MacKids Spotlight: Jennifer Mathieu

Jennifer Mathieu is the author of DevotedAfterwardThe Liars of Mariposa Island, and The Truth About Alice, which won the Teen Choice Debut Author Award. Her 2017 novel, Moxie, was developed into a film by Amy Poehler for Netflix. Jennifer teaches high school English in Texas, where she lives in the Houston area with her husband and son.

Jennifer shares more about her inspiration for the story and her advice for young writers here!

When describing Bad Girls Never Say Die, what’s your elevator pitch?

Jennifer Mathieu: I believe someone at Macmillan crafted these words, and I think they are perfect. I say Bad Girls Never Say Die is a gender-flipped, feminist reimagining of The Outsiders, and it’s ideal for fans of Moxie!


What inspired you to write Bad Girls Never Say Die?

Jennifer: The Outsiders was the book of my heart when I was a young teenager, and I still love its fast-paced, all-heart story. As an English teacher, I’ve had the joy of teaching it to hundreds of kids over the years, and it never fails to disappoint. But I always wanted to know the girls from the wrong side of the tracks a little more; they’re only briefly mentioned in the novel. I’m no longer embarrassed to say that long before I published my first book, I tried my hand at a little fan fiction that centered the bad girls, and that was probably the seed for this novel.


Tell us about a librarian or educator who made an impact on you.

Jennifer: My 12th grade AP Literature teacher Beverly Gilbert came to school on a motorcycle and was as cool as that anecdote implies. But she was also quite refined, with a gorgeous Southern accent and a teaching style that made literature come alive for me. She took me seriously as a reader and writer. Many years later, she came to one of my book events for my first novel, The Truth About Alice, and I cried happy tears in her presence.


What is the first step in your creative process?  

Jennifer: I let the story marinate in my mind a little bit. My writer friend Julie Murphy says she starts to think of her books as mental movie trailers first, and I’ve found that to be true for me, too. I think of certain important scenes or beats and imagine them in my head, often set to music. I get to know the characters and setting in the privacy of my own mind first.


What advice would you give to young writers? 

Jennifer: Read constantly, keep a journal, and be a good spy of human behavior. Put your phone away and be bored. And don’t be in such a hurry! I once E-mailed Pagan Kennedy, one of my writing idols, when I was in my early twenties, and I asked her for advice. She was kind enough to write back and tell me, “Don’t be in such a hurry.” Enjoy making art for art’s sake. I see so many young people now so focused on getting an agent, a deal, and so on, and they’re not even out of school yet. Try to write for yourself for a while first.


What was your favorite book when you were 10 years old?

Jennifer: Anything by Beverly Cleary. I absolutely inhaled everything she wrote. I saw so much of myself in Ramona Quimby, and I loved that Ms. Cleary always painted children like the real, complex human beings they actually are.


ABOUT THE BOOK:

Bad Girls Never Say Die by Jennifer Mathieu
Ages 12-17
On Sale October 19, 2021

From the acclaimed author of Moxie comes a gripping gender-flipped reimagining of The Outsiders that explores the deep bonds of female friendship and what it takes to be a “bad girl.”

1964. Houston, Texas.

Evie Barnes is a bad girl. So are all her friends. They’re the sort who wear bold makeup, laugh too loud, and run around with boys. Most of all, they protect their own against the world. So when Evie is saved from a sinister encounter by a good girl from the “right” side of the tracks, every rule she’s always lived by is called into question. Now she must redefine what it means to be a bad girl and rethink everything she knew about loyalty.

In this riveting story of murder, secrets, and tragedy, Jennifer Mathieu puts a female twist on S. E. Hinton’s The OutsidersBad Girls Never Say Die has all the drama and heartache of that teen classic, but with a feminist take just right for our times.


Read more author Q&As here!