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Hancock Park author Isabel Kaplan, 19, working on next book

Posted by inkpop on November 2, 2009

As a best-selling novelist, Harvard student, and co-founder of two nonprofit organizations that serve underprivileged girls, Isabel Kaplan has accomplished more before age 20 than most people will in a lifetime. IsabelKaplan

In June, the 19-year-old released Hancock Park (HarperTeen), about a gifted teenager (Becky Miller) who navigates her way through Hollywood’s elite, private-school world—complicated by her parents’ divorce, mean girls, heartbreak, and prescription medications.

In early fall, Kaplan met with film-industry execs to talk about licensing the film rights for Hancock Park. “Fingers crossed, everything will work out,” Kaplan says, adding that Dakota Fanning would be her top pick to star in the film. She’s now working on a second book. “I’m keeping it under wraps, but I’m definitely at work on it,” she says.

A burst of positive energy, Kaplan is undeniably modest about her success. “I think my life is pretty normal,” she says from her Cambridge dorm room. “I don’t think I’m that different from other teenagers. I want to make sure that I take time to have fun and be a college student.”

Kaplan’s approach to life is an inspirational breath of fresh air. She’s all about balancing focus with fun, following her passions, and taking life as it comes. “I’ve learned how to compartmentalize my time and energy,” she says.

inkpop: You’re in the home stretch of your teen years. What do you think your 20s will be like?

Isabel Kaplan: I have no idea. I’m operating on a take-it-as-it-comes basis. I don’t know where I’m going to be in five years. Sometimes I wish I had a crystal ball so that I could see what will happen, but it’s also fun to take it day by day. 

Hancock Park draws from your experiences of growing up in Los Angeles. How much are you like the book’s protagonist, Becky Miller?

I can definitely see myself in Becky, and I hope a lot of girls can relate to her, but I’m different in that I could never be as organized as her—that’s part of her OCD. I’m really passionate about international advocacy like she is, and I share some her viewpoints in trying to make sense of the craziness that is Los Angeles. Also, my parents got divorced when I was 10—not 16 like Becky’s—but I understand what that feels like.  HancockParkCover

You wrote Hancock Park when you were a junior and senior in high school. How did you manage your time?

Distractions were endless—whether it was homework, college applications, or extracurricular activities. My trick was to make myself sit down and write and not let myself go on Facebook to just check this or check that. I had to learn to ignore my Internet icons and Blackberry. I so loved the feeling of writing a sentence or a page that I just made time to do it.

How did you view yourself in high school?

I had my strengths and weaknesses. English and History were definitely my strong points. I had good and bad years in math—geometry was not my best, but I enjoyed calculus. I had to study and work hard, and had the same insecurities and social anxieties that a lot of teenage girls feel and that Becky feels. I was lucky to have a great group of friends in high school that I really loved.

What’s your advice for surviving high school?

Oh boy. Understand that it will end. There are times when it feels impossible—and actually is impossible—but the trick is to remember that these are only four years of your life. Figure out what you love—not just because your friends are doing it—and then run toward it.

What is your advice for aspiring authors?

It sounds cliché, but the more you write, and the more you get down on paper, the better you become. And, of course, read a lot. Read everything—stuff you know you’ll like and stuff you’re not sure about.

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