Monday, May 05, 2014

Guest Post & Giveaway: Jill Santopolo on Following Your Heart or How Life Is Like A Find-Your-Own-Ending Novel

By Jill Santopolo
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

For the past year plus, I’ve been crafting two different teen romance novels with thirteen different endings for each one.

I say crafting and not just writing because a huge part of the creation of these books involved coming up with the structure of the story—where the book would fork so that the reader could make a decision guiding the plot this way or that, which choices would lead readers to a final ending, and which choices would allow a reader to loop around and be presented with different options or with another chance at the same option.

As I was crafting these novels, my own life had just forked romantically. It had forked professionally, too, with the chance to write two different book series at once while I was editing full time. And I realized I’d started to evaluate real life situations the same way I was evaluating plot points for the Follow Your Heart books.  

Is this a decision that will take me to an ending I like? Will other choices have to be made along the way to reach that ending? Is this a decision that I can loop back toward, or if I say no, will this option be gone forever?

I started thinking about life not simply as a journey I was on, but as a series of choices and consequences—a line of decisions that could potentially open some paths while closing off others.

And often times, like in the stories I was creating, certain decisions seemed incredibly clear, while at other times all available options seemed equally appealing or equally unpleasant, but still, one always felt a little more right than the others.

As someone who has worked for more than a decade in a job that combines business and creativity, I believe in data and analytics and metrics, but I also believe in instinct and gut and following your heart.

I believe there’s something inside all of us that resonates when a decision feels right.

And that’s something else I thought about a lot while I was writing these books—that feeling that comes after you make a decision when your whole being says, yes, that was the right choice.

While working on the Follow Your Heart books, I often thought of Robert Frost’s “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” and the film "Sliding Doors" and the Choose Your Own Adventure books of my childhood.

People are intrigued with decisions, with what their lives would have looked like if they’d gone another way.

But what I also realized is that like the readers of my Follow Your Heart books, we don’t always know what’s coming next, we don’t know what our lives would have looked like if we’d taken the other path, missed the train—and we can’t flip a few pages ahead to find out.

We make the best decisions we can make at the time, we weigh the options, we follow our hearts—and we hope that the ending we find is one that, if not perfect, includes enough happiness for us to feel satisfied and say, yes, that was the right choice.


Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win one of three signed copies of Follow Your Heart: Summer Love by Jill Santopolo (Puffin, 2014). Publisher sponsored. Eligibility: U.S.

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4 comments:

Katharine Manning said...

I love that you're writing these books! I always loved Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid, and think it's a great idea to expand that concept to some of the decisions that we all face in our lives. I tend to agonize over decisions - research, fret, gather opinions from everyone I know - but then when it actually comes down to the decision point, I get very quiet and listen to my gut.

Jennifer DuBose said...

Wonderful post!

Toppolino said...


Fun project and creative idea--I look forward to reading it!

Rebecca Grace Allen said...

I can't wait to read this!

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