mindset.