Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Interview with Debut Author Philip Siegel-The Break Up Artist

I love bringing debut authors your way so today I'm pleased to present Philip Siegel to The Reading Frenzy readers to talk about his YA for Harlequin Teen, The Break Up Artist.
Enjoy learning a bit about the author and his new novel.
It's all yours Philip!

  • ISBN-13: 9780373211159
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 4/29/2014
  • Series: Break-Up Artist Series , #1
  • Pages: 336

Read an Excerpt:

Calista McTiernan looks away from the screen. Tears form in her eyes. The levee's about to break. I wish I could reach through my computer monitor and give her a hug. I hear these stories too often.
"Ever since they started dating, Bari's become a totally different person. Derek's favorite band is U2, and now magically it's hers, too. Derek is into politics, and now Bari is watching CNN religiously. I laughed it off because she acted this way with her last boyfriend. But then…" Calista shakes her head.
"But then what?" I ask in my best British accent, looking directly into my webcam.
"Then she dyed her hair brown, she started dressing like some J. Crew mannequin, and this week she quit cheerleading." Her blond locks fan around her pea-sized head. Her hair's the same shade as mine, but hers is real.
"People change. It happens."
"Yeah, but this isn't the same. Derek's making her do this. He told her he thinks blondes are trashy, and he didn't want some slutty cheerleader girlfriend visiting him at Princeton next year. He said that. To her face!"
"He did?" Derek Kelley has been student council president for three years, and what little power the Student Government Association-aka the SGA-holds has gone to his head. He seems friendly in the halls, but guys are just as capable of being fake nice as girls.
"Bari said he was joking around, but I'm not laughing."
"Have you tried talking to her about it?" I can already guess the answer.
"She says she isn't into cheerleading anymore and she's never felt like a blonde." Calista rubs her forehead, and I can feel her concern through the screen. "Everything that made her Bari is disappearing."
I lean closer in my chair, all business, and hold Calista's attention. "So, you want me to do this?"
Calista squeezes a fresh set of tears from her eyes. I instinctively reach for the Kleenex box on my desk, forgetting we're on Skype. "My best friend is pushing me away. You don't know what that's like."
I do, I want to tell her. My eyes wander to the floor and the pair of golden ballet slippers next to my desk. It's like a hole through your heart that can never be filled. A part of you that is missing forever. I should throw the slippers out like I've done with the rest of my memories from that train wreck of a friendship, but I won't. I never do. I keep them here, in plain sight, a perpetual reminder of why I do this.
I force my attention back to the screen. I can never get personal. One misspoken word, one accidental truth, and I give myself away.
"I told her I didn't think Derek was treating her well," Calista says.
"And what did she say?"
Calista stares at the screen, her bottom lip quivering. Only the hissing of her radiator fills my speaker.
"She said, 'You just don't understand because you're single.'" Tears stream down Calista's cheeks. She buries her face in her knee to compose herself.
I clench my lips together. I have to remind myself to stay strong for my client. She can fall apart, but I have to make things right. Blood rushes to my face in frustration, coloring me the same shade as this shapeless graduation robe I'm wearing.
Calista continues, "I feel like if Derek had his way, she'd never talk to any of her friends again. Especially me."
My raccoon mask conceals my raised eyebrows. I've seen Bari and Calista joined at the hip since elementary school. They once tried convincing our classmates that they were cousins. (I fell for it.) They seemed to have one of those uber-tight friendship bonds that I thought would survive the dating world. Then again, I'd thought I had that, too. But now I know that once people get into relationships, friends-and rational thought-get tossed aside.
"It's a good thing you came to me," I say.
"You seriously can break them up?"
"I have a perfect track record."
"My methods are proprietary and confidential."
"What does that mean?"
"It means I'm really, really good, and you'll just have to trust me." I catch my reflection in the screen. I'm shocked anyone's been able to take me seriously in this disguise. I look like an escaped mental patient, but that's better than looking like myself. Luckily, my work speaks for itself.
"It's not going to be easy. I think they've already said 'I love you' to each other."
