Janet Gurtler’s newest YA novel, How I Lost You (out now), tells the all-too-relatable tale of two inseparable best friends, Grace and Kya, as they struggle when their relationship begins to fall apart. It’s a cute summer read, perfect for any girl who’s faced tough times with her own BFF. Here, Gurtler talks about her inspiration for the book and her blog campaign where other YA authors share the good, bad, and ugly of teenage friendships.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where did you get the idea for How I Lost You?
JANET GURTLER: The idea actually stemmed from a fight I had with a good girlfriend of mine. Both of us were really upset because we thought we were at a point where our friendship was no longer going to work. The thought of losing her literally caused me to slide into an ugly cry. The feelings about that relationship ending brought back memories of a time when I was a teen and really did lose a best friend for good. That “best friend” break as a teen hurt as much if not more than any romantic break up I had in those years.
I can’t say that I’ve ever read a book where paintball played a huge role. Why choose that sport? Do you play paintball?
I wish I could tell you that I was that cool fearless girl who plays paintball, but apparently I’m a big chicken who was born without the adrenaline gene. The idea for a paintball player came from my son going to a paintball party. There was a teen girl who worked at there, and I quizzed her about the sport and was jazzed by how much she loved it. She was incredibly feminine looking but cool and confident and also tough as nails in the arena.
What do you hope readers take away from the book?
First of all, I hope the readers like the peek into the girls-playing-paintball world. I also hope that readers of this story relate to the bond the girls have, and how difficult it is when that bond starts to fray. Something in life that really sucks is that we really do have to say goodbye to people who become toxic to be around, even if they don’t mean to.
Why do you think breaking up with a friend can be such a defining moment in adolescence?
Teens identify who they are through the friends they choose to hang out with so when a “break up” happens, it’s devastating on so many levels. There’s that betrayal of trust and the realization that someone so close to you can turn on you and cause you so much pain. And like many things that happen in those years, it’s often a “first” thing. Like it’s the first time a teen will ever have their loyalty thrown back in their face. It’s a huge life lesson and hard to deal with.
Talk a little about your blog campaign where you’re getting other YA authors to contribute memories about their own high school friends.
I thought it would be really fun and interesting to snoop into the friendships of some of my favorite authors. I asked authors I admire, like Jennifer Brown and Mandy Hubbard to participate and was thrilled with the responses. I’ve had a few fan girl moments too, like when I heard back from A.S. King but really all the authors who are on my blog have great stories.
What have you learned from them?
I learned that our teen friendships really do have powerful impact on our lives. I’ve also learned that we often love the traits in others that we wish we had ourselves. So many authors talk about how their friends taught them to be more themselves and that’s such an important part of growing up. And laughing. We had the best belly laughs with our teen friends.
What other projects are you working on?
I’m working on my next YA called Sixteen Things I Thought Were True about a girl who searches for the truth about her family on a road trip with a hot guy after getting caught dancing in her underwear online.