When you think high school romance, it’s easy to go straight to memories of butterflies, first kisses, and matching ‘fits at prom. But not every relationship is a Taylor Swift music video, and that’s where Heather Demetrios’ powerful Bad Romance steps in. Her newest YA novel features Grace, a high school junior who finds herself deep in an extremely unhealthy relationship with a guy. Whether you’ve been there yourself or you’ve helped a friend in the same situation, Demetrios’ honest portrayal of an abusive relationship will stick with you. It’s a must-read book that will leave you more empathetic and compassionate.

We caught up with Demetrios and chatted about her lady heroes, her creative breakthrough techniques, and more. Scroll on to learn more from this brilliant author!

Brit + Co: Describe your book in six words or less.

Heather Demetrios: Autobiographical. Some boys can be grenades.

B+C: Where/when do you do your best writing?

I do my best writing when I haven’t packed other pressing things into my day. If I’m distracted by my to-do list or have my phone anywhere near me, I’m screwed. I write best in my little Brooklyn office in our two-bedroom apartment (“two” is a generous description), which I painted this kick-ass green color that has great energy and then covered the walls with corkboards for moods/inspiration for my projects. I think I write best during twilight. So weird, but something about that time of day makes me want to bleed on the page.

B+C: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done in the name of book research?

HD: For my book I’ll Meet You There, which has a Marine who’s an amputee, I had to go online and research how to have sex with one leg. Like, do you keep it on or take it off? As if that wasn’t awkward enough, my husband came home from work right when I was reading up on this, which made me feel like a total perv. BUT, in my defense, I wrote a pretty killer sex scene. Just saying.

B+C: What’s your go-to cure for when you’re stuck in a creativity rut?

HD: I’m in one right now, so perfect timing on this question! I take some time off from my creativity coaching (I coach writers on process, the artistic life, and, of course, writing) so that I get to keep all my creative energy for myself. I read some poetry (currently on a Billy Collins kick and am reading Milk and Honey right now), collage, and try to fill the creative well with things that wake me up.

For example, this week, I’m going to this really cool, random spice shop in Manhattan. I don’t know if I’ll buy anything (I hate cooking), but I’m excited to just dive into a really sensory experience. Weirdo stuff like that. I also am a pretty serious meditator, so I try to make sure I’m really committing to my practice and reading up on Buddhist philosophy, which never fails to give me some serious and much-needed perspective.

B+C: What two lady heroes do you turn to for inspiration, and why?

This is one of the best interview questions I’ve ever gotten! Okay. Only two?! I’m going to go with Anne Frank and Virginia Hall. Okay, so I have pictures of both of them on the board above my desk and I’ll tell you why. For Anne, it goes back to that perspective thing. She wrote because she had to — it was who she was. It was how she processed what she was going through, how she interacted with her inner self. She had no idea her diary was going to be one of the most important books of all time. She wasn’t trying to make herself sound literary or deep: She was just putting her heart on the page. And then the Nazis killed her.

I don’t know, it just really reminds me that I write for the same reasons she did, and it helps me try not to get caught up in all the fame/money/status crap. I see her picture and all my worries about how my books are doing or if anyone gives a crap about them fades. (Photo via Andrew Burton/Getty)

Virginia is a new hero of mine and, also, curiously, a WWII person. I’m writing my first biography, and it’s about her because she is the baddest b*tch that ever was. This is Virginia: She had one leg, was rejected by the male-dominated State Department in the ‘30s to be a Foreign Service Officer despite crazy qualifications, so she became a spy for the British and soon the Gestapo in France were calling her “the most dangerous” of all Allied spies. #badass. She just reminds me not to let your gender or circumstances be any kind of barrier in your life. She was up against so much and just refused to throw in the towel. I want to be her when I grow up. (Photo via CIA Archives)

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B+C: What’s your latest Instagram (or Tumblr/Twitter/media) obsession?

HD: I can’t help it: I’m totally obsessed with Glennon Doyle (@glennondoyle) and Abby Wambach (@abbywombach). They are the cutest!!! If you haven’t read Glennon’s memoir Love Warrior, stop everything and read it. Then be ready to be obsessed when you find out that after she wrote this book about trying to save her marriage, she suddenly realized she was in love with a woman, who just so happened to be one of the best lady soccer players in the world. Cue ADORABLENESS. They are so rocking being wives and raising kids and being inspirations. And her ex-husband? They’re besties. Love wins.

B+C: Can you name a book that you think deserves a little more love + recognition?

HD: Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes. It is so, so, SO good. I stayed up late to finish it one night, sobbed, then emailed her right away. I only knew about it because we had the same publisher and we were going on tour together (this was for my fantasy series, which began with Exquisite Captive). Not only does it have VOICE like you wouldn’t believe, it’s based on a true story that involves her high school boyfriend and guns. I don’t want to say any more, but it is beautiful and important and everyone should read it.

B+C: What’s next on your to-read pile?

HD: Reading Milk and Honey and then it’s Sarah J. Maas’s third installment of the ACOTAR trilogy. SOOOOOOOO excited. I love her and every book just gets better and better. I’m also super excited about We Are Okay and The Upside of Unrequited, both by authors in an upcoming anthology I’m editing. (Editor’s Note: Check out Becky Albertalli’s interview with us!)

B+C: What advice do you have for aspiring creative ladies?

HD: My biggest advice is this: Do not let envy win. Many of us were raised in a culture that pits women against each other. I really loved what Sheryl Sandberg says in Lean In about how we shouldn’t think of our career paths as ladders, but as jungle gyms. There’s more than one way to get to the top, and there’s more room at the top than we think (though, I’ll never say there’s room for everyone because, sadly, there just isn’t).

Focus on your voice, your vision, and what you — unique, beautiful, wonderful you — have that no one else does and bring that to the table. Embrace your weird. Embrace your rage. Embrace the fact that the creative life is hard but that you’re a badass because you’re choosing it anyway. Not everyone will get you or love you or choose you, and that’s okay. Remember: When it comes to getting your creative work out there, you just need one yes. It doesn’t matter how many no’s came before it (just ask my girl Virginia Hall). But also? You will always be your own best advocate. Nobody, I mean nobody, will care about or fight for you and your work as much as you will. So it’s time to put your big girl panties on and get ready.

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(Featured photo via Heather Demetrios)