Better Than the Best Plan: Behind the Scenes with Lauren MorrillBy Lauren Morril
All this month we have fully jumped on the ferris wheel, grabbed our cotton candy, and joined Ritzy for an unforgettable Summer. From the drama to the love story, we're longing for Summer days and Summer nights. So we asked author Lauren Morrill to dish a little bit about what inspired her to write Ritzy's story, including her favorite scenes and more. Check it out.
What inspired you to write Better Than the Best Plan?
I used to follow this blogger who was a young, single foster mom. I followed her as she got the call that she’d be getting a 3-month old baby, and watched for two years as she mothered that child like her own. But after two years, the birth mother was able to regain custody. And while that’s a success story in the foster care system, I couldn’t help but think about this foster mother who had cared for this girl, who would probably never know she existed unless the birth mother decided to disclose it. The foster mother, at the point, had never seen her again.
I wanted to explore that idea of finding out years later that your life diverged in a way you never knew about, and suddenly finding yourself back on that other road. The book opens with Ritzy being picked up by a social worker after her mother leaves her alone to go off on a spiritual quest. That’s when Ritzy finds out not only had she been in foster care for the first two years of her life, but that she was being returned to the foster mother who cared for her – and wanted to keep her back then.
My sister was working as a social worker for the Department of Children and Families doing exactly this kind of work (she was the inspiration for Tess, a young and put-together social worker who cares deeply for her clients – I wanted to subvert the stereotype of social workers you so often see in the media). She was a big help, answer a lot of procedural and legal questions that I knew would come up over the course of the story.
Did you have a favorite scene to write?
There’s a scene where Ritzy and BOYNAME wind up at one of those grocery store parking lot fairs with the rickety rides and the midway of fair food sold out of metal trucks. It’s a deliciously bantery scene with lots of good jokes, and I especially love their conversation while they’re watching some deeply ridiculous children’s performers. That pair of aspiring broadway stars came from a very real experience when I’d taken my toddler to a Thomas the Tank Engine event. Somehow we wound up sitting on hay bales watching these two people try very hard to sell Turkey in the Straw while wearing the most embarrassing costumes and I knew immediately I would put it in a book some day.
What was the writing process like?
This was probably the hardest book I’ve ever written. First of all, it strayed a bit from my comfort zone, with is rom coms. This book was much more about friendship and family, and I really had to nail Ritzy’s emotional arc and connection to several different characters. From first draft to second draft, I’d say about 40,000 words got cut and re-written, an entire character and plotline changed, but in the end, I was able to find my voice within this story.
But also, I wrote this while I was pregnant with my second son, and during that time, my oldest son broke his leg – twice! Imagine trying to finish revising a book (which, like I said, was essentially a re-write), when your 2 year old is in a body cast and you’ve just brought a newborn home from the hospital. I remember distinctly trying to squeak in an hour of writing amidst the chaos, my husband and I saying, “We’ll laugh about this someday!” Reader, almost 4 years later, and I’m still not laughing …
Luckily, the curse broke when it came time to write my next book, It’s Kind of a Cheesy Love Story, and I think the writing gods must have been smiling upon me because that book was an absolute joy to write. And thank goodness, because otherwise, I might have given up writing entirely!
Be sure to tune into the discussion for Better Than the Best Plan on April 29th at 7pm.
Lauren Morrill's Better Than the Best Plan is a fresh, funny, romantic YA novel about a teenage girl who finds an unexpected silver lining in her life when plans get turned upside down.
Plans are made to be broken. It’s the last day of junior year, and seventeen-year-old Ritzy—short for Maritza—is pretty sure she has a great plan. Summer job—check. Hang with friends at the beach—check. Keep looking after herself as she’s been doing since her mom bailed to follow her bliss—check. Or no check?
After someone reports that Ritzy is living alone, a social worker shows up and puts her into foster care. That’s surprise enough. Even more surprising? Ritzy has been in foster care before, as an infant, and the woman who cared for her then takes her in again. But maybe the greatest surprise of all for Ritzy is that living with her foster mother, Kristin, in Kristin’s gorgeous house, isn’t all that bad. And neither is the cute, friendly boy next door. If Ritzy’s mom hadn’t gotten her back all those years ago, this is the life she could have had. But is it the life she should have had?
When Ritzy’s old life catches up with her new one, she has some decisions to make. Can she plan for the worst, but still hope for the best?
Don't miss Lauren's newest book It's Kind of a Cheesy Love Story available wherever books are sold.