Award-winning actress Bailee Madison (Bridge to Terabithia, Parental Guidance) and Reader’s Choice Award finalist Stefne Miller joined forces to write the compelling YA/teen novel Losing Brave (Blink). Seventeen-year-old Payton struggles to hold it together in the aftermath of her twin sister’s disappearance. In this exclusive interview, Bailee tells FamilyFiction about the challenges of a long-distance collaboration, what it means to be “living brave,” and her hope for the future of this story…
Tell us a little about the plot of Losing Brave and your main character, Payton Brave.
Payton Brave’s life has completely unraveled, but she’s trying not to show it. One year ago her sister Dylan disappeared, and authorities have come to a dead end in all efforts to find her. While those around Payton are trying to move on, Payton is stuck. She isn’t sure if she should grieve for a loss or continue to hope for her sister’s return. Finally, instead of trying to keep it all together, she decides to stop pretending and start being authentic. Payton’s decision to be true to herself and her struggles causes many to distance themselves from her, but she is shocked to see who her authenticity draws into her life.
Losing Brave tackles some pretty heavy issues. What inspired this story?
Many things inspired this story, but most of it boils down to what it means to be brave. Living brave is different for every person, but it requires honesty, authenticity, and a lot of self-reflection. Being brave requires you to let go and we found that inspiring. Freeing, even. We wanted to create a strong female lead who wasn’t afraid to be true to herself no matter what it cost, and we believe Payton’s struggle is universal and speaks to a lot of people and their own fight to be true to self.
Bailee, this is your debut novel. What was the experience like for you? Was your background in acting helpful?
The experience was unforgettable and will always remain a very important chapter (pun intended) of my life. Writing a book is very different than acting; however, it was very important to both Stefne and me to allow this book to be easily adapted into a screenplay. The big dream is for readers to fall in love with our characters and story, and for us to get to transform the world of Losing Brave onto a screen. With acting, you’re given a character with guidelines to help you bring the role to life. With writing, you create the guidelines yourself, it’s so fulfilling and exciting!
What was the most challenging part of writing this novel?
The logistics were a big issue. We live in completely different places and were forced to have a long-distance writing relationship. We spent a lot of time on FaceTime, texting, or on the phone, but finally found a system that worked for us.
Additionally, whether in writing or acting it is challenging because you share so much of yourself—even if it is through a fictional character and story. The characters were created out of some of the deepest places within ourselves—personal experiences, fears, and hopes. It’s a raw but beautiful process to pour yourself out through story, and we hope the novel touches the hearts of those who read it.
What role does faith play in this story?
We are both people of faith, so whether it’s obvious within the story or not, faith weaves its way through the entire novel. Finding comfort in the midst of grief. Finding hope in the darkest moments. Faith that all things will work together for good—they are all truths that are intricately tied into the story of Payton Brave.
What do you hope your readers will take away after reading Losing Brave?
We truly hope that readers will be inspired to be true to themselves and trust that when they need to let go of something, a new and better gift will be given. Life is messy and often hurts but when we choose to live brave, we will walk out the other side in a place of strength.