"I'll take my chances," I say. Why do my classmates believe that saying those three words automatically protects a couple? They're not relationship insurance. They're just words, and if people actually meant them, then I would be out of a job. Bari and Derek are a couple destined for flame out. I'm just speeding up the inevitable. And if I can save Bari before she's permanently under Derek's thumb, so much the better.
"Before we go forward, I want you to be certain about this."
She gets so quiet I can hear the static crackling in the background. "I-I don't know."
"A minute ago you were devastated."
"I know. But…" Calista hugs her chopstick legs into her chest. I wonder if she's one of those girls who stays skinny no matter how much she eats. "This seems kind of severe. I don't know, and maybe a little petty, too?"
I clench my jaw. "When was the last time she called or texted you just to say hi?"
Calista ponders this. She shrugs her shoulder.
"So you think it's fair that she's cutting you out of her life? Just because she has a boyfriend?" I ask calmly.
"No. But Derek-"
"Derek hasn't mastered the art of mind control. She's choosing all of this. To disappear. To change. To stop being friends with you. It'd be nice if Bari suddenly came to her senses, but that's not going to happen, and you know it," I say. Blunt, but not untrue. "So now here's whereyou choose-are you going to let her continue on this path uninterrupted or are you going to do something about it?"
"So you really will break them up?" she asks between sniffles.
"For a hundred dollars via PayPal I can." The wheels begin turning in my head. I flash Calista a warm smile, telling her I got this. Maybe I can salvage this friendship. No girl should have to live through a best friend cutting her out of her life.
Her face brightens among the red splotches, and she smiles for the first time tonight. "Let's do it."
My mom still makes me a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich every morning. It was the only thing I ate for breakfast when I was in elementary school, and she stuck with it. Now that I'm older, I found my ideal get-up-and-get-'em meal: a large cup of coffee. Black, no sugar.
Sharp rays of morning sun pierce through the kitchen windows. My dad sits at the table with his coffee and oatmeal, watching a guy shout on TV. Apparently, the fluctuation of Chinese currency can make some people quite flustered. My mom hands me a cup of coffee, and I push aside the sandwich with my mug. She picks it up and takes a bite. And so goes our morning routine.
"Busy day today?" my mom asks.
"Kinda." I have a new couple to break up. Oh, and I have a math quiz. "Where's Diane?"
My mom heaves a sigh, then gives me a look like I should know better. "Still sleeping."
Which I should've known, but I hold out hope that one day the answer will be better. My dad shakes his head and mutters to himself.
"Hey," my mom says to my dad after taking another bite of my former breakfast. "Why did you get one-ply toilet paper last night?"
"It was on sale," he says, his focus returning to Chinese currency.
"You couldn't spring for two-ply?"
"Not if it's not on sale."
"We don't live in a tenement."
"More like a Turkish prison," he says with a half smile.
She rolls her eyes and takes a bite of the sandwich. My dad eats a few more spoonfuls of oatmeal then gets up. He puts on his suit jacket, then his winter coat. He kisses me goodbye, and gives my mom a pat on the shoulder while she wipes down the counter. It's like this every day, every year, the same motions. Way to keep the romance alive, guys. If it was ever even there to begin with.
My dad pauses at the door, and for a second I wonder if he's going to pick my mom up in a hug and plant one on her, like lovey-dovey parents in a cheesy sitcom.
"I'll be on the 5:57 train tonight. I'll just pick up a roastbeef sandwich at the station for dinner," he says.
"Okay," my mom says, washing out his oatmeal bowl in the sink.
Yep. So much for love.
Before I break up a couple, I have to do my research and examine their dating history. I have to know their past if I want to understand their present. Having a significant other will put any student at Ashland High School on the social radar, and chances are if you're in a relationship, someone else is talking about it.
In history class, I use the middle section of my three-subject notebook to build a dating dossier on Bari and Derek, tucked in between U.S. history and trig. I don't like to build dossiers when one of my targets is two rows over from me, but she's so engrossed in texting someone (let's be real: Derek), she won't even notice. Nothing our teacher Mr. Harrison says elicits a reaction from her. Bari clutches her phone against her stomach, as if waiting for the next message to inject her with another ounce of life.

