In this series, I feature authors whose works feel particularly Heroine Training-esque, asking questions that I care about as a reader, beyond the back-of-the book blurb.
This week, meet Alexandra Franzen, author of So This is the End: A Love Story.
Let’s meet the author first. Who are you and where are you from?
Hi! My name is Alexandra, but most people call me “Alex.”
I was born in Santa Monica, California at exactly 7:11 p.m., according to my mom! I’ve traveled and moved around quite a bit. I’ve lived in Los Angeles, Dunedin (a city in New Zealand), Minneapolis, Portland, and currently I’m based on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Online, my “home” is AlexandraFranzen.com.
What is your earliest memory of wanting to be a writer?
When I was very young—maybe seven years old—I remember my parents asked me to write a birthday card for my Great Aunt Mimi.
I remember feeling so excited about this project. I took this “assignment” very seriously, almost like my parents had “hired” me to do it!
I took one of Mimi’s favorite songs and I re-wrote the lyrics to make the song all about her. I wrote the lyrics inside the card. I put a lot of effort into making the card very personalized and special. I really wanted to impress her.
This was probably one of my first memories that involves writing. By the time I was eight or nine years old, I was writing little storybooks and making Xerox copies for my classmates at school. So, from a fairly early age, I knew I loved words, stories, books, libraries, all that sort of stuff. Some kids feel magnetically attracted to sports, music, or math. For me, it was always… words!
What is your writing routine?
I feel smartest first thing in the morning. By mid-afternoon, my brain is usually pretty weary and foggy. So I try to write in the a.m. hours.
A typical workday goes like this…
6am or 7am. Wake up, drink coffee, visualize my goals for the day, and then read something (usually fiction) while snuggling with a blanket.
8am. Get to work! In addition to writing books, articles, and my newsletter, I also do quite a bit of work for clients. Clients typically hire me to help write/develop various kinds of projects—including videos, podcasts, courses, websites, speeches, etc. So every workday is a little bit different.
2 or 3pm. By this point, it’s usually time to take a break and step away from my computer screen! This is when I will go work out at the gym, visit the beach, run errands, or take a walk. Once I get back home, I might do a little more computer-related work, but usually it’s administrative stuff like sending invoices or answering emails.
Right before bedtime, I always write down my to-do list for the following day. That way, as soon as I wake up, my list is right there—waiting for me—and I don’t have to wonder, “Wait, what am I supposed to be doing today?!” This is a very simple nightly ritual, but it really helps me to stay focused!
Introduce us to your heroine.
My new book is a novel called So This Is the End: A Love Story. The heroine’s name is Nora. She’s dead. Well, sort of. She died, but then she received a revolutionary medical procedure called Temporary Cellular Resuscitation (TCR) which revived her body and brought her back to life.
However, there’s a catch. TCR brings you back—but the effects only last for 24 hours. So, when the book begins, Nora is waking up in her hospital bed and she knows, “This is it. I get exactly one more day and then it’s all over.” She wonders, “Since I only have 24 hours, what should I do with my time?”
At first, she feels pretty overwhelmed and she’s not sure what to do. But then something unexpected happens. She meets someone amazing and falls in love—on the very last day of her life.
What would her Hogwarts house be?
What a fun question! I think she would be Hufflepuff (because she’s a very kind, thoughtful, caring person, and she really wants to be a “good person”) with a little dash of Gryffindor (she’s braver than she realizes).
How is she a heroine in training?
Nora faces a challenging dilemma. She has 24 hours to live. She wants to choose her activities wisely and make every moment count. She doesn’t want to waste any time doing pointless things, like puttering around on Facebook. She wants to really live.
But, in the midst of all this, she’s grieving. She’s confronting the reality that her life is coming to an end… much earlier than she expected. (She’s fairly young, in her early 30s). As the hours tick by, one by one, she’s hyper-aware that this is the last sunrise, the last cheeseburger, the last cup of coffee. Everything is coming to an end. This is it. She has moments of panic and despair—moments when she desperately wishes he could extend her time just a little longer.
And then there’s Ren, her love interest. Nora has just met this fantastic guy and they have instant, intense chemistry. However, she knows that they won’t have much time together. Just a few hours. Should she go on a date with him? Should she kiss him? Should she tell him that she’s going to be dead tomorrow—or keep that information private? She has lots of decisions to make. She really wants to do the right thing and be respectful, not deceitful.
Nora is trying very hard to be a “good person” and “make the right choices” in the midst of a very ethically and emotionally complex situation. In my eyes, this makes her a hero.
How are you a heroine in training?
I struggle with a lot of the same things that Nora struggles with. Just like Nora, I’m aware that my time on this planet is limited. I want to spend my time wisely. I want to feel like I’m living intentionally, not just sleepwalking through my days. I want to be fully alive—savoring my food, soaking in the sun, staring into the starry night sky, not staring down at my phone. Just like Nora, I have to continually ask myself, “How do I want to spend this hour? And this next hour? What really matters to me? What are my priorities? What makes me feel alive?”
These are big questions. Some days, I feel like I’m living purposefully. But some days, I falter. I get absorbed with menial tasks. I waste time watching way too many videos on the Internet. I procrastinate. I feel stuck. But I keep trying to do a little better. I keep trying to stay awake, and use my time intentionally… so that, hopefully, one day, I can die with no regrets.
In your spare time, how do you choose what to read next?
I love visiting the local bookstore and wandering through the aisles until something catches my eye. I read all kinds of genres—science fiction, fantasy, romance, memoirs, and non-fiction, too. I love everything. Here’s a list of a few books I read this year that I especially loved.
What is the best time, place, and occasion for a reader to pick up your novel to read?
So This Is The End would be a good book to read if you’re craving a quick read (it’s a fairly short novel)… or if you’re in the mood for a love story with lots of intense emotions… or if you’re having a moment where you’re wondering, “What is my purpose in life? What really matters to me? What are my priorities? How do I want to spend my precious time on this planet?” and you want to spend some time thinking about those big, deep questions.