Jenni Hendriks & Ted Caplan: Unpregnant
September is here! I'm very excited about September (gee I wonder why) but that's not what this post is about. This post is about celebrating my fellow debuts! I know you're going to love all the fresh books coming at you this month!
by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan
Seventeen-year-old Veronica Clarke never thought she would wish she’d failed a test until she finds herself holding a thick piece of plastic in her hands and staring at two solid pink lines. Even the most consistent use of condoms won’t prevent pregnancy when your boyfriend secretly pokes holes in them to keep you from going out-of-state for college.
Veronica needs an abortion, but the closest place she can legally get one is over nine hundred miles away—and Veronica doesn’t have a car. Too ashamed to ask her friends or family for help, Veronica turns to the one person she believes won’t judge her: Bailey Butler, Jefferson High’s own little black cloud of anger and snark—and Veronica’s ex-best friend. Once on the road, Veronica quickly remembers nothing with Bailey is ever simple and that means two days of stolen cars, shotguns, crazed ex-boyfriends, truck stop strippers with pro-life agendas, and a limo driver named Bob. But the pain and betrayal of their broken friendship can’t be outrun. When their fighting leads to a brutal moment of truth, Bailey abandons Veronica. Now Veronica must risk everything in order to repair the hurt she’s caused .
September 10th, 2019
Introduce yourself and your debut novel!
Hi, we’re Jenni and Ted. We are a writing team with a background in screenwriting and Unpregnant is our first novel.
It all starts when straight-A student Veronica Clarke discovers she’s pregnant. How? She has no idea. She and her boyfriend used condoms every time. But with her scholarship to Brown on the line, she’s facing a choice she’d never thought she’d have to make: an abortion. There’s just one catch – the closest place to legally get one is over nine hundred miles away in New Mexico and Veronica doesn’t have a car. When her boyfriend ends up being less than helpful, Veronica turns to the only person she believes won’t judge her: Bailey Butler, Jefferson High’s own little black cloud of anger and snark – and Veronica’s ex-best friend.
What should be a simple road trip quickly turns into three days of stolen cars, shotguns, ferretnapping, kind-hearted truck stop strippers, crazed ex-boyfriends, and aliens. Plus the pain and betrayal of a broken friendship that can’t be outrun. Under the vast starlit skies of the American Southwest, Veronica and Bailey discover the road to adulthood isn’t easy – but it’s better with a friend by your side.
What’s the most surprising part about your debut journey so far?
Is it weird if we say selling the novel in the first place? Initially we pitched this story to movie people as a script but we were told no one would be willing to fund it as it was too controversial. Our agents wouldn’t even send it out and said we should move on to other projects. But neither of us wanted to let the story go, so we took the script and turned it into a novel, with the thought that if we couldn’t get it published traditionally we could try to self publish. We just really, really wanted to tell this story in some shape or form. But then, we lucked out. We found our brilliant lit agent Brianne Johnson at Writers House who sent the book out to publishers and we ended up in a six-way auction. It was crazy exciting and a total whirlwind. We definitely weren’t expecting anything like that after the initial response we had about this story. Ironically, the book is now being turned into a movie, so we’ve kind of come full circle.
Give a shout-out to a fellow debut!
Laura Sibson’s The Art of Breaking Things! It’s a beautiful, searing novel about sexual abuse and the trauma it causes that ultimately becomes a story of hope and empowerment.
How long did it take you to write this book?
We touched on this a bit already, but we’ve been working on this story a long, long time. Our first drafts of the initial script date back to 2012. We didn’t work on it constantly, life got in the way a few times with new babies, family illnesses, etc. Nothing slows the writing process down like functioning on two hours of sleep a night. And we both had full time jobs. The earliest draft of the book dates from 2016. Game of Thrones managed eight seasons and in about the same amount of time we wrote...one book.
What inspired you to write this book?
Jenni here. I remember the day we came up with the idea for the story. I was driving home from work at How I Met Your Mother, stuck in traffic on Beverly Glen, listening to NPR. A report came on about South Dakota proposing a law that would make people wait 72 hours before getting an abortion, which considering how far people had to drive already would be a huge burden. And I thought, holy sh*t, what would you do? And then the immediate next thought was wow, that would be an insane road trip to take with your best friend. So I texted Ted and he was like, “Um, that sounds really depressing.” And I texted back, “No! We’ll make it funny!” Because when I get really angry about something, I make jokes about it to make myself feel better.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
Well, there are two of us, so for us to be able to work together we have to be meticulous plotters. We generally come up with an idea or situation first and then develop characters that would create the maximum amount of conflict in that circumstance. So with Unpregnant our charcter question was who would be the most uncomfortable person to have to take on a road trip to get an abortion. And we came up with ex-best friends with unresolved issues about why their friendship broke up, who also happen to be polar opposites.
We have a screenwriting background so we use Save the Cat to outline our stories. Once we have a fairly detailed outline (our latest was 17 pages single spaced) we move on to a script version of the story. This lets us settle on things like setting, dialog, and blocking before moving to prose. It’s also at this stage that characters get cut or added, scenes removed or rearranged, and story arcs and themes honed. After we’ve done two drafts of that, we move on to actually writing the book. We divide up by scenes and start typing. Then we dump our pages into a master document where we do a quick rewrite to make sure our voices blend. We do this every hundred pages or so to ensure neither of us gets too far off the tone we are aiming for. After that it’s a re-reading and revising line by line together. The most fun part is writing the actual first draft because that’s where the story comes alive.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
We generally research as questions arise while we’re in the plotting stage. For Unpregnant however, once we sold the book, we decided to take the actual road trip our girls take because it had been a while since either of us had been to that part of the country and we wanted to make sure we got the details right.
If you could only buy one book this year, which book would it be?
Jenni: The Testaments. Handmaid’s Tale was hugely influential growing up and I’m desperate to see what happens officially.
Ted: The Nickel Boys by Colin Whitehead. The Underground Railroad was such a tour de force, I think I’ll read anything he writes.
Share a playlist!
Ted’s day job involves picking out music for movies, so our playlists are...extensive. Here’s the link to the “official” Unpregnant playlist. We also have individual character playlists including a truly hilarious one for Kevin that we’ll release shortly. Oh yeah, and there’s a 14-hour-long one that Ted made when we took the actual road trip.
Share a song!
Since U Been Gone:
Thanks for interviewing, Jenni and Ted! Congratulations on your movie! Before it comes out, everyone can read the book when it comes out on 9/10/19!