Bethany Neal talks with Hypable about My Last Kiss, her experience as a debut author, and what she’s working on next.
My Last Kiss is about Cassidy, a girl who has been in love with the same boy for three years. She and Ethan were the perfect couple, at least for a while. But at her seventeenth birthday party, she kissed someone other than her boyfriend. The only problem is that she can’t remember who it was.
Cassidy died that night, but she doesn’t know how. Trapped as a ghost, she struggles to figure out how her life ended. If she can remember who she kissed, then maybe she can remember how she ended up in the morgue. And maybe along the way she can prove that her death wasn’t a suicide like everyone thought. Read our review.
Interview with Bethany Neal
Tell us five interesting things about yourself.
1. I love to figure skate and competed on several nationally competitive synchronized skating teams all the way through college.
2. When I was younger, I had a pot-bellied pig as a pet. His name was Mozart.
3. I paint my fingernails a new crazy color every week.
4. I believe in Karma to the point that I refuse to kill bugs and spiders even if they’re crawling in my shower. I kindly escort them outside instead.
5. My spirit animal is Miss Piggy.
What is it that you find so interesting about pre-destined love?
Oh, I’m obsessed with the idea that there is a grand plan written somewhere in the stars and it all comes down to one essentially vital thing: love. I think I first caught glimpse of the idea when I saw/read William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet when I was a sophomore in high school. I was already in deep for Leo DiCaprio and that just seal`ed the deal.
What gave you the idea for My Last Kiss?
Metric is one of my absolutely favorite bands, and their song “Help, I’m Alive” inspired the idea for My Last Kiss. I even sneakily named a few of the characters in the book after band members. I really hope they don’t mind!
All of your characters are so complicated. Was it difficult making them likable, and yet have realistic flaws?
Each character in MLK (good and bad) has at least one blindly loyal friendship, and even though that may have led him/her to do varying levels of despicable things, I think that instantly endears a reader to an otherwise “unlikable” character. If we can see someone on the page connecting with a baddie, we inadvertently start connecting too. Plus, I have a huge soft spot for commonly “unlikeable” characters. I love getting inside their brains and figuring out where those flaws came from! I find it fascinating.
How did you decide the rules for Cassidy’s ghostly form?
The water aspect (where she “melts” into memories of the night she died) was a direct representation of how she died in the thawing river. I just thought it was such a cool visual to see her dissolving into this sparkly puddled mess.
I have to admit, her pearly sheen was inspired a tiny bit by one Edward Cullen. What can I say? I love things that sparkle! But mostly, I wanted Cassidy’s new ghostly self to appear very ethereal and beautiful and mysterious. I thought the inside of an oyster shell was exactly the right level of iridescence without looking hokey. (Uh-hm, Mr. Cullen.) I had a lot of fun with her appearance. The glittery dust that she dissolves into whenever she touches anyone alive was my favorite. Especially the sensations she experiences when it happens. I think that would be so cool if ghosts existed and they really experienced that. Sad as well…but mostly super cool!
When you began writing this book, did you know the exact circumstances surrounding Cassidy’s death and who was truly the guilty party?
The first draft of MLK had someone else as the guilty party, but I thought it would be too obvious to readers. I’m curious if anyone will be able to guess who the original killer was.
What’s the experience been like surrounding your debut novel so far?
Lots of excitement and worrying how people will receive the story. Lots of waiting and working hard on short time tables. Mostly, I’ve been very impressed by how much hard work many other people have put into my book along the way to get to this point. Editors, book jacket designers, and marketing teams are so unsung. I wish I could personally thank each and every one of them on a daily basis—and I would if I lived in NYC! So much so that I might get put on a watch list of sorts at the Flatiron building (where FSG/Macmillan’s offices are). It would totally be worth it though. They believed in my book from the second they read it, and I will be forever grateful to them for giving me my first big shot at this dream job.
What’s easier to write, the first line or the last line?
For me, always the first. It’s hard to know the exact right moment to stop sometimes. The first line is like love at first sight. That first sentence is the magical moment I hold onto when I’m thirty chapters in and wondering how the heck I’ll ever make it to the end.
Which YA novel do you wish you had as a teenager?
Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard. My teen self would have eaten that series right up! Though if I was being an “adult” and hoping to assist myself out of an angst-filled youth, I’d say Party by Tom Leveen. The novel shows one night at a single party told from several different points of view. Teen Beth could’ve used some seeing things from other people’s perspectives. Also, it would have been nice to have had a Teen section at the bookstore, period. The term “YA” didn’t even exist when I was a teenager! Man, that makes me feel old…
Do you have any other projects you’re working on next?
I literally just sent a new manuscript to my agent, so we’ll see how that one pans out. It’s super creepy and a fun, darker read. I have a (not so hidden) dark side that comes out in this one. I hope I’ll be able to share more about it soon!
About Bethany Neal
Bethany Neal writes young adult novels with a little dark side and a lot of kissing from her Ann Arbor, Michigan, home. She graduated from Bowling Green State University and the things she is obsessed with include, but are not limited to: nail polish, ginormous rings, pigs, pickles, and dessert. My Last Kiss is her first novel.