Aftercare Instructions is one of my favorite reads this year, with it’s beautiful story of finding what really matters to you and unique storytelling (and the audio is FAB and narrated by Bonnie) so hosting her as part of DA Bash is such a treat! Check out our interview, enter the giveaway, and stop by to see what debuts you missed this year!
Interview with Bonnie Pipkin
Parts of the book are written in styles outside of prose, from acts in a play to a pamphlet style “Aftercare Instruction” in the present. Talk about your decision to write Aftercare Instructions in this way and the unique opportunities or challenges it presented.
I first wrote the novel with a straight-thru, linear narrative. The feedback I kept getting was: why would Genesis still want to be with Peter if he did something so terrible to her? But love isn’t so cut and dry for me. I don’t think it just disappears when someone makes a mistake. A mistake doesn’t make a person the villain automatically. There’s usually a lot more under the surface. The best villains are layered, and if you can love one, then that makes them real. So with that in mind, I knew that I had to show their love story. We had to understand why Genesis was holding on and pining. Then I started to think about how we distill our memories into scenes and moments, much like a movie or a play, and since theater is such a big part of her healing process, I decided to try writing the past in this format. With the “aftercare instructions” for chapter titles, I kept a running list while I wrote, and then tried to thematically match them with what is going on in the chapter. This book is about healing, and the connection of the physical healing with the emotional healing is something I wanted to explore.
The characters in the book make choices that some audiences may or may not agree with. Which of the characters decisions most surprised you?
Well, the big elephant in the room, or the choice that some audiences may not agree with, is the choice to terminate the pregnancy. I deliberately started the book with that choice already made. This story isn’t about making that choice. That choice is a given, and it was my intention not to attach any shame to that. But that said… hmmm… Genesis probably should not have attacked Vanessa in the bathroom, and she probably should not have had so much to drink after the procedure, but these are forgivable. She was going through a lot. Peter’s choice to leave her during the procedure is definitely one I don’t agree with, but as I said above, I didn’t want him to be a complete villain. It’s important to let our characters make mistakes and let them be flawed.
You narrated your own audiobook, which I loved. What was that experience like and how did the decision to narrate it come about?
Aww, thank you! I am a big fan of audio books read by the author as opposed to actors, and so I just asked if I could do it! A big part of my editing process is to read my work out loud, and I also have a performance background, so I felt very comfortable with the task. I had read the whole book out loud to two good friends, and my cat has heard it probably six or so times in various forms. It was super fun to record it! The microphone is so sensitive that it would pick up my stomach gurgles before we broke for lunch. The producer told me that half of her job is to manage the reader’s bodily noises. It took us two days to record it, and one short session to fix a couple of stutters/unidentified background noises. I would love to do this again.
What has been your favorite response to your debut?
I received a hand-written letter from a ninth grader from Florida. In it, she said the book changed the way she views her life, and how she wanted to be strong like Genesis. There may or may not be tear streaks on this letter.
There was also an abortion doula at my launch party and I thought that was pretty cool.
What books would you recommend for fans of Aftercare Instructions?
Big-hearted books by badass ladies! THIS RAGING LIGHT by Estelle Laure. GIRL IN PIECES by Kathleen Glasgow. IF I WAS YOUR GIRL by Meredith Russo. AMERICAN STREET by Ibi Zoboi. And required reading for everyone: BAD FEMINIST by Roxane Gay.
by Bonnie Pipkin
Published: June 27th 2017
In the tradition of Jandy Nelson and Rainbow Rowell, a big-hearted journey of furious friendship, crazy love, and unexpected hope after a teen’s decision to end an unwanted pregnancy
“Troubled.” That’s seventeen-year-old Genesis according to her small New Jersey town. She finds refuge and stability in her relationship with her boyfriend, Peter—until he abandons her at a Planned Parenthood clinic during their appointment to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. The betrayal causes Gen to question everything.
As Gen pushes herself forward to find her new identity without Peter, she must also confront her most painful memories. Through the lens of an ongoing four act play within the novel, the fantasy of their undying love unravels line by line, scene by scene. Digging deeper into her past while exploring the underground theater world of New York City, she rediscovers a long-forgotten dream. But it’s when Gen lets go of her history, the one she thinks she knows, that she’s finally able to embrace the complicated, chaotic true story of her life, and take center stage.
This powerfully immersive and format-crushing debut follows Gen from dorm rooms to diners to house parties to auditions—and ultimately, right into readers’ hearts.