Beth Reekles is the 17-year-old Welsh high school student who posted her first novel, The Kissing Booth, online at the story-sharing site Wattpad, where it got more than 19 million views—not to mention the eyes of editors at Random House Children's Publishers UK. They reached out, which led to her book's release in Britain. Last week, Random House/Delacorte announced a three-book deal in the U.S., starting with The Kissing Booth. Here's a tantalizing teaser: "pretty, popular, but never been kissed Elle Evans decides to run a kissing booth for the school’s carnival, only to find herself face-to-face with her secret crush, school bad boy Noah Flynn. What begins as an innocent kiss turns into an attraction neither of them wants to ignore." Beth went on the Today show on Monday to promote the e-book, which went on sale today, and the paperback, which follows on May 14, right around the time she takes her A-levels. Recently, I spoke with the author (Reekles is her pen name; her real last name is Reeks) and her dad, Nick, who gave her the old laptop on which it all began to do homework on when she was 14.
What inspired you to start writing a book?
Beth: I was looking for something to read, and everything was vampires and werewolves and fallen angels. I was just sick of it. I wanted something that was teen fiction, without fantasy. So I decided to write my own. I started writing around April of 2011, and shortly after I began, I started posting it online, chapter by chapter.
How did Random House get involved?
Beth: I think I finished around August or September, and that year the book won a Watty Award [the Wattpad community's award for most-loved stories] for the most popular teen fiction. In October of 2012, I was contacted by my editor [at Random House UK], and she said she was interested in signing me up. What happened was, I had a message from Wattpad that sounded more formal that the usual "OMG!!!!", and I skimmed through and saw words like Random House. I ran in to see my parents and made this really weird noise at them. Everything has kind of spiraled from that. I definitely didn’t expect it!
Nick, Beth's dad: Our first reaction was, Is this real? We were a little nervous and wanted to understand if they were genuinely interested. We met with them in London; Random House has been fantastic.
Nick, you bought her the laptop that started her writing when she was 14. Did you have any idea she would write a book that Random House would want to buy?
She’s always been very good in school at all different topics. Her English teacher is one of her inspirations and is always saying, "Beth can really write stories." But we had no idea she was writing such creative stuff.
Beth, do you think there's a benefit to being a teenager writing for teens?
I don't know if I'm better at it, but I think it’s a bit different to be writing about teens when I’m still a teen. I'm still learning and making mistakes and doing everything teens do. I don’t have the advantage of hindsight in all this that an adult writer has. When I wrote the book, I was really writing for myself, and I tried to write it quite honestly. I wanted to write the book I wanted to read.
How has the book announcement impacted your life? Do you feel like you're still leading a normal teenaged life?
I’m still in school, and I’ve got to try to get my homework in. I’ve got to learn my Spanish grammar and my French vocabulary. I've got friend's birthdays and socializing to do, and I've got a boyfriend. So, all regular teen things.
How have your friends reacted to the news?
My friends are prouder than me, I think. Some of them were in my Today show piece. I had an advance copy of the paperback, and everyone wanted to see it.
How do you balance writing with your school workload, and life? Do you write every day?
I've managed to work it into my schedule. I always find time to write when I want to write, whether that means delaying my homework or getting my homework out of the way first. I don't write every day, but sometimes I'll write for hours on end, days on end, and I can't stop. Sometimes I won't write for a couple of weeks, when I'm swamped with schoolwork and just don't have time.
Was it a dream of yours to become a published writer?
I always thought it would be nice to be an author. It’s always been a hobby. But I thought my career would lead to physics. I think I’m going to have to see where writing takes me. I still plan to do a physics degree at university.
Nick: You want the best for your children, and Beth is being very level-headed. The exams she’s going to do now are very important and could give her something for her whole life. The writing could be three books, and it could be 300 books. We’re happy she’s enjoying her writing.
Beth, do you know what the two other books will be yet?
My second book is not related; it has different characters and a different storyline. I'm considering the possibility of a sequel [for the third].
You were on the Today show in America this week. What was that like?
That was mind-blowing. It was the first TV piece I’ve done, and it was so incredible seeing my face on video, sending the link to my friends and tweeting it.
What do you say to people who make comments like "17 is too young to be published"?
Most of the comments on Wattpad have been from people my age saying, "you're obviously a good writer; your book has done well," and even asking for advice. When I see people like that tweeting me, I’m so proud. I think the “you’re too young” comment is a matter of perspective. I'm not going to stop writing because people think I’m not old enough.
Nick: Beth's mum and I have both looked at comments, and the majority of people have been incredibly supportive. The odd comments have come from people who are not teenagers.
Beth: There are the odd comments hating on the book, but I don’t let that bother me. They’re entitled to their opinon. If they think this is a load of rubbish, fine, but a hell of a lot of people seem to like it.
Do you have a favorite part of the book?
I think it’s difficult to say as an author. I liked everything with Lee, he was such a fun character.
Do you have a favorite book? Who are your favorite authors?
Oh, there are so many. I love John Green, Sarah Dessen, Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Great Gatsby, Harry Potter, everything.
What are you dying to read next?
I need to catch up on the latest in the Percy Jackson series. And I really need to read The Hobbit.
Do you think all this happening will change you?
It probably will change me, but for the better. It’s been such an incredible experience; it’s so exciting. But I’m still being told to tidy my room, and I'm in school taking exams. I’m trying to take it all in stride.