Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Q&A with Haley Neil




Haley Neil is the author of the new young adult novel Planning Perfect. She also has written the YA novel Once More with Chutzpah. She lives in Massachusetts.


Q: What inspired you to write Planning Perfect, and how did you create your character Felicity?


A: Amusingly, the pitch for this book started off as a bit of a joke. I had just watched the movie Under the Tuscan Sun and was talking to a friend about how I thought it should have been queer. I jokingly said something like “what if I just wrote an f/f retelling of the movie”... and then promptly started to write it.


The book has changed so much from that initial inspiration. Instead of renovating a house, the characters are planning a wedding. The book is set at a Vermont apple orchard. The more I wrote, the more this took on a life of its own.


As for Felicity, she came to me a lot through her strong voice. This is a character who has a lot to say. Once I tapped into that, the rest seemed to fall into place.


Q: The Kirkus review of the book says, in part, “In the midst of relationship-centered conflict, Felicity grapples with her ace-spectrum sexuality, her deepening feelings for Nancy, insecurities about her personality, and her overwhelming anxiety. An important aspect of her satisfying character growth comes from learning to let go of her shame around accepting help.” What do you think of that description, and what role do you see shame playing in the book?


A: I was honored to read the Kirkus review! I’ll admit, I tend to avoid book reviews (along with “most-anticipated” lists), unless someone tells me I should check them out.

I’ve been calling this book my love letter to perfectionists and that is particularly true when it comes to Felicity’s character. She is so hard on herself. She does experience this shame, or perhaps pressure, that makes her feel like she has to do everything by herself and do so flawlessly.


At the beginning of the story, her life is almost ruled by this pressure. As mentioned in the review, her character does grow. I see all of those fears around accepting help and the pressure of attempting to be perfect as a jumping off point for Felicity.


Q: Did you know how the book would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: This is a major thing to admit as a writer… especially because I was not always this way… but, I am, in fact, an outliner!


I had an overarching plan for the story when I sat down to draft it. This idea evolved in major ways during my brainstorming phase (at one point the book was set in Italy, then in the English countryside, before I settled on the Vermont apple orchard setting!). I had an outline/synopsis to work off of as I drafted the manuscript.


That said, there was definitely room for change! For example, I changed the entire relationship timeline of my main couple during revisions. I realized I was writing towards the beats of other romance stories I had read, instead of really focusing on how the order of events might be different to an asexual-spectrum character. So I did have an overall plan, but I remained flexible!


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: There is no such thing as a perfect plan when it comes to your life.


I’ve noticed this immense pressure, especially placed on teenagers, that seems to say that people have to have their lives entirely planned out. I wanted to show that there are so many different ways to live your life and that sometimes the best parts of life are entirely unexpected.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Hmm, not sure how much I can say right now. I am working on something for a different age-range that I am very excited about!


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Thank you so much for your work for the book community!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Haley Neil.

No comments:

Post a Comment