The Click-Clack of a Beating Heart: An Interview with Arlaina Tibensky

Welcome to Part 2 of my plan to help And Then Things Fall Apart take over the world! Today, I’m very fortunate to have Arlaina Tibensky on the blog for a short interview. In case you haven’t already seen my flaily tweets and posts, I adore Keek and her chicken-pox-induced rambly journal of a story . (You can find out more in my review!)I’ve taken on the challenge of getting this book out there because it’s truly one of the best books I’ve read in the last few years. But enough about me! Let’s see what Arlaina had to say about The Bell Jar, typewriters and a rather unfortunate, but hilarious diagnosis.

Angel: Keek is enamoured with The Bell Jar and Sylvia Plath. Why did you choose The Bell Jar as your focus?

Arlaina: The whole idea of Keek being way into Sylvia Plath came midway during the book. I read The Bell Jar in high school and remembered it having a huge impact on me. I also wanted my book to appeal to the kind of young adult girls who would be into Sylvia Plath AKA: girls just like me. And then I re-read the Bell Jar and there were so many great images and ideas in it that fit the story I already wanted to tell, like pregnancy, feminism, betrayal, finding your place in the world, how to manage your sexuality. I really love Sylvia’s poetry too but it was harder to use it to push Keek’s story forward. Never fear, I reference the poems a lot…

Angel: How did you decide which conflicts to put in Keek’s way? Would you have done anything differently, had the book been longer?

Arlaina: I really tried to remember what were my big issues when I was 15-21, school, sex, my parents, what I was going to do with my life, navigating friendships. I just tried to remember what if felt like and get it on the page. The thing about And Then Things Fall Apart is that it is one girl’s voice. Period. Keek is basically talking out loud to herself THE WHOLE TIME and I felt that if the book were even like, three pages longer, it wouldn’t have worked. Keek is one powerful personality and I didn’t want her to get annoying, especially towards the end.

Angel: Which parts of the novel were the most difficult to write? Which were the easiest?

Arlaina: The chicken pox stuff was easy because well, it was chicken pox. This is going to sound psycho but most of the time I was in this weird trance when I was writing. It was like I disappeared and Keek took over so the parts that seem the most vulnerable and intense are the exact moments that this Keek character took over completely. The beginning was really hard for me to get down. It came out at the very last moment before the book got sent to the printers. Totally impossible! And the Anagrams for the Time Being poem wasn’t a piece of cake either.

Angel: What do you love about typewriters?

Arlaina: I love old crap. And anything that romanticizes writing, like pens on chains, steno notebooks, binder clips, notebook paper. I also like how when you use a typewriter (which is incredibly difficult- I don’t know how Sylvia and Hemingway did it!) it’s not unlike playing the piano. What other machine combines the physical feeling of making music with making literature? I’ve been collecting vintage typewriters for years. YEARS I tell you, eons before every hipster this side of the Brooklyn Bridge had one on their nightstand. I also like old radios, record players, and umbrellas. And sometimes call hot dogs Frankfurters.

Angel: Do you remember your own experiences with chicken pox?

Arlaina: You never forget your first pox. The fleabite misdiagnosis actually happened and I’ll never forget that in a million years. The rest is kind of a blur but I was very sick, my fever was very high, and I did indeed survive.

Angel: If you could write a sequel for And Then Things Fall Apart, when would you set it and what would Keek be like?

Arlaina: People ask me about a sequel a lot, which I love because it means they love Keek and hate to part with her. But! When I think of Keek it is hard to see her future because to me, her brightest and most intense life moments have already happened. That summer of the parents and the pox is the time that forges her into the woman she is today. Her future? Obviously awesome! I’m working on a new book now and the main character and Keek would be like long lost sisters if the ever met but Keek lives forever and only in And Then Things Fall Apart. So… don’t hold your breath for Keek II: Crazy in Paris or anything.

Angel: What’s one thing you wish you could tell sixteen-year-old Arlaina about writing?

Arlaina: To work harder and all the time on it. I kind of took a long break from actual writing for a big chunk of time (when I had kids, among other things) The ambition was there but the actual sitting down and getting words on the page wasn’t my top priority for a long time. Talent is important but not enough. You have to work sofa king hard I’m not even kidding. But it is so worth it!

Go visit Arlaina Tibensky at her website and follow her on Twitter @arlainat.

You can check out And Then Things Fall Apart on Goodreads and order it over at Amazon and Book Depository. (If it were at all possible, I would bake cupcakes for everyone who buys and reads this book.)


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