UCSB alumnus Kyle Rutkin is a 27 year-old author from San Francisco who has written four books as well as a rap parody, “Pussywhipped,” which asserts that “of course Bride Wars is a motherfucking classic!” Not surprisingly, Rutkin thrived in Isla Vista from 2003 to 2007 and describes his third work, This is Your Heart in Love, as “a novel about doing crazy shit for the person you love” that covers everything from life in I.V. to “quarter-life crises” and the struggles of life after graduation.
What inspired you to write this book?
Out of college, I took a job with the government, so it was like the least creative job possible — a random job because I was a [law and society] major. I interned with forensic psychologists; I was on track to do something that was completely not what I wanted to do. For two years out of college, I took a job with the government and I was just super unhappy — I wore my Men’s Warehouse suit and [drank] coffee at 9 o’clock. … When I was a kid, I always used to write stories and then all of a sudden I was at a computer and I just started writing. I wrote two books that will never see the light of day because that was my learning curve. … This is my third one, which I actually thought “this is the one I want to try to get published.”
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your experience at UCSB? How do you feel that Isla Vista is different from any other college town?
I actually was in a relationship during the Isla Vista days … the “honeymoon phase” and all of the alcohol and everything — it was like Cloud Nine. … Then everything crashes and all the little [things] kind of blow up in your face. … [It’s about] A time in your life when you are just completely strung out on a girl and you are just like — all rational thinking goes out the window. You are texting, you cannot stop, and everybody can see it except you. … [I] really draw on what it is to say, “I cannot control this.”
Can you share, without spoilers, some of the highlights of the book?
I think any kid, especially in college or post-college, who goes through that phase of “life is fun, college debauchery, this is awesome, relationships and going from one to the next, so much fun!” but there is a huge awakening when you get out. The rollercoaster is over, and I think [this book] really dives into that.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned about love from this experience? Have you had any backlash?
The relationships that are super intense at first when you are “Facebook official,” pictures online, mobile uploads — you are in the honeymoon phase, and then it crashes so quickly. I feel like, especially in I.V. and college, just be careful. Do you know that person, really? Or do you just lock eyes when you are taking shots of tequila and you are perfect for each other? It is like, a one-second moment in Isla Vista and [suddenly] you are soul mates. I just feel like when you go high, there is always going to be an equal low.
What is your favorite Isla Vista memory and how did it contribute to this book?
I lived on DP, 6613. That was probably my favorite house. There was a group of seven of us and my favorite memories are just when you would wake up in the morning after you have thrown a party and just seeing the random things on the ground. Whether it was a person or a dog, whether it was plates — everything was just chaos.
What makes this book different from all of the other romantic comedies on the shelves right now?
I feel like most romantic comedies are really surface-level for everybody, the same kind of equation: guy likes girl, corky humor, pop culture references and he has a [relatable best friend] who is funny. … This one is really more heartfelt; there is a lot of personal stuff. It is funny on the surface, but it really makes you think — and I think that is what a book should make you do!
Do you plan to continue to write books or is this just a side project for you?
… I already have the next one written, and that one is being shopped around right now. Writing is my passion — it is what I am engaged in, and it took me a while to find it. But once you find what you want to do, you just cannot leave it.
Obviously, you never imagined you would be writing books. What is your advice to students about pursuing what they love?
Definitely do what you love. But also, you spend four years here — make sure you are not just getting a piece of paper. … Eventually, you have to take a risk. I quit [my job] and everybody was telling me not to. Not my parents, but my coworkers, and kind of that sarcasm — “Yeah, sure, go write. You are ridiculous, see you back here!” I remember the first step I took was, “Oh my god, what am I doing?” Luckily, I [persisted] and there is a dip that you enter where everything is hard, but you just have to keep pushing.
Do you have anything you want to share with readers?
I went to college without a plan, without an agenda, because everybody else was doing it and it was what I was supposed to do. The three years it took me to find what I was supposed to do was pretty much the most chaotic [time] of my life. It sucks when you realize you were living somebody else’s calling or somebody else’s life. Especially in I.V. where there are so many distractions, so much instant gratification, so much debauchery — make sure that you have some time to self-reflect.