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17-year-old Beth Reekles had a really good year. She published two books; appeared on national TV; sold the film rights for her first book, The Kissing Booth; graduated from high school and started college; and earned a spot on TIME’s list of the most influential teens of 2013, alongside household names like Malia Obama and Justin Bieber. And still she found time to watch five seasons of Gossip Girl.

How did such a young woman get so far so fast? When Beth was 15, living at home in Wales, she wrote a novel (“the kind of book I wanted to read”) and put it up on the story-sharing website Wattpad. 19 million views later, she won a three-book contract with a young adult division at Random House to publish that first book, The Kissing Booth, and two more, including the recently published Rolling Dice. That kind of transition from self-publishing to traditional publishing is rare — but her true-to-life stories of teen romance, sans vampires and werewolves, must have tapped a void that needed filling.

This much-in-demand writer has developed a routine that helps her stay focused. Beth likes to write alone with her computer and a cup of tea. (She avoids writing with others in the room, because she hates the idea that someone might be reading over her shoulder.) If she’s feeling blocked, she turns on background music — such as the soundtrack to Doctor Who or Pirates of the Caribbean — to help her feel more creative. “Something emotive and exciting,” she says. She experiments with form as well — on her Wattpad page, you can find short stories, chapters and novellas, including the holiday one-off “Deck the Halls.”

She’s a freshman at the University of Exeter now and plans to major in physics. She’s busy preparing for January exams and working on her third book. This summer, when classes end, she’s excited to spend her summer typing away, possibly working on a sequel to The Kissing Booth.

We talked to Beth via email about self-publishing, J.K. Rowling, and letting go of bad reviews. Our first question:

What inspired you to write a novel at 15? Here’s Beth –

I was looking for a high school romance that didn’t involve a vampire or werewolf – every teen romance seemed to have a paranormal element, and I was sick of that. So when I couldn’t find the kind of book I wanted to read, I decided to write it instead. That’s how I ended up writing The Kissing Booth.

What did you think when Random House called you up and said, “Hey, want to write a few more for us?”

I was thrilled! I’d thought about traditionally publishing my books, but I didn’t think it would actually ever happen, and certainly not like that! Sometimes I still can’t believe it.

A lot of people in the publishing world are wary of self-publishing. What is your take on it?

Self-publishing is making writing something that a lot more people take seriously now. It gives a lot of new and younger writers the opportunity to try and put their work out there quickly and easily, so it’s encouraging more and more people to write.

What are you writing now?

Right now I’m working on my third book for Random House, which is going to be another young-adult romance, called Out of Tune.

How do you come up with a new character or story? What’s your process?

I usually get the ideas for characters before I come up with a story. My characters seem to have lives of their own that I have to try and put down on paper. I’ve never been any good at planning stories; I often go with the flow and don’t know how the story will turn out until I’ve finished it!

Which authors do you really admire?

J.K. Rowling has always been one of my role models. I’ve loved the Harry Potter series since I began reading it as a child, and when I read about how she persevered despite all the rejection letters, it’s really encouraging and inspiring to me as a writer.

Are there any responses you’ve gotten from fans that have really stuck with you?

I get so many messages from young girls telling me that I’ve inspired them to write, or that they don’t usually read but tried my book and loved it. Those are the ones that really stick with me. They’re very humbling messages to receive, and they always make my day! It’s brilliant to hear that I’ve encouraged other girls to read and write more.

What is one thing you know that you wish everyone knew?

One bad piece of criticism can make you feel like everything you’re doing is a waste of time, but you really need to put it in perspective. Take note of all the good things people are saying!

This article is part of a series on young voices, exploring the spirit and wisdom of youth. Read the full series here. 

Join the conversation! 26 Comments

  1. What an inspiring young woman.

  2. Reblogged this on rajan109's Blog and commented:
    Is good for All is good

  3. It’s good to hear about a young person who made it through her own efforts. I have found writing to be a tough business to get into even with the self publishing tools available. I’ll reblog this post.

  4. Reblogged this on Some Knowledge and commented:
    An interesting article about a young author.

  5. Reblogged this on The Habricou and commented:
    The inspiracional story of Beth Reekles ♥

  6. i usualy read book but i can’t write a book

  7. Reblogged this on Revolution and commented:
    Inspiring young woman.

  8. Reblogged this on Alana's Life and commented:
    shes so inspirational!

  9. […] The best way to get a book deal? Write a story 19 million people want to read […]

  10. Really very inspiring girl, and her thoughts and ideas are very innovative and interesting.
    ________________________________
    http://www.seorazer.com

  11. Great job Beth. You sounds inspiring keep up and keep on it’s our ART. i love and i shall always love and do it.

  12. Reblogged this on Jusd.

  13. […] The Kissing Booth ( Mi primer Beso en español es el libro mas leído por jóvenes en el 2013 y lo que va del 2014. su autora,Beth Reekles, una joven de 17 años  fan de Gossip Girl . […]

  14. great potential, she has a bright future ahaead

  15. Beth,
    Thanks so much for sharing your story – stories, actually. I’m curious how much of your writing “counted” for school. Did any of your writing between 15-19 years of age contribute to your credits needed to graduate from high school?

    I am Chief Learning and Innovation Officer at a school and institute for innovation in Atlanta, GA, and my research includes exploration of how passion work could be more and more a part of credited school. I’m @boadams1 on Twitter, and I’d love to find out in what ways your commitment to writing your novels was considered creditable at your school.

    Thanks,

    Bo

  16. that is the problem of modern thoughtlessly consuming society not to divide the Literature made by real writers and recognized by professionals all over the world random pieces of text written by someone that are now shamelessly being pushed onto the market by publishers… i was always calling a Book creatures by guys like F. Dostoevsky, C. Dickens, T. Dreiser – you get the point, right?
    what can be done by the girl who is just 18?? what real life characters and real life situations can be described there? what experience and vision or vibe can be expressed? are you all mad?
    the “writer” who’s main reason to start writing is just because there was no better reading without vampires??

  17. […] 17 year old Beth ahs achieved quite some things in the past couple of years. She wrote a novel “the kind of book I wanted to read” which gained more than 19 million views in only two years. She graduated high-school, published two more books, sold rights for a film about her first book, appeared on national television and was awarded by TIME as one of the most influential teens of 2013. Read more about this amazing young woman on the TED interview page […]

  18. Reblogged this on Mohammad Shaker.

  19. Reblogged this on Đẳng Cấp Thế Giới and commented:
    “When I couldn’t find the kind of book I wanted to read, I decided to write it instead.”

  20. This stuff makes me sad in a jealous way. I dropped out of high school at the age of 16 to write. I worked on the docks, did all the drugs, lived with all the vagrants, witnessed murders, starved, struggled, drank, and had no one to help me or that believed in me. What did I turn out as? A goddamn ghostwriter/copywriter for hire just to pay the bills. I am almost done with my first novel, but it took 10 years of real-life insanity to come up with it. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous of this little girl. I’ve never even heard of Wattpad before this.

    I know that this is the industry — fanciful teenage romance stories geared toward horny idealistic teens and old women one and the same.

    I just thought — to some extent when I started out — that living in the grit meant something. Now some little girl with a crush can write the next great American novel and sell it with a movie franchise.

    I just — I don’t even know.

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About Nadia Goodman

Nadia is the social media editor at TED.

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