It was an honor and a privilege to chat with the brilliant Kirsten "Kiwi" Smith, screenwriter, author and girl power extraordinaire. (Kirsten wrote 10 Things I Hate About You, Legally Blonde and The House Bunny among many others.) Her recent book, TRINKETS, a YA novel is about three teenage girls who develop an unlikely bond and now I am going to paste our conversation into this website ready go:
Kiwi: I always wanted to write about girl shoplifters, and I had the idea of three girls meeting in a Shoplifter's Anonymous group about 18 years ago. So I had to write it -- somehow, someway. It couldn't just be in an idea box forever. And I love a girl bonding story, especially when the girls start out as enemies.
GGC: TRINKETS is about an unlikely friendship between three very different high school girls. Which character were you most like in high school? (I identified 100% with all three.)
Kiwi: I think I was all three too. I was kind of shy on the inside like Elodie, a bit fashion-obsessed like Tabitha and always loved the cheesy pop jams like Moe. How were you like all three?
GGC: I thought I was very tough and rock n roll so I got tattoos and pierced my face constantly and dated older boys who lived in houses with skateramps inside them covered with Slayer lyrics, except I was also this bleach-blonde "popular person" AP student who produced the school morning show, and drove around in a convertible with cow seat covers. I was a thousand stereotypes rolled into one. But I think we're all kind of that way. Which is one of the reasons I loved your book so much. The concept of "Queen Bee" is such an oversimplification of what it means to assume power as a teenage girl. "Popular" is such a misnomer I think. I don't think teenagers (or adults for that matter) ever see themselves as "popular" but as an amalgamation of "types" just like everyone else. Take The Breakfast Club for example. That movie wasn't about five students, it was about ALL OF US and our five selves, you know? I related equally to every one of those characters. Just like I related equally to Elodie, Tabitha and Moe. There is this mystical quality to "popular girls" when, in reality, everyone is dealing with the same shit. We're ALL a little bit everyone.
Kiwi: I totally agree. No one is exactly who they seem on the surface and that includes people who "have it all." Obviously John Hughes brought that to light beautifully, that's why his movies resonate.
GGC: Can you tell me a little bit about your high school experience? Where did you grow up? What were some of your favorite books, films, television shows?
Kiwi: I went to Chimacum High School in Washington state. There were only 50 people in my graduating class. I worked at my local video store and also as a library page. I was obsessed with movies like SIXTEEN CANDLES, BREAKFAST CLUB, JUST ONE OF THE GUYS, SECRET ADMIRER. Basically anything with a cool teenage girl protagonist. I loved THE COSBY SHOW (Lisa Bonet was so cool), FACTS OF LIFE (especially the fighting/bonding with Jo and Blair), THE GOLDEN GIRLS (more girl fighting/bonding), MOONLIGHTING and REMINGTON STEEL. Of course I was a Judy Blume-head and loved FOREVER… and STARRING SALLY J FRIEDMAN AS HERSELF. I also liked Paula Danziger's books and this book SOONER OR LATER and the sequel WAITING. I think it may have been made into an afterschool special or something. My hero of course was Madonna and girls in high school like Jenny Wiebusch and my friend Gretchen who had cool haircuts and knew all about new wave music.
Kiwi: My process was kind of in fits and starts because I was working on film projects also. So it took me way longer to write the book than it should have. (ie, SIX YEARS !?) A book is different because you can't shortcut as much and you really have to paint a picture with words. You're writing all the stuff that you would be asked to cut out of a screenplay.
GGC: What is up with high school television these days? I'm sad for teenagers who have Pretty Little Liars when we had gems like MSCL. What happened to relatable, authentic teen characters? WHERE HAVE THEY GONE AHHHHHHH!!!
Kiwi: I know. I wish they'd make a teen version of GIRLS. Ooh, wait! That could actually be good, right? Hmm...
GGC: Sassy Magazine, the show! (RIP Sassy.)
Kiwi: Yes! Brilliant! Sign me up!
GGC: Last question. If you could go back in time and spend a day with teenage Kiwi, what would you do? Where would take her? What would you talk about?
Kiwi: I would take myself to a movie, a rock show, rent, like, 7 comedies or love stories and stay up until 3 in the morning watching them. Then we'd go to a dance and boogie but not before doing a bunch of photo shoots of our friends looking very glamorous in front of graffiti'd buildings. Then we'd talk about feelings, boys, movies, scenes from movies and generally pretend like we're starring in our own girl buddy comedy. (Which is pretty much exactly what I do now, to be honest. Not much has changed for me since high school.)
TRINKETS to give away. To win? Tell us about one of your most memorable high school moments. I'll pick all five winners at random next Friday, April 19th. Good luck, friends. LYLAS.