Charlotte Reagan is an up-and-coming author of Young Adult romance novels focusing primarily on the LGBT community. She loves to write light-hearted stories that bring about hope and laughter (and maybe even a few tears!). A few months back, Charlotte won a novel writing contest on Inkitt, the online community for emerging authors and book lovers and the first data-driven book publisher, and was offered a publishing deal. Her winning novel, ‘Just Juliet’ came out a few days ago and is already a best seller in Teen and YA ebooks on Amazon.
Just Juliet is the story of Lena, a 17-year old student who becomes best friends with Juliet, the ‘new girl’ at her school. Apart from being drop-dead gorgeous and having a very interesting personality, Juliet is also a lesbian. Lena soon realises that her interest in Juliet goes beyond just friendship, something that makes her embark on a journey of self-discovery, which might be eye-opening but at the same time is a road with many twists – especially for a teenager.
We invited Charlotte to answer a few of our questions: keep reading to find out more about her, how ‘Just Juliet’ was born and Charlotte’s journey to getting her novel discovered and published.
Tell us a bit about you, Charlotte. Well, to be honest, I’m not that interesting haha. I grew up in literally The Middle of Nowhere Texas, a very small town (my graduating class had seventeen people), on farmland. Went to an only slightly bigger college for a few years, then traveled right after graduation and wrote a book.
My social activities really only include reading, writing, and watching (note: crying about) too many tv shows. I hang out with my friends on occasion, love to hit up conventions and cosplay, and would usually rather be at the beach than anywhere else.
When did you start writing and what inspired you to do so? I often cite Harry Potter for these kinds of questions only because before the Sorcerer’s Stone landed in my lap, I hated anything to do with books. Anything. After reading the first few I kind of became addicted though – that series really changed my views.
During fourth and fifth grade at school our homeroom teacher gave us a daily assignment called Squiggles. We would hand her our notebooks, she’d scribble on one of the pages, and then we had to create a picture and write a story about it.
I took to it immediately and fairly quickly became known as the ‘writer’ of the class. I never stopped after that, and was constantly seen bent over a notebook the second my school work was done.
Why ‘Just Juliet’? What was it that made you want to write Lena’s and Juliet’s story? The short answer to this is “because it was easy”, the long answer is a little more complicated.
When I was in college I wrote a short story with my first female main character and two leading males…with no love triangle. My professor really loved the story, but later asked me why she didn’t end up with one of the guys. The answer to me was because she was obviously in love with her best friend – another female – but it wasn’t something that was ever outright mentioned in the story.
A year or so later I decided to rewrite it and flesh it out to be a real novel (including the love interest I’d really wanted). Thing was, I would always get caught up in the plot, think myself into circles, and have a hard time getting anything actually written. But I didn’t want to stop writing, so I decided to work on something else at the same time.
There was originally another plot to Just Juliet, but by about the second or third chapter the characters kind of took the story away from me and made it their own. The deeper into it I got the more I realized it was going to be a romance.
But I didn’t want to create another LGBT book that was all doom and gloom. I wanted something easy, something light, happy, and cavity inducing. Something to disappear into when the real world got a little too intense.
Hopefully I managed to do that.
From your experience, how can online writing communities can help new authors? I think there’s a real novelty to posting your stuff online, especially if you’re like me and honestly never thought you could get published. You still kind of get to feel like you’re putting your work out there in the world for people to enjoy. I started on Wattpad, because the community was so large, and loved the support and constructive criticism you get; then moved to Inkitt because of their contests which I think are fantastic. It’s awesome to win something for all your hard work.
But back on the topic of constructive criticism – reviews on these communities are different than the reviews you get with a published book, because you actually have time to make changes if need be. You get some outside opinions from a diverse group of people that you might not get otherwise. Things you might not even think about on your own. It’s amazing to be able to go “okay, is this part really problematic? Would this thing actually make this better?” and decide how you feel about it. Decide if you’re going to let it change the story or not.
What are your top 5 go-to sources for tips and guidance on writing? I mostly use tumblr these days, haha. There’s not particularly any blogs I follow just for writing advice, but I do search the tags on occasion if I need something. If I can’t find what I need there, I hit up Google. I know that’s not a very useful answer, my apologies!
From writing ‘Just Juliet’ to winning Inkitt’s novel contest and getting your novel published, what would you say was the most important takeaway of your journey? Don’t underestimate yourself and don’t give up.
I never really thought of publishing Just Juliet, it was the readers who put the idea in my head. Even then I was like “Eh? Really? Are you guys sure?” because it just didn’t seem that good. Even when I entered my first contest on Inkitt I never thought “I could win this.”
Also, did you read that right? Yeah, I said first. I entered more than one. So don’t give up. Keep trying.