Rarely nowadays do we find books in the Young Adult genre that aren’t filled with death, murder, bullying, depression, and more. While books with these themes do hold an important place in literature, the market, after the success of books like 13 Reasons Why, has become saturated – if not over-saturated – with similar narratives and themes. Which is why reading the debut novel of friends and writing collaborators Patty Carothers and Amy Brewer feels like something of a breath of fresh air.
Their debut work, Texting Prince Charming, as hinted at in the title, reads like a fairy tale – with a twist. After a tragic car accident, Shelby Ryan lost more than just her entire family – she’s also left handicapped, unable to continue as a cheerleader, and having to undergo months of painful physical therapy just to walk easily. Putting on a facade, Shelby tries to pretend that everything is fine, but things start to change when the bad-boy basketball star Sebastian Birch – who also happens to be her arch-enemy – starts showing interest in her, and she also starts to receive anonymous but corny messages from someone calling himself Prince Charming. With a new mission to discover Prince Charming’s real identity while trying to figure out her own feelings for Sebastian Birch, Shelby goes through an adventure unlike one she ever would have expected, bringing moments of hilarity, heartfelt honesty, and shows that happy endings aren’t just for those who look the part.
Amy Brewer and Patty Carothers are both literary agents, so they know what it means to write a good book – which they have. With multiple five-star reviews, Texting Prince Charming is sure to be one of the best YA hits of the summer. BookTrib got to interview both Brewer and Carothers about their friendship, how they started writing, Nora Roberts, basketball, and more!
BookTrib: What made you first want to write this book?
Patty Carothers: There are so many books out there right now, or media depicting negative things like suicide, or kids being bullied, and all this other stuff, with no happy ever afters. We kind of wanted to show someone who was handicapped, getting their happily ever after, or at least heading in that direction.
Amy Brewer: Patty and I have six teenagers between us, and with all those teenagers, we had a whole season of 13 Reasons Why in our house – watching the show and reading the book, and all that talk. I think we’ve both had friends, or kid’s friends, who have killed themselves, and it just seems like it’s an awfully depressing market for teenagers right now. So, we were trying to sort of bring back the joy of just a nice, sweet romance, but with the underlying message that even with a disability, you can always overcome. All the books that Patty and I have planned in the YA genre, are all about teenagers who have some kind of disability that they overcome; or even if they don’t overcome it, they process it in a way where they have their happily ever after, or something close to it.
BookTrib: How did you decide to write the book together? I know that you two were friends for a long time before this.
AB: We’ve been friends for 28 years, or something close to that. With that, we started working on books and writing together, I’d say around 10 years ago. Patty would write, and I would read, and then we would discuss it. We have both been such big readers and gotten along on that level for so long, and the writing became a big part of it. Then, in 2016, in the fall, Patty said, “Hey, are you ready to get serious and make a go of this writing thing?” and I said yeah, because our kids were more grown, and we had a little bit more free time.
We started really getting serious and doing social media platforms, and started really vigilantly writing. We started on Wattpad – the idea came when Patty came up with a brilliant idea for a story, and we thought “Okay, we’ll put it on Wattpad and see if anybody likes it, see if it takes hold at all,” and lo and behold, I think we got 12,000 reads in two weeks. And we went, “Okay, maybe this is good.” There are some folks on Wattpad that know a bunch of people, and are promoted and all that, and for us it was just word of mouth and people in our demographics liking what we were writing. We actually ended up landing an agent with a different story, and she heard what was going on at Wattpad and was like “Let me have this story!” So, that’s how that happened.
But we’ve had a partnership going for a while now. Patty does 90% of the writing – she’s the brains, the genius behind the words – and I help with planning and the plot, and we make sure that everything works and that it’s all cohesive. Then I go back through, and she lets me nitpick it and say “Hey, they can’t kiss here yet!”, which she hates. I always say that I bring the angst because I’m like, “Okay, they can almost kiss, or they can think about it, or he can kiss her forehead, but that’s it!” And then I do the business stuff: I do the social media, and run that end.
BookTrib: One of the problems that a lot of authors run into when they’re adults is writing from the perspective of a teenager and making everything accurate. This book is so well written on that stand-point, and I know you have teenagers yourselves, but was it difficult for you to do this?
