Aurora: What was the inspiration behind Unpregnant?
Jenni & Ted: It’s rare for us to remember exactly how and where we came up with a story, but in the case of Unpregnant we know exactly what sparked the idea. Jenni was driving home from work at How I Met Your Mother, stuck in traffic, listening to NPR. A report came on about South Dakota proposing a law that would make people wait seventy-two hours before getting an abortion, which considering how far people had to drive already would be an enormous burden. Jenni thought about how stressful that must be and how unfair. (Actually, what she thought had a lot more curse words, but we’re trying to be family friendly.) And then she looked around her tiny car and wondered who she would trust enough to take on a journey like that. When she got home she texted Ted, “I know what our next story is. Abortion road trip!” And Ted texted back something like, “Um, that sounds really depressing.” And Jenni texted, “No! We’ll make it funny!” It took some convincing, but the idea of approaching a topic that’s usually treated so seriously with a sense of fun and irreverence appealed to both of us. We both believe that humor can make a subject less scary. Hopefully by the end of the story the reader can see that getting an abortion isn’t something you need to be ashamed about.
What character do you each relate to most and why?
Jenni: I really want to be Bailey, but I’m more of a Veronica. Like her I was raised in a conservative, religious family, so I could easily imagine the pressure she would feel in a situation like that. Also, focused, goal-oriented, and book smart could apply as well. I do share Bailey’s tendency to make jokes in inappropriate situations though, much to the exasperation of my loved ones.
Ted: We all want to be Bailey! Her carefree insanity is what every type-A person fantasizes about. But, if I’m honest, that’s not really me. And I was never smart enough to be Veronica. She would have intimidated me in high school. Does that leave me with the needy stalker boyfriend, Kevin? God, I hope not….
Why do you feel books with powerful and relatable characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?
The world right now can feel a little dark and scary, so characters that overcome difficult obstacles and triumph can make a reader feel hope. And if the character is someone that the reader can see themselves in, it can give them the strength they need to tackle challenges in their own lives.
Please describe the content of Unpregnant and what can readers expect from the read.
It all starts when straight-A student Veronica Clarke discovers she’s pregnant. How? She has no idea. She and her boyfriend used condoms every time. But with her scholarship to Brown on the line, she’s facing a choice she’d never thought she’d have to make: an abortion. There’s just one catch – the closest place to legally get one is over nine hundred miles away in New Mexico and Veronica doesn’t have a car. When her boyfriend ends up being less than helpful, Veronica turns to the only person she believes won’t judge her: Bailey Butler, Jefferson High’s own little black cloud of anger and snark – and Veronica’s ex-best friend.
What should be a simple road trip quickly turns into three days of stolen cars, shotguns, ferretnapping, kind-hearted truck stop strippers, crazed ex-boyfriends, and aliens. Plus the pain and betrayal of a broken friendship that can’t be outrun. Under the vast starlit skies of the American Southwest, Veronica and Bailey discover the road to adulthood isn’t easy – but it’s better with a friend by your side.
Expect a little bit of craziness, a lot of laughter, and maybe a couple of tears. And probably one more joke about cows than you really want.
What’s next for you both in the book world?
We have another book coming out from HarperTeen and we are in the process of drafting it. We can’t give a ton of details yet, but like Unpregnant, it focuses on friendship. This time, however, it’s with two guys and a girl. It’s a cancer story, but probably not the type you’re expecting. Unless you’re expecting a cancer story with lots feelings and messy emotions, but also bees and a shark.
Who are your favorite writers right now and why?
Ahhh! The impossible question! Okay, we fought it out and cut the list down to something reasonable.
N.K. Jemisin for her super lush and layered fantasy worlds that explore power imbalances and prejudice.
Adam Silvera for his heart-wrenching stories, especially the books set in worlds that are almost exactly like the ones we live in except for a few very pertinent elements.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge because Fleabag is perfection.
And Paul Beatty because he’s pulling off things that seem impossible to pull off.