The Kissing Booth has been one of the most popular teen romances on Netflix, its sequel was as successful and now the third instalment is all set to release in August. The author, Beth Reekles, was only 15 years old when she published the story on the online publishing platform Wattpad, chapter by chapter. In 2011, the story won Wattpad’s Most Popular Teen Fiction award, and soon after she signed a 3-book deal with Penguin Random House UK. In 2013, Beth sold her film adaptation rights to UK-based production company Komixx and that’s how Vince Marcello got on to writing the script and directing the movie.
Beth initially started writing the The Kissing Booth as she was bored of the fiction available in the YA space, little did she know then that her stories would achieve global success. And as the pandemic led many on journeys of self reflection and realisation, it led Beth to pen a series of short stories titled Lockdown on London Lane that follows the lives of those living in an apartment block as they find friendship, love and forge lasting relationships through their quarantine. Lighthearted and fun, these stories were her way of dealing with seriousness of the pandemic. In an exclusive interview with Cosmo India, she talks about life in the lockdown, the lessons learnt and the best ways to keep a young audience hooked.
Cosmo: You were in high school when you wrote The Kissing Booth and in college when you wrote the sequel, which was on college life and now Lockdown on London Lane you wrote in lockdown. Do you always draw upon your real life for ideas?
Beth Reekles: "My books aren’t based on my life, or even anyone I know, but I definitely draw on the themes that are going on in mine and my friends’ lives - in high school, that was first kisses and dating; last year, it was lockdown, although that was mainly because I found it too depressing to read about everything that was going on, but I really enjoyed comedians’ takes on things on Twitter and TikTok, so decided that was going to be how I channelled the weirdness I was feeling, too! I didn’t do much research for The Kissing Booth beyond finding out where Harvard was, to be honest; I was just writing it for fun, so didn’t really stop to think about researching all the ins and outs!"
A still from The Kissing Booth
C: Tell us about Lockdown on London Lane. What were the biggest challenges that you faced while writing this?
BR: "I was worried that people might think it was insensitive to post a book about lockdown that… wasn’t really about lockdown, and wasn’t very serious. But I wanted something lighthearted and fun to deal with all the weirdness of last April, and writing has always been my way of channelling things. I know I’m always happier when I’m working on a project, too, so figured I would post it on Wattpad, with a new part every week - it’d keep me motivated to write the story, and helped me feel like part of a community when I was stuck living alone unable to see anyone, too! Like I said, though, I wasn’t taking it very seriously, and treated it as a bit of fun, so I just enjoyed the ride and didn’t view it particularly as a challenge!"
C: What are the biggest lessons you learned from the lockdown?
BR: "Well, probably the biggest one was that I ultimately wanted to be around my family, as I hardly saw them for the whole year and finally moved back to Wales near them this April! I already knew I liked to have projects and goals to focus on, and that I’m an extrovert, but lockdown just reaffirmed that for me. I really struggled with months when I didn’t have anything particular to focus on - I even set myself a challenge this February to try a new habit or hobby every day and documented it all on TikTok! - and I started posting movie reviews on my Instagram just for a bit of ‘connection’ with other people when there wasn’t a lot going on. I also learnt how to replace the batteries in my thermostat and make banana bread, both of which felt like pretty massive accomplishments!"
C: A lot of young adults here in India are confined indoors due to the pandemic and there’s a lot of stress and anxiety, what would be your advice to them?
BR: "Establish some kind of routine, it really helps: like always making your bed as soon as you get up, a skincare routine every morning and night, taking a lunch break with a magazine. (Honestly, for me, this was reading a few pages of Cosmo!) It also helps to have little things to look forward to - like a particular movie on Friday night, a virtual catch-up with friends on a Tuesday evening, trying that one new recipe on a weekend. Take things day by day and little by little."
C: What books always perk up your mood?
BR: "I’ve got to say the Percy Jackson series! I love Greek mythology but hadn’t read these books for a few years, and had a brilliant time re-reading during the pandemic. I’m also really into Bridget Jones’ Diary at the minute, and the web-comic Lore Olympus. Anything that feels familiar and like comfort-reading, and, admittedly, a fair bit of fanfiction."
C: Your books have been adapted to screen, how was the experience? Did you have any inkling that they would become so popular?
BR: "I definitely never dreamed it would happen! People used to comment on The Kissing Booth on Wattpad and say ‘You should make a movie of this!’ but I’d scoff and think, ‘Yeah, right, that’s never going to happen’... but here we are! It was a long process - five years from optioning the rights to the first movie actually coming out - and it’s still surreal to me. I wasn’t on set for much of filming, but that experience was completely magical and something I’ll never forget."
C: You chose a platform like Wattpad to release the book. Why's that?
BR: "I hated the idea of someone I knew reading my work - and still do, actually - but I was already on Wattpad as a reader and loved the idea of how anonymous I could be. People only knew me as ‘Reekles’, they didn’t know how old I was or where I was from - and if they said they liked the book, they meant it; they weren’t just saying it to be nice, because they were my friend."
C: What advice would you give aspiring writers? Should they start off with a digital or print platform?
BR: "I always say to write the kind of book you want to read. It’s also important to just get started - it can sound daunting, but you can always change things later! Publishing in print is the dream for lots of us, so make sure to do your research there, but there’s nothing to stop you going with a digital platform in the meantime! You can always be as anonymous as you want, and it’s incredibly encouraging to see even just three or four people saying how much they like your book. Writing can be a pretty solitary experience, so that sense of community you get from a site like Wattpad is a real boost."
C: Road ahead…your future plans and projects
BR: "Lockdown on London Lane (or the UK title Love, Locked Down) will be out next year, and The Kissing Booth 3 will be out this summer, which is all very exciting! I’ve still got my day job working in IT and have just moved houses, so am spending some time doing some decorating now. I’ve got new book ideas I want to work on, and plan to work on some of those through the summer. I’d love to see another one of my books made into a movie or TV show, so hopefully one day!"