PC: No, because I always say I’m like an eternal teenager!
AB: We quit aging in Mr. Taylor’s sophomore English class when we met! Patty and I read YA consistently, which really helps, and then I read romance… always, and I think that all really helps. But as for just keeping it real, we actually had an adult reviewer get angry with us because we didn’t have the kids sit around and talk about safe sex. That’s actually what it said. And we were like “What kids have you met?!”
She was also offended that the kids got drunk at the party, and because I think she was looking at it from a different perspective, she wanted it to be like, “Hey, all kids are awesome and never do anything wrong!” and that’s… we haven’t met those kids, and we certainly weren’t the goody two-shoes kids. Maybe I was a little bit, but Patty wasn’t!
PC: Nope. I wasn’t, you were!
AB: But we just draw on our own lives, and we did run language by our teenagers, and they did not hesitate to say, “No, no one says that.”
PC: I didn’t even know that pity dating was a thing until I was told pity dating was a thing! So, I was like “I’m putting that in the book – we are putting pity dating in there.”
BookTrib: Actually, one of the questions that I have is whether or not your kids have read the book, and what they think of it.
PC: Yes, my kids have the read the book. Actually, as I would write stuff, I would give it to them to make sure it didn’t sound stupid, and that it actually sounded like teenagers, and they’d be like “Yeah, this is pretty good!” They weren’t too fond of the whole dorky prince charming messages at the beginning of the chapter, but I was like “Come on guys, if a guy was sending you those, wouldn’t you fall in love?” and they were like “Yeah, we would but it’s kind of silly.” I was like “That’s the point of it!”
AB: My boys have definitely not read the book – unless you turned it into a video game, they will not be reading it!
BookTrib: You mentioned earlier that you both read a lot of YA, and Amy, you mentioned that you read a lot of romance. Are there any books in particular that stand out for you as being ones that have inspired you, or just had an impact?
PC: I always just go back to To Kill a Mockingbird and Pride and Prejudice. I mean, I know those aren’t generically YA, but if you read those as a teenager, you’re going to fall in love with books, and reading and writing.
AB: I’m a big Shakespeare nerd, so for me it was definitely Romeo and Juliet, and it was after that that Leonardo DiCaprio played Romeo, so that permanently found a place in my heart. I also started reading Nora Roberts when I was very young – and I know Patty is laughing at me – I’ve actually read every single thing that Nora Roberts has ever written, and I’m sort of a fangirl about her.
We really looked into what she does to turn out as much literature as she does and made a career, a business out of it. When we made the story to do this, we decide “Okay, we’re going to go with that model, rather than the “Oh, I’m a writer mom, and maybe I’ll write a little bit.” We decided that, you know, this is a business, and we’re going to make it a business by dedicating ourselves to the writing side, and for me, the business side. So, Nora Roberts has been a pretty big role model for me – again, I know Patty is laughing at me right now!
BookTrib: With Texting Prince Charming, it’s written like a modern-day fairy tale, both with elements in the story, and the actual book itself. What made you want to write in the fairy-tale format?
PC: Truthfully, I think I had just finished watching Once Upon A Time or something else fairy-tale related, and then I was like, “Well, what if we could come up with a concept like this?” I really don’t know if it was anything other than just wanting to have a cohesive theme.
AB: The Prince Charming messages came through with the cohesive theme, and we had originally thought “Let’s make it all Disney,” but then Shrek popped up, and we were like, okay, well, maybe not – and then The Princess Bride came along! But I just think that it’s been so steeped in our culture, and as moms, and as girls – the Disney Princesses and the Disney love – and you know, it does influence you even if you think it doesn’t. It is a part of who we are, and I think it was an easy thing to say, “Okay, we want our happily ever after to be and to feel like a princess-and-prince thing.”
But Patty knew that the texts were going to be from Prince Charming way in advance because Shelby’s Instagram address is princess4life_999. I don’t know how that happened, but that’s our Instagram address. It was just a natural fit for us, I think!
BookTrib: This book starts with the narrative of this tragic accident that Shelby goes through, where she loses her family, and her leg; and we’re reading this from her perspective – we’re watching this happen to her and with her. Was this something that you found difficult to write?
