HeyitsCarlyRae x Jordyn Taylor Interview
I’m so excited for you to join me, Jordyn! Tell us more about The Revenge Game!
Thank you so much for having me! The Revenge Game is a feminist mystery that takes place at a boarding school with major old boys’ club vibes. The protagonist is Alyson Benowitz, an aspiring romance novelist who longs for a love story of her own. When she and Brenton Riggs Jr.—the handsome, charming lacrosse player in her AP English class—get paired together for a project, they totally hit it off, and Alyson feels like her dreams are finally coming true. But it turns out there might be a dark side to her seemingly perfect love story.
That’s because Alyson and Riggs’ boarding school just became co-ed this year, and to celebrate, the boys start a secret game called the King’s Cup, where they compete to see who has the most sexual prowess. When the girls catch wind of what’s going on, they start their own secret game called the Queen’s Cup, where they compete to see who can reject the boys in the most humiliating ways possible. Alyson starts to wonder: What if Riggs is just using her to get “points” in the King’s Cup? On the flip side, what if he’s a genuinely good guy and finds out Alyson is one of the leaders of the Queen’s Cup? The mounting tension finally erupts on prom night…but I’m not going to spoil anything!
In a way, the story gives me John Tucker Must Die vibes. What inspired you to tell the story of Alyson?
You know, I re-watched that movie while I was drafting The Revenge Game! Parts of it sadly don’t hold up—like the STI shaming—but the idea of women banding together to fight toxic masculinity is still so epic.
It’s bizarre to think about this now, but Alyson’s story began as an entirely different book idea, where the King’s and Queen’s Cups would have been smaller plot points. I’d originally wanted to write a book that explored obsessive doubt and guilt—two big themes in my life, as someone living with obsessive-compulsive disorder. As part of that book idea, I wanted Alyson to fall head over heels for someone, only to realize her whole love story might be a lie. Eventually, I realized that tension needed to be the book’s main event—and The Revenge Game was born.
I’m so happy I went in this direction because I was able to weave in themes of resistance, which has always been important to me as a young adult author. YA fiction helps us figure out what kind of people we want to be in the world, and I hope my stories send the message that it’s important to stand up for what’s right, even when it’s hard to do. My first book, The Paper Girl of Paris, is about the French resistance in WW2, and my second book, Don’t Breathe a Word, is about resisting dangerous groupthink. The Revenge Game is all about resisting toxic masculinity or the harmful things some men do so as not to seem weak. When I was a teenager, I didn’t have the vocabulary to describe how hurtful and dangerous that behavior could be. I wish I had a book like this back then.
What chapter are you most excited for readers to read?
Oh my gosh, this is hard! I think it has to be the chapter when the girls decide to get revenge on the boys. Not just because it’s crucial to the plot but because it happens when the characters are on a school-mandated winter camping trip, which is a harrowing thing I actually had to do to graduate high school (I’m Canadian, if that gives you some helpful context). It was a full-circle moment for me to weave that physically and emotionally difficult experience into a book for young adult readers. In the chapter, the students are given bars of lard to nibble on through the night so they can replenish the calories their bodies will expend just to keep them warm. We legitimately had to do that.
Who was your favorite character to write?
I love so many characters in this book, but I think my favorite to write was Alyson’s best friend, Jess. Jess is fierce, funny, and unapologetically opinionated. Her banter with Alyson reminds me of the way my best friends and I joke around with each other and hype each other up.
The cover is great. I love it. It instantly made me curious about the story. Were you involved in the design process?
It’s amazing! Casey Moses is a cover design genius. When I first noticed the crowns inside the lips and how they also look like sharp teeth, my brain kind of exploded.
My team at Delacorte consulted me throughout the cover design process. First, I put together a memo describing The Revenge Game’s main characters, setting, and other relevant imagery (including crowns!). I also talked about the overall mood and tone of the book. From there, Casey came back with a bunch of possible design directions, and I worked with the team to pick our final concept. I love where we ended up!
Let’s talk about your writing process. Walk us through a day when you write.
Writing is a creative activity, but my process is more of a math problem than anything. When I get an offer on a book proposal, I have around three months to turn in a first draft of around 60,000 words. That means I have to write 20,000 words a month, or 5,000 words a week—around my job as executive digital editor at Men’s Health magazine. On days when I’m working from home, I’ll get up early and write from 6-9 am before the workday starts.
Early mornings are my favorite time to write because it’s quiet and peaceful, and you get to watch the sunrise while you sip a mug of tea or coffee. On days when I go into the office, I leave home early and squeeze in an hour-and-a-half of writing time in a coffee shop near work. When I finish the workday around 5, I’ll work out for an hour and then fit in a bit more writing before dinner. Once dinner is ready, I try to unplug from all things writing-related for the rest of the evening. My brain needs time to relax and recharge! On weekends, I work out first thing in the morning, then write from roughly 10 am to 4 pm. All of which is to say that when I’m on deadline, my friends know I might not be able to make plans for a good three months. (Sorry, friends! I love you!)
What was the hardest part of crafting The Revenge Game?
Without question, it was the last chapter. I rewrote it over and over, trying to wrap things up in a way that felt satisfying. For a while, I couldn’t get it right—and then, suddenly, I realized exactly what needed to happen. The answer had been there all along, but I guess it took me time to really see it. Now, it’s one of my favorite scenes in the book.
Did you outline the chapters extensively or just start writing?
With all the math I do when I plan out my writing schedule, it’s probably no surprise that I’m a plotter. I plan out the whole story from beginning to end before I start writing. Personally, I need to know my characters’ entire internal and external journeys to know how they’re going to behave in each scene. Plotting is also helpful when it comes to hitting tight deadlines; it saves me from writing myself into a corner and having to go back and change major structural elements of the book.
How do you go about crafting your characters? Do you use character sheets? Pinterest?
My goal is for my characters to take the readers on a journey that helps convey the overarching themes and messages of the book. That means the first step in crafting my characters is figuring out what story I’m trying to tell. Then I think about what kinds of characters would help me bring that story to life. For The Revenge Game to work, I knew I needed my main character, Alyson, to have this internal conflict between craving a fairytale love story and staying true to her feminist principles. Likewise, I knew I needed her boyfriend, Riggs, to be charming enough that you wonder, like Alyson does: what if he actually is one of the good ones?
Wow…I knew this already, but answering these questions has reminded me how logical and mathematical my overall writing process is. I build the foundations of my stories—plot, characters, themes—as though I’m balancing an equation. I flex my creativity most strongly when I’m fleshing out descriptions, dialogue, and other vivid details that help suck the reader into the world of the book.
Before I let you go, tell us where readers can find you on social media and if they can expect a sequel!
I just saw a headline about some studies that found female frogs will sometimes fake their own death to avoid unwanted male attention. Sounds like good inspiration for a sequel, don’t you think?! In all seriousness, I would love to write a sequel to The Revenge Game, especially in light of [mystery plot point to which I alluded in your question about the hardest part of crafting this book], but right now, I’m working on revising my next YA thriller, Wicked Darlings, out in 2025.
You can find me on Instagram, TikTok, and the platform formerly known as Twitter at @jordynhtaylor, and my website is www.jordynhtaylor.com.
Thank you for joining me, Jordyn Taylor! If you’ve read her new book drop a comment below!