It is a thrilling thing for a reader to find a book that captivates them from the first page, holds them through all those that follow, and leaves them yearning for more as the dreaded ‘the end’ falls on the final chapter. You connect with the characters to the point that you feel you know them, you relate to them, you laugh, cry and love with them, and then you miss them like a friend at the end. It takes a true author, a skill writer, to make a reader love their characters this way, and a remarkable one to do it twice.
One such writer is A.V. Geiger, author of the fantastically popular young adult thriller Follow Me Back, and the upcoming second instalment Tell Me No Lies which its shelves on June 5, 2018. Her first published novel, Follow Me Back, brought together a frustrated pop star longing to escape the cameras and lights of fame, and a agoraphobic fangirl who was determined to be nice above all else. Their love affair was one made for modern times, all happening online, and all the while without Tessa knowing that it was really Eric, her celebrity crush, on the other side of the invisible line of the Internet.
The book brought you on a thrill ride of not only their relationship, but the secrets that kept Tessa hidden away from the world, her battles against her demons, and Eric’s own struggles with the downside of fame. It was relatable for every reader, and even if you have never faced either situation, you could find something to connect with in their daily interactions and revelations.
With the second book continuing their adventure, you fall back into the world of secrets, celebrity and surprises that you could never have expected. It was a thrill ride from start to finish, and we came away feeling exhilarated.
A.V. Geiger has been sweet enough to sit down and chat with us about the book, her characters, and her launch from Wattpad to the printed page!
Tell us a little about Follow Me Back, and how Tell Me No Lies brings it to a close.
Hi Kristi, thanks so much for having me! Follow Me Back is my duology of deliciously fangirlish YA thrillers… The first book came out last June from Sourcebooks Fire and tells the story of Tessa, a teenage girl with an anxiety disorder who spends all her time in her room, glued to her phone, obsessing over a fictional celebrity named Eric Thorn. Meanwhile, Eric tells the other half of the story. He’s a teen pop star with a massive online following, but he’s secretly terrified that one of his fans will hunt him down and murder him. The story unfolds as Tessa and Eric interact over Twitter, and it explores all the ways that social media affects its users: bringing people together who might otherwise be socially isolated, but also potentially exposing them to risk and danger.
Follow Me Back book 1 ends with a truly evil cliffhanger, and I’ve spent the last year hearing from readers dying to know what happens next. The good news is that sequel, Tell Me No Lies, comes out June 5! The story picks up with Tessa, who has sworn off social media and must deal with the fall-out when online relationships collide with real life. I won’t say anything more about the plot except that Tell Me No Lies has a real ending (no more cliffhangers!). But I can’t promise that everyone’s favorite characters from book 1 will survive…
What was your inspiration for this particular story?
It all started when I was on maternity leave a few years ago. I had recently given birth to twins, and I found myself in a fog of sleep deprivation, hormone fluctuation, and social isolation. For whatever reason, my brain needed an escape, and it took the form of an intense celebrity crush on a real-life pop star, Adam Levine of Maroon 5. Sadly, I never managed to score a follow back from Adam, but that disappointment drove me to start drafting Follow Me Back in 2014 as my way of processing my experience with online fandom after the fact.
Did you model your characters after anyone in particular?
I was inspired by a few different celebrities when fleshing out the Eric Thorn character. Of course, Adam Levine is my personal favorite and I’ve wasted way too many hours conducting “research” on his celebrity lifestyle. However, he’s pushing 40 now… too old for my teen protagonist, Tessa. I looked to some more age-appropriate celebrities for inspiration as well: Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes, and Zayn Malik to name a few.
As for Tessa, she reflects certain elements of my own personality and life experience, but she’s otherwise a product of my imagination.
What are some of your personal fandom favorites?
I’ve had a few obsessions in my life. They tend to come and go. Before Maroon 5, I was a major fangirl of the TV show The West Wing (Josh and Donna are my OTP!) Back when I was a teenager, online fandom didn’t really exist, but I obsessed all by my lonesome self over the musical Les Miserables. To this day, I still have every single lyric memorized!
When it comes to your writing, are you a plotter or a pantser?
Definitely a plotter. I don’t think it’s possible to write twisty, plot-driven thrillers without some serious pre-planning!
Tell us about your journey from Wattpad to published author.
I joined Wattpad in 2013 with no prior writing experience, and I completed five novel-length stories in my first two years on the platform. My publishing daydreams turned serious when my fifth story, Follow Me Back, was still a work in progress. It had about 200K page views at the time – not a monster hit by Wattpad standards, but the #1 ranked book in the Mystery/Thriller genre.
Then one morning, I opened up my inbox and found a message from a literary agent who’d read the Wattpad version and thought we should talk. I ended up signing with her and did several rounds of rewrites before she took a revised and expanded version of the manuscript out on submission to publishers.
We struck a deal eventually with Sourcebooks. All in all, the process took about 3 years from first draft to publication.
What are you working on next? Give us the inside scoop!
My next YA release from Sourcebooks will be a new standalone romantic thriller called INSTALOVE. It’s about a teen girl named Ellie who becomes addicted to a fictional social media app… but her hopes of finding “Instalove” give way to terror when a fellow user turns up dead.
What are some of your favorite books at the moment?
Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne. I was on a panel with Alexa in April and heard her describe it as “Jane Eyre in Space.” Sold! Jane Eyre is my favorite book ever (I even wrote my own Jane Eyre retelling once… starring Adam Levine, of course), so I knew I had to read it!
What are some of your favorite Wattpad stories at the moment?
I’ve slowly been working my way through a reading list of Wattpad books turned audiobooks, and it’s introduced me to a ton of amazing stories. Currently loving Cheater, Faker, Troublemaker by Jenny Rosen! Check out this whole list: https://www.wattpad.com/hachetteaudiobooks/
If you could give advice to anyone who is looking to follow your lead into publication, what advice would you give them?
Be careful! I was incredibly lucky to get my big break from a literary agent who reached out to me over Wattpad, but that’s a rarity. I hear regularly from all kinds of shady operators looking to exploit aspiring authors. Always do your research on any agency or publisher, ask a lot of questions, and talk to other authors who have worked with them in the past.
Endless thanks to Viv for chatting with us, and you all need to go out and grab your copy of Tell Me No Lies when it hits bookstores June 5! We promise you wont be disappointed!