Don't be fooled by her willowy frame: Bella Thorne is a beast. With successful careers in film, television, and music — not to mention nearly 6 million followers on Twitter, 4 million on Instagram, and 9 million on Facebook — the 17-year-old has become quite the influencer. And now she's about to take over the publishing world, too.
Thorne's first young adult novel, Autumn Falls, arrives in stores this week. If you're not a Bellarina or a Bellarino who has been counting down the days until the book's release, you should know that the teen did what the best authors three times her age (and more) do: write about what they know. And Bella knows loss (her father died in an auto accident in 2007). And challenges (she is dyslexic). And bullying. And romance.
The book — the first of a trilogy — follows a young lady named Autumn Falls and kicks off with the shocking and sudden death of her dad in a car crash. Soon after, Autumn, her mother, and her brother move out of state and she's forced to start at a new school. New friends and new boys abound, but so does a fresh new rumor mill… and it's brutal. Through it all, Autumn writes her wishes in a journal left to her by her father — to a potentially magical effect.
Thorne also knows honesty, which was probably the biggest takeaway from our lengthy chat with her about the book. Bella was open about her work with ghostwriter Elise Allen, and even more open when the discussion turned to her experience with losing her father and her family being taunted about it.
What was your writing process like?
I'll draft out some stuff and write down some ideas where I want the story to go chapter by chapter. I'll hand it to my ghostwriter and we'll talk about the things that really need to be portrayed by these characters. … We try to have something happen in every chapter. You know what your main thing is, then you kind of write the story around it.
How much did you really collaborate with your ghostwriter?
We work together very well. She's amazing and really knows what she's doing. She'll send back to me a draft and then I'll make more notes and send it back to her. We keep that process for awhile and then we'll send it to the editor and see what they think and get notes back.
There are so many parallels between your life and Autumn's, particularly in relation to the death of her father. It felt a bit like you laid it all out there.
Exactly. I laid it all out there. … When my father first died, the day I heard it, I couldn't cry. It was very odd. You're still in a state of shock, I think. That's kind of where Autumn is. There are times where I'm completely normal even to this day and I'm just like, "Oh, that light post looks nice. I wonder if Daddy would like that light post." And then, all of a sudden, I realize I'm crying…
A lot of what happened to [Autumn], like the outside forces, too. There's a rumor that she's upset about and when she wakes up and hears [her father's] voice — those are things in the book that happened to me and I wanted Autumn to feel that pain.
That stuff couldn't have been very easy to write. Were there tears shed in the process?
Oh my God, there were so many.
You mentioned the rumor a classmate spreads that put the blame for her father's death squarely on Autumn's shoulders. What's the real-life version of that incident?
The rumor happened a little bit differently to my family — not to me but to my family. It was so messed up and I just felt that it was a good thing to write in the book because people can be so evil.
How does some of that compare to some of the things you see written about you online now?
It's just 10 times worse. I mean, it's just my life. I'm not in public high school like Autumn is. … I realized that people can read whatever they want and they're going to choose to believe it because they want to, not because it's the truth, but because they want to believe you're doing this or that. If they want to believe it, there's no changing their minds, and that's the same thing in high school.
Kyler Leeds is Autumn's big celebrity crush. Who is your Kyler Leeds?
If I was in the time of the '80s when Billy Squier was really big, he would have been my Kyler Leeds. I think he's amazing and I love his music videos even though they are so much older.
One book down, two to go. Is that scary?
When Autumn Falls comes out and does well, I'll be less worried. When I get feedback from my followers and they say how much they love it and this part inspired them and this would happen in their life and "Oh, Autumn went through this. So did I. I loved that you put it in there," that's when I'll be happy.
I just really, really hope that everyone loves it and is like, "Wow, this girl isn't just the Disney Channel girl. This is a girl that had hard times. This is a girl that has been through a lot of stuff and is still standing strong, still here." I really hope people see that.