in Westerville, Ohio, young adult author Brieanna Wilkoff is a bundle of good
energy. I met Brieanna at a recent book festival where she showcased her new
novel. From Brieanna’s bio…
Wilkoff (she/her) believes wholeheartedly in the power of kindness, the
importance of theatre, and the awesomeness of ’80s rock. She married her
husband onstage at the oldest surviving theatre in central Ohio, and their
first dance was to Bon Jovi’s “Thank You for Loving Me.” Her favorite musical
is a three-way tie between Les Mis, Wicked, and Hamilton.
I’ll Be There for You is Brieanna’s debut young
adult novel. It was inspired by her family’s commitment to kindness, including
performing 100 kind acts in a single day.”
What is the premise of your new book?
BW: I’ll Be
There for You is about a 16-year-old girl named Rae who is struggling
to move on after the death of her father, who loved ’80s rock, Bon Jovi most of
all. A trip to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on the anniversary of her dad’s
death leads Rae to embark on a kindness mission after someone does something
unexpectedly kind and tells her to “pay it forward.” In addition, Rae decides
to audition for the school play after meeting Mac, a boy who uses humor, charm,
and some well-curated Broadway playlists to help her open up again. But his
friendship and the hope for romance come with the potential for more
heartbreak. The book is full of fun music and theatre references, but
ultimately, it’s a story about healing.
Where is your favorite place to write?
BW: We turned our
living room into a home library, filled with bookshelves and comfy chairs. I
love writing in that room because I’m surrounded by all of my favorite
books—those that have moved and inspired me, made me laugh and cry. I’ve even
incorporated my love of theatre into the space, with a custom-made blanket
featuring my favorite musicals.
How do you maintain thoughts and ideas?
BW: Over the years,
I’ve found that if I’m generally thinking about a book, even when I’m not
actively thinking about it, ideas will pop into my head. So, I try to keep
whatever project I’m working on in the front of my mind. I also make it easy to
jot ideas down, keeping several notebooks and a list on my phone in case ideas
strike when I’m away from home.
Are your characters based upon people you know, or are they truly fictional?
BW: No character is
based on one real person, but elements of people I know or myself are in
several of the characters. Theatre is a passion of mine, so I definitely drew
on that as I was writing Mac, Rae, and Joss. I also love ’80s rock (my husband
and I danced our first song at our wedding to Bon Jovi’s “Thank You for Loving
Me”), which I tapped into to create Rae’s dad. The character of Paul, who
appears later in the novel, is the least fictional—he’s a mix of several real
Who is your favorite character in your novel?
BW: It’s too hard to
pick between Mac and Rae because it’s the interaction between them that brings
out the best in each. I had so much fun writing their scenes together, and I
would often hear them talking in my head. They share moments that are funny, playful,
seen a photo of your library. You’re an avid reader. Who is your favorite
BW: I’m a big fan of
YA—John Green and Becky Albertalli are two authors I adore. They write
wonderful characters, with such great voices, that I thoroughly enjoy all of
their books. I like contemporary stories, and characters are what draw me in.
These two are masters of the craft.
What advice do you have for novice writers?
revision. It’s hard to get words on paper, especially if you’re writing a book
and need to string together tens of thousands of words. If you accept that the
first draft isn’t going to be great, it helps take the pressure off. You can
always change, add, or cut words later. That’s a necessary part of the
process—revision is what turns a good idea into a great book.
you have a muse or ritual that spurs creativity?
BW: I don’t have a lot
of free time, which sometimes works in my favor. When I get the opportunity to
write, I take advantage of it because time is limited. Also, while it’s not
specific to creativity, I do take inspiration from the craft book Save
the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody. I’ve found it to help
tremendously in shaping story structure. I also recommend GMC: Goal,
Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon for creating compelling,
Connect with Brieanna
Great interview, and love that library!!
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