PC: Actually, no. I just kind of got into her mindset of what it would be like and went from there. I mean, I’ve been in a serious accident like that, so I just kind of recalled the screeching metal, and laying on asphalt – all that kind of stuff – and just the anxiety that goes through it; it was really just recollection. Not that mine was as serious, I kind of embellished it of course, for literature purposes. But other than that… I kind of disassociate when I write, so it was actually pretty fine.
BookTrib: These characters – not only in their relationships, but individually – are so fleshed-out, and really well-developed. Just looking at how they change from the beginning of the book to the end, did you know that this was how they would develop, or did surprises come up when you were writing?
PC: We pretty much plotted it going in like this. I mean, we planned it all out: Shelby’s love of Nutella and chocolate, and all things princess; Bass loves basketball, and he chews gum all the time; and Trina just being Trina – crazy, most of the time, cause everyone has that crazy best friend, and you kind of need them – but pretty much, even through we had to rewrite and revise this story many times, they all stayed the same.
AB: They really did. Bass definitely stayed the same. Shelby has gone through a couple different slight incarnations, but the idea is that we wanted to keep her real, and snarky and eye-rolling, and not cute and fluffy. Patty is so great at having all these characters in her head : I mean, she knows what flavor of gum Bass chews, and she knew that before she started writing him – and true, part of that is because she had a crush on Christian Laettner in the 90s.
PC: Yes… that’s true, but basically envisioned with my personality! So, Bass is Christian Laettner, with Patty’s personality. There you go! Shelby was a little bit harder, but I had Bass figured out from the get go.
BookTrib: Actually, I was going to ask whether or not you’re both basketball fans, because it features so heavily in the book .
PC: Oh, goodness, yes. I am crazy about college basketball and pro-basketball, and… yes, just yes. You should see me going through March Madness – it’s all business, it’s all I do! I’m all about basketball.
AB:: And I could not care less about basketball! But actually, I was a cheerleader. I was like “What, basketball? Okay.” We actually had a couple of cheerleading scenes that got cut from the final draft.
BookTrib: Was there anything that you wanted to add that didn’t make it into the final cut because you couldn’t make it work, or because you wanted to save it for something else?
PC: Well, we did actually have a sex scene/fade to black moment between Shelby and Bass that got cut. But I actually prefer the way that it’s set up now, and the way that their relationship gets taken. Is that just about the only thing?
AB: Yeah, I think that’s right. Though, I miss the pool scene, I’ll be honest.
BookTrib: What was the pool scene?
AB: We had to really cut the spicy stuff! After the kiss-cam scene, Bass follows Shelby back to the hotel, and they end up in the pool, and have this very salacious make-out scene, and that got cut, too! But it didn’t add to the story, and we understood that, so it had to go. But there was nothing major that we’re missing, just the little things that were fun to write, like the making out in the pool scene.
BookTrib: I happened to hear that you’re planning on making this into a series. I know that this book just came out, but can you tell us anything about the upcoming books?
AB: Patty and I are writing book two right now about Sebastian and Shelby in college, and some of the real life issues that come up for college kids and college relationships that start in high school. Then, there will be a third book about them further on in life, and how they can tackle the obstacles of twenty-something life, and then it sort of follows them from there. Those books will be coming out sometime in the next couple of years, and then Bass has his own story, which is written from his point of view. It’s written from the time of the accident, when he loses Kyle, and he goes to Shelby’s family’s funeral. So, while Shelby is unconscious in Texting Prince Charming – the time between the prologue and Chapter 1 – is going to be Bass’s little novella.
Texting Prince Charming is now available for purchase.
For more information, visit pattycarothersandamybrewerbooks.com
ABOUT AMY BREWER AND PATTY CAROTHERS
Patty Carothers and Amy Brewer are hometown Missouri friends who share a passion for reading, writing, and raising children. With six teenagers between them, they are steeped in a world of angst and drama. They have focused their teen expertise into writing with authentic teen voice. They currently are working on the Texting Prince Charming series. They love to write stories about teens who overcome difficulties and disabilities to find love with a happy ending. Chocolate, hot tea and long phone calls see these busy moms through writing and taxiing their kids all over their respective towns.