Carrie DiRisio is the mastermind behind the popular @broodingYAhero Twitter parody account. Launched in 2015, the series stars the swaggering Broody McHottiepants, DiRisio’s caricature of the conventional YA hero. In her forthcoming debut, Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me, the author goes beyond the 140-character limit to offer a self-help book for aspiring heartthrobs, as told by Broody himself. We spoke with DiRisio about the genesis of @broodingYAhero, the transition from social media series to print, and some of her personal YA crushes.
How did you come up with the idea for the Brooding YA Hero and Twitter feed?
I was the target audience for the first YA boom. I was in high school when Maureen Johnson and Sarah Dessen were starting out. LiveJournal was big, and there were certain pages devoted to lovingly poking fun at pop culture. Years later, when I was writing and working on my own YA books, that love was still there.
The Twitter feed was inspired by a lot of the tropes I was seeing in YA. It started out as sort of an inside joke for me and my friends that Twitter caught on to. It was a way to make us laugh and mock some of the overdone tropes in YA. Like the boy who has great hair is always the quarterback, and he invites the loner girl to sit at his lunch table, despite the objections of his evil ex-girlfriend. It really is a labor of love.
The fans have definitely been my favorite part of the whole experience. I read every comment and my DMs are open to questions. I’ll get lots of questions for Broody, from “what’s your favorite eye color?” to someone who’s just been dumped and is looking for good-natured humor. I’m honored to be able to provide that for people.
When did you decide that Broody McHottiepants was hot enough to make the leap from Twitter to the page?
It felt like the time was right. The book idea came to me where Broody gives advice to you, the reader, on how to be a main character. Broody demanded more screen time, so to speak. I’d acquired my agent for a previous project. And when I pitched the Broody book, she was excited to see it. We went out on sub to publishers and Sky Pony made their offer in November 2016. Since then it’s been a thrilling whirlwind!
The largest challenge was keeping up the joke without making it repetitive. Like with an SNL sketch that’s funny the first time, then on the next episode it’s sort of played out. I was looking for ways to invent and expand on the narrative. It’s an illustrated book with activities—beautiful illustrations by Linnea Gear—that add to the reading experience. They really help the book come alive.
In the book, Broody serves up plenty of tips for aspiring YA heroes. Do you have any tips for aspiring YA writers?
I would say to keep reading and writing as much as you can. And the path to success may not run the way you expect it to. Up until about two years ago, I was pretty sure I’d write the next YA fantasy epic as my debut novel. I’ve been so delighted to write a funny book. It’s something I never dreamed about doing.
My mom’s a librarian, and when I was 18 or 19, I remember her asking, “Don’t you want to try some women’s fiction?” When I got my agent, I said, “Hey! This means I can read all YA and call it research.”
Who are some of your YA literary crushes—aside from Broody, of course?
I’m now at an age where having literary crushes makes me a little worried. I’d say Sal from Mask of Shadows, an ambitious and driven assassin. And Dimple from When Dimple Met Rishi. She’s tough; she knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to say so. I’d round out the list with Slate from The Girl from Everywhere, the main character’s grizzled father. I like my brooding heroes.
Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me by Carrie DiRisio, illus. by Linnea Gear. Sky Pony, $17.99 Oct. 3 ISBN 978-1-5107-2666-6