In Forever, Interrupted, nine days after Elsie and Ben elope, he dies in a car accident. Debut author Taylor Jenkins Reid skillfully traces the couple’s six-month courtship throughout the book.

Some books have tearjerker endings; yours has a tearjerker beginning.

I love reading books that can break my heart. My favorite books are the ones that grab me from the very beginning so I’ve kept faith that there are other readers out there like me.

Reading about the beautiful courtship—after knowing Ben has died—is heart-wrenching.

Those were the most fun, fulfilling, satisfying parts to write. So much of a good love story is in the conflict. Because the conflict in this book is retroactive—you know how it ends and you’re heartbroken—that allowed me to raise the level of romance in the earlier scenes. I could write those scenes without restraint, really allowing Ben and Elsie to have the moments in life we all dream of, because the reader knows it’s not going to last. The heartbreak is always there, coloring everything, and making even the simplest moments complex and bittersweet.

How did you get into the mindset of Elsie’s grief?

It was based entirely on my own painful imagination. When my husband and I first got married, I was so shocked at my own level of joy that I was convinced it was all going to come crashing down. My imagination ran wild with these horrible, gut-wrenching scenarios. It was completely irrational but luckily I was able to funnel it into something productive.

Do you believe in love at first sight? Fate?

I think when you know, you know. That could take years, months, or maybe five minutes. Love at first sight requires an almost delusional optimism about life and love, which is part of what is so beautiful about Elsie and Ben together. As for fate, I’m still up in the air about that. Some days I’ll tell you that everything in life was meant to be and that there is an order to the universe. Other days, I’m convinced it’s all a combination of luck and opportunity.

What message do you hope readers will take away from the book?

That the sun will rise tomorrow, no matter how ugly today is. That’s such a driving force in this book, the belief in a better day. And most often, we find that better day not in ourselves but in being there for the people around us. You don’t realize how strong you are until you have to help someone else stand up.

It seems like it would be easy to hate Ben’s mother, Susan, who doesn’t believe Ben and Elsie were married.

This is a woman who has lost everything she has built her life on. And when Elsie comes in and tells her that she’s actually lost even more than she thinks—that not only is her son dead but that he kept a secret from her—I don’t know how anyone could do anything but lash out. Susan is in grave pain and she is desperately searching for peace.