Author Interview with Brittany Goodwin

Hello! Many of you may know that I recently read and loved If You’re Gone by Brittany Goodwin (if you haven’t seen the review you can see it HERE). But now I am here with an amazing interview with the author of If You’re Gone, Brittany Goodwin!

For anyone who has not read If You’re Gone, can you describe it in one sentence?

“If You’re Gone is a realistic mystery about love and loss that will keep you thinking long after you close the book.”

I have to ask the most cliché question of them all, but how did you come up with the idea for If You’re Gone?
That’s not a cliché question at all! In fact, I have to figure out exactly how to answer it!

I created the characters of Lillian and Brad when I was not even in high school. Brad was that heartthrob guy that I was dreaming about and Lillian was a fictionalized version of myself. (Very original, huh?!) I began by writing a story about their relationship, but as I got older and began following missing persons cases I realized the character of Brad was so much like the thousands of teen boys who go missing and get little to no follow up from law enforcement. I felt like I wanted to give a voice to the families and loved ones who have been directly affected by missing persons cases, and the story of Brad and Lillian was the perfect way to do that. I studied dozens of MP cases, watching hours of interviews with family members and girlfriends/boyfriends who were looking for their loved ones, and began combining these real life experiences into a fictional account of how someone is affected when someone they love disappears. The story kind of unfolded from there… would you believe I actually dreamed about several of the moments in the book before I ever wrote them?

What was your favorite part of writing If You’re Gone?
Finishing it! (Just kidding… kind of…)
Developing Lillian’s character through different stages of emotions and grief was a difficult but very rewarding experience. I felt like I got so far into Lillian’s head that her friends were my friends and her pain was my pain. One of the last chapters in the book (no spoilers!) when Lillian returns to the lake with her friends was my favorite to write. But that’s all I will say, readers will have to see why for themselves! J

Is the finished version of If You’re Gone how you always imagined the book? Or did the plot and characters change a lot over the course of the writing process?
That’s a very good question. When I originally started writing If You’re Gone I expected it would be more of a thriller than a drama. But as I continued character studies and researched MP cases, I realized that a real-life missing persons case is far from a thrilling mystery full of twists and turns. The real moments that define MP cases and the people who are affected by them are the moments where nothing is happening- no leads, no updates, and little to no hope. I decided it was more important to tell the story in a way that put readers in side the MC, Lillian’s, head and made them feel the mystery, not just read about it.

Do you have a favorite of your own characters? And, along those lines, do you ship any of your own characters?
The character of Lillian is near and dear to my heart, but I also love the character of Anna. I see Anna as that beautiful, fun best friend that every teen girl wants to (or does) have. At one point Lillian’s inner dialogue says something along the lines of “Brad was the only person, besides Anna, who could make me laugh until I cried" and I think that’s the kind of friend Anna is. She probably has a million inside jokes with Lillian, and their dialogue is constant sarcastic banter. We don’t get to see a lot of that in the story, because things take a turn so quickly when Brad disappears, but the moments when we see Lillian and Anna just being typical teenage best friends are really special to me. (Shout out to my real life BFF who lived up the road from me and inspired this character- you know who you are!)
As far as relationships go, Anna and Thomas have kind of claimed the "couple most likely" award... they are those two people in high school who should just obviously end up together. Lillian and Brad are more of a wild card, that couple no one ever expected, which can be the best relationship of all! But as far as the other characters... I would really like to see Lizard end up in a relationship, maybe even with Tess or Mandy. That's probably an even more unlikely relationship than Lillian and Brad,  but it would be interesting to write about :)

Does any of your personality ever go into any of your characters?
I hate to admit it, because it seems so un-imaginative, but the character of Lillian is definitely an extension of the high school version of me. A lot of teenagers in relationships fall quickly into love and make their world about that person (been there, done that)- so I had to imagine what it would have been like to lose someone I didn’t think I could live without. Lillian shares similar interests as I did in high school (singing, movies, hanging out with friends at the lake, BOYS…) but she also has a fragile, sensitive side that is different than my own personality. She was a very fun character to explore and she became real when I met the gorgeous Tara Thomas who portrays Lillian on the book cover and in the trailer! (follow her @tinytaranicole

Since If You’re Gone is a mystery, how much planning went into outlining the story and the revelations at the end of it, if any?
I did a lot of outlining and I always knew how it was going to end, but I didn’t know HOW it was going to end (got that?! LOL). I can’t say much without giving away some major spoilers, but basically the resolution was tough to craft in a realistic way. How does a tall, strong, eighteen year old guy vanish without a trace? What (or who) makes that happen and why? (Read If You’re Gone to find out! Hehe)

Do you listen to music while writing? If so, what bands or genres?
I can’t listen to music WHILE I’m writing because I get distracted way to easily, haha, but I did create a playlist that I would listen to before I wrote to get my inspired, or while I was driving to help me find a certain emotion and develop dialogue (yes, I talk to myself. A lot) I have a relatively wide taste in music, ranging from Jack’s Mannequin to Nickelback (no shame), and you can find the whole awesome playlist with description of why I chose each song HERE

I noticed that you also make movies, other than the obvious, what is different in the process of writing and publishing a book to writing and directing a movie?
Well, silly me, thought writing and publishing a novel would be easier than writing and directing/producing a movie, but I was very wrong!

In both processes, the writing parts are the easy parts. It is everything that comes after that is a little different. For my films, I decided to I wanted to produce and direct my own screenplays versus shopping them around to studios, so I developed Every New Day Pictures along with my husband and began meeting with investors to fund the projects. Once we had enough money committed to make the films we were all set- then came the fun parts of casting, location scouting, hiring crew etc. It sounds pretty simple but finding investors is a long, tough, stressful road and I was excited to write my debut novel because I knew it wouldn’t require thousands of dollars to get it published. (Well, when I say “knew” I mean “assumed”.)

Fast forward to when I finished If You’re Gone, I began shopping it around to agents and publishers and while that didn’t cost anything monetary, it took a lot of time, was stressful and sometimes discouraging, and became just as big of a task as doing pre-production for a film. So while the end results are different, the process really was very similar and neither is an easy road! But I have poured my heart into my films and my novel, so it was worth every second.

What is your favorite part of being an author?
I love hearing how If You’re Gone affected people, and what they took away from it. My ultimate goal, in both my films and book, is to make people feel something different and find compassion for a new situation. Anytime I can make that happen I feel successful!

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Don’t let anyone tell you your work isn’t good enough. There are thousands of literary agents and publishers out there, and you might get 999 rejections, but all it takes is one YES. And sometimes that yes needs to come from none other than yourself! If you truly believe your book is the best it can be and you want the world to read your story, share it. Self publish, blog it, do whatever you have to. Don’t ever let your words just sit on the shelf. They are too important.



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