Over a year ago, author Katie Leimkuehler sat down with Melissa Wilson and Jennifer Yih to create the four women who became the Shy Town Girls. They sketched out personalities, backstories, fears, dreams, and future storylines. Katie felt herself drawn to Ivy Westin and claimed her as her own.
“Ivy is an inspiration of my own life and the lives of my friends,” Katie explains. “She is daring and pushes people out of their comfort zones to live life more.”
Ivy certainly stays true to that summation in the second and most recent Shy Town Girls novel. She pushes her friends to be more adventurous when it comes to dating, her coworkers to think more creatively, and herself to open up to love. And she always does this pushing with undeniable sass and wit. Katie confesses that of all of Ivy’s qualities, the part of the character that feels most directly taken from herself is her sarcastic sense of humor.
In the year since Ivy’s conception, Katie says she has grown so much as a writer but knows there is still plenty more to learn.
“As a writer, I’ve learned to develop stronger characters who have a unique voice and who can emotionally connect with the reader,” she says. “I’m always growing as a writer, the process is never over!”
What makes Ivy such a connectable character is her flaws–the 24-year-old beauty doesn’t exactly always make the best decisions. Katie points out that this is exactly what makes her friendships with the other women in the book so important.
“Ivy looks for loyal and dependent friends on whom she knows she can rely. Since Ivy doesn’t always have her act together, she needs friends who do. They are her sounding board and constant support. She looks for friends who she knows will be in her life forever and nothing could come between them.”
Relationships are key to Ivy’s story and the stories of all the Shy Town Girls. Without giving away much of Book Two, you could say that a lot of Ivy’s growing up comes from acknowledging what she wants from another person, but also what she is afraid of.
“Ivy wants someone who will chase her even when she pushes them away,” Katie explains. “She needs to know that they want her and need her in her life. Her ideal relationship is with someone who can understand all her struggles and issues she has gone through, but being able to make her laugh at the same time.”
Is that something that Ivy can find? And if she does, will she be able to admit it before pushing people away for good? Being able to trust other people to be there for you is a big part of a twentysomething’s life, and Ivy has trust issues bigger than most. It all comes back to what Katie says she loves to do as a writer, which is emotionally connect with her reader.