I’ll Be There for You received a 4+ star review, making it an IndieReader Approved title.
Following find an interview with author Brieanna Wilkoff.
What is the name of the book and when was it published?
My debut young adult novel is titled I’ll Be There for You (a reference to the Bon Jovi song, although many people immediately think of the Friends theme song, which makes me happy since Friends is my favorite TV show of all time, and the book is largely about friendship, so the title works on multiple levels). It was published in October 2022.
What’s the book’s first line?
“I like to pretend my father’s mortician was Jon Bon Jovi’s grandfather.”
What’s the book about? Give us the “pitch”.
Ultimately, it’s a story about healing, which occurs within the context of ’80s rock, theater, and random acts of kindness. At the start of the novel, sixteen-year-old Rae is struggling to move on after the death of her father, who loved Bon Jovi and other ’80s rock bands, so she immerses herself in music and shuts out the rest of the world. But a charming and persistent boy named Mac convinces her to audition for the school play, and that leads Rae on a journey toward friendship and possible romance. At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a stranger does something kind for Rae, spurring her on with a “pay it forward” mission that brings her even closer to her new friends, but a falling-out with Mac puts everything in jeopardy.
What inspired you to write the book? A particular person? An event?
Kindness is very important to me and my family—so much so that my husband, daughter, and I once organized a “kindness crusade” in our community, during which we performed 100 kind acts in a single day. I wanted to write a story that explores the healing power of kindness.
What’s the main reason someone should really read this book?
On the surface, this book is great for anyone who likes ’80s rock (each chapter is titled with an ’80s rock song) or theater/musicals, but on a deeper level, the story will strike an emotional chord with teen and adult readers alike. Most people have experienced loss of some kind and will relate to Rae’s struggles and eventual re-engagement with the world. It’s a heartwarming novel that I hope will inspire hope and kindness.
What’s the most distinctive thing about the main character? Who-real or fictional-would you say the character reminds you of?
There’s a lot of me in Rae, particularly the uncertainty and awkwardness of those first romantic interactions. She’s in her head a lot, and much of that was pulled from my own experiences as a teenager. But when it comes to spreading kindness, she’s a leader. Her grief and the unfortunate way some students have treated her have made her more empathetic, so she understands how powerful an act of kindness can be.
When did you first decide to become an author?
I wrote my first story when I was eight years old. By middle school, I knew my passion for writing was something I wanted to pursue, and I eventually majored in English with a concentration in creative writing. It took many more years before I was published, but it’s a dream I’ve held for almost as long as I can remember.
Is this the first book you’ve written?
No. I wrote tons of things when I was younger, of all different genres for all different ages. But after attending a Highlights Foundation Writing Workshop in 2011, I fell in love with YA. I spent some years after that not writing much since my daughter was young, but once she was old enough, I recommitted myself to writing and have since written three YA novels and am currently working on a fourth.
What do you do for work when you’re not writing?
I’m a marketing manager for a healthcare technology company. I switched from advertising (I was an editor at an ad agency for almost 15 years) to marketing shortly before my book was published, and it’s been great to be able to use those skills both in my day job and for my book.
How much time do you generally spend on your writing?
Not as much as I’d like! I tend to be “all or nothing,” so I’ll go long stretches without writing much, but then I’ll be on a roll and get a lot done in a short amount of time.
What’s the best and the hardest part of being an indie?
My answer for both is marketing. It’s a ton of work (and a big reason why I’m not writing as much as I wish I were), but there are also a ton of opportunities. I’ve been amazed by how many avenues I’ve been able to explore, from events to reviews, awards contests to speaking engagements, and school visits to ads. Plus, I’ve found the indie author community to be an incredible source of support, connections, and inspiration.
What’s a great piece of advice that you can share with fellow indie authors?
Keep trying different things. This first year after publication, my goal is to do as much as I can to see what I most enjoy and where I have the greatest success. Maybe certain book festivals bring bigger crowds than others, or maybe you prefer radio/podcasts over TV appearances. The more you put yourself out there, the more experience you’ll gain and the more connections you’ll make, both of which will open more doors in the future.
Is there something in particular that motivates you (fame? fortune?)
I like helping people, whether that’s by talking with aspiring writers about my publishing journey, working with teachers and students to spread kindness in their schools, or talking with readers who relate to Rae’s loss and feel a little bit better after reading my book.
Which writer, living or dead, do you most admire?
John Green is my first favorite YA author. His characters each have a great voice and are memorable, staying with me years after reading the books. Plus, his novels move me—often to tears, which probably explains why it makes me kind of happy when people tell me my book made them cry.
Which book do you wish you could have written?
John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. I’ve read it multiple times. Hazel and Gus are some of the best characters I’ve ever read, and the story is heartbreaking, yet hopeful.