Philip Welcome to The Reading Frenzy
Please tell us a little about your debut novel The Break Up Artist
Thank you for having me. The book is a fun story about a girl who runs a business breaking up couples at her school. Becca is a cynic when it comes to love. She’s watched her sister get left at the altar, her parents devolve into roommates, and her best friend ditch her for her very first boyfriend.  For just $100 via paypal, she will use her cunning and penchant for plotting to split people up. She’s hired by a mysterious man to break up the most popular couple in school, and she must go undercover of sorts and infiltrate the cool clique in order to get the job done.

Philip thats quite a premise :)
What led you to this idea?
We’ve all read books and seen movies with matchmakers, but what about the opposite? What about someone who broke up couples? One of my favorite movies is My Best Friend’s Wedding, and I like to think that Becca and Julia Roberts’s character share similar ideas about love. More directly, I’ve had a few friends over the years wind up in bad relationships. Usually, being in a relationship can bring out the best in someone, but unfortunately, not always. In those situations, it’s hard to say something without harming your friendship, especially if your friend has been fully sucked into the relationship vortex. While some people may find Becca’s best friend Val to be over-the-top when it comes to being in a relationship, she is based almost verbatim on someone that I know.

So Philip why YA/Teen fiction?
I love the fast pace of YA. I studied screenwriting in college. Writing scripts and YA are very similar. It’s all about keeping the story moving, showing character traits through action and dialogue. Plus, being a teen was so exciting. Even during the crummy times – and there were crummy times – there was THE FUTURE to look forward to. Big changes. Life was only beginning.  

Philip I know you have a day job but is it your hope/dream to someday write fiction full time?
If you’d asked me that a few months ago, I would’ve said YES! But I don’t know if I’d truly want to write full-time. I find that I get less writing done on my days off than on days I have work. I keep putting off writing, whereas during the week, I only have a set hour or two, so I’m much more productive. I like having an activity to structure my day around. I like waking up and having a place to go. Ideally, I think I would work some kind of part-time job. Do something for a few hours each week – enough time to keep it interesting without becoming a strain.

Philip you've received some great early reviews. Congrats!
Were you biting your nails waiting for responses or do you take a more laid back attitude toward reviews?
At first, I was biting my nails. But I reached a point when it stopped mattering as much. No book is universally loved or hated. It is what it is. I’ve become appreciative of all reviews – positive and negative. Readers have thousands of books to choose from, and they chose mine to read. Whatever their opinion is, I’m just grateful that they’re reading it.

Philip this novel has been labeled rom-com and its being published by the people who invented romance.
So what
s a nice guy like you doing writing romance?
I like to think of this book as an anti-rom-com. I received my fair share of raised eyebrows when people learned I was publishing with Harlequin, Yet, The Break-Up Artist fits in perfectly with their Harlequin Teen imprint, which is full of strong, complex female characters. Yes, there is a little bit of ill-advised romance, but this book is more a story about the value of friendship. If you’re looking to swoon, you’ll have to look elsewhere. 

Your bio says you were a page at NBC studios in California.
d that happen?
What does a Page do?
I’d wanted to be an NBC page ever since I went on a tour of 30 Rock in elementary school. It was my first time on a TV set. I learned how television gets made. I peeked inside the set of Saturday Night Live (this was during the golden, early 90s, Farley/Hartman/Myers era). I glimpsed Stone Phillips in the hallway. After I graduated college, I basically bugged the head of the NBC page program until she agreed to bring me in for an interview. It was the best job I will probably ever work in my life. I gave tours of the NBC Burbank backlot. I seated audience members at The Tonight Show. I got to wander around the sets of Days of Our Lives, Access Hollywood, and Ellen and meet so many fantastic people. It was a year I will never forget.

Philip, good luck with the novel.
Will there be any signings/events where fans could meet you in person?
Yes! I am having a launch party at The Book Cellar in Chicago on Thursday May 1. Later in the month, I’ll be doing events in New Jersey and the Chicago suburbs. And this summer, I’ll be part of a multi-author tour through the Midwest. For details, check out the appearances tab on my website. Thanks again for hosting me on your site!

Philip Siegel grew up in New Jersey, which he insists is much nicer than certain TV shows would have you believe. He graduated from Northwestern University and promptly moved out to L.A., where he became an NBC Page. He likes to think that the character of Kenneth on 30 Rock is loosely based on his life rights. Currently, he lives in Chicago and does his best writing sandwiched in between colorful characters on the El. Visit him online: www.philipsiegel.com or @FillupSeagull.

Connect with Philip WebsiteFacebook - Twitter


  1. Wonderful interview, and what a positive outlook on reviews. This sounds like a delightful tale of friendship. Thanks so much for sharing it!

  2. I love how much we get to learn from the authors with your interviews, I always find the interactions interesting. The book sounds like a really sweet read, thank you for bringing it to my attention.

  3. Oh my gosh. What a concept! I love when authors do something so unique. Very neat. Thanks for the intro Debbie!

    1. Too bad we can't all spend our day picking out man-candy to show Anna :)

  4. Hi Debbie - Thank you so much for interviewing me! I really enjoyed your questions!

    1. Philip you are so welcome. And I'm Jealous I want to be page too! Maybe it's not too late.
      Good Luck with the novel!