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The teen E L James: Beth Reekles talks 'The Kissing Booth,' sex in YA, and French homework

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Meet Beth Reekles. She’s the author of The Kissing Booth, the YA romance that garnered a record-breaking 40 million hits on the e-book community Wattpad and helped Reekles land a three-book publishing deal with Random House. Oh yeah, and did we mention that she’s only 17? Reekles took time between television appearances (and French homework) to chat with EW about her newfound success, vampire fatigue, and physics.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What’s this whole process been like for you?
BETH REEKLES: Incredibly overwhelming and really exciting. I never expected anything like this to happen. It’s been a bit of whirlwind.

How did all this come about?
Well, I’d been writing for quite a few years, but it started when I put The Kissing Booth on a website called Wattpad in 2010. And then I was contacted by a woman saying that she was interested in publishing it and it’s kind of all gone from there, really.

What was your reaction to getting that email?
I skimmed over it a couple of times and I couldn’t comprehend it. I just ran to my parents with the laptop and made this really weird noise.

Can you talk a little bit about the inspiration behind The Kissing Booth?
I sat one afternoon looking for something to read online and I couldn’t find anything because at that point everything was still vampires and werewolves and angels. I was a little bit sick of that genre. I wanted something that was just regular teen romance. So when I couldn’t find anything I thought, “You know what? I’m just going to write my own book.”

That’s funny because in the book Elle specifically mentions that she enjoys vampire novels.
I kind of just threw that in there because the thing is there are a lot of people who still like vampire books. I still read them. But when I started writing the book, everything was vampires.

Elle is so terrified of Noah’s motorcycle — have you ever ridden one?
No. I haven’t. [Laughs] I would probably react in quite a similar way if I did get on a motorcycle.

Not to spoil anything, but I appreciate that this book features sex — not explicitly, but it is there.
I just wanted to write it honestly. I wasn’t going to skirt around the issue too much. I didn’t feel like it was that big of a deal to their relationship. I wanted to have it happen, but not be a huge thing that became the main focus of the book.

It’s interesting because I’ve seen reviews on Goodreads complaining that teenagers wouldn’t behave like this — drink, go to parties, have sex — but I think that’s exactly how teens behave. Or at least that’s how they behaved when I was one — which wasn’t that long ago.
I see comments like that and I think, “Well, I’m a teenager and I go to parties.” So obviously it’s not that unrealistic.

Is it at all strange to be asked for advice on writing when you’re only 17 years old? You had a whole article on your top tips for teen writers featured in the Guardian.
Well, it was [weird] because it was the Guardian. It’s a big deal. But I get asked for a lot of advice on Wattpad. I get frequent messages from people saying, “I’m trying to write a book, can I get any advice because you’ve done really well on here.” In the end I got so many messages I made a blog page for it and I would just direct people to that.

I know you’re studying physics, but have people been trying to convince you to switch to something like English or literature?
They haven’t been convincing me, but they’ve always been really shocked when I say, “No, I do physics. I don’t study English anymore.” [And they ask,] “But you write books, how does this work?”

How have you been balancing all this with your schoolwork?
I don’t know, but I seem to be managing it somehow.

Got any homework for tonight?
Well… French vocab.

The Kissing Booth will be released in paperback on May 14. The Kindle Edition is available now.

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