Who is this middle grade author? 1 Though I was…
3 Little Known or Interesting Things About You
- When I was a kid, I liked to dress up in Victorian clothes and pretend I lived in another time.
- I perform improv comedy with my team Cheap Date.
- I am terrified of heights. (And sometimes heights that are not even that high…)
Go team Ravenclaw!
If you or one of your books was the answer on jeopardy, what do you imagine the question would be?
Hmmm… This middle grade novel made headlines when it was discovered that the characters had all somehow come to life and were hiding in Southern California with their author….
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I always have to start my writing day by reading from a book I love. It gets me into the flow of writing. And when I am stuck or feeling discouraged, sometimes I write in my bed in my pajamas, with a notebook and pen instead of on the computer. It feels cozy. And I LOVE to write with purple pens. They make me happy! 🙂
What is the first book that made you cry?
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy get to me every time….
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both! When I haven’t been writing regularly, I start to feel cranky and out of sorts. So when the writing is going well, I feel very energized. But at the end of a long writing day, my brain is exhausted!
About Your Books
Tell us about your books-length of time it took to write, journey, publishing, release dates, etc.
Unwritten took me three years to write, but I always like to stress that I actually spent only one year writing the first draft and the next two years revising it. Revision is SO important: it’s where you figure out what is at the heart of your book: where you flesh out character arcs, strengthen plot structure, develop themes…. Revision is not simply tinkering with sentences and switching out words. And even though I say it took me three years to write, I had actually been “preparing” or “practicing” to write it for much longer. I started writing when I was about seven years old, studied writing in college, went on to do a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing after that, wrote a different novel that ultimately never sold and will remain tucked away in my drawer…. So I had done a lot of work studying writing before I wrote the book that would become my debut.
When I wrote the sequel, REWRITTEN (which comes out April 7, 2020!), I was writing under deadline, so I had a lot less time than I did with Unwritten. I knew that my first draft would not be great (first drafts never are!), so I worked really hard to complete the first draft in about a month, and then I spent the next six months revising it. It was intense, but I had a lot of help from my workshop group and my editor. Getting feedback is so important, and I think every writer needs a supportive network like this: people you trust who will read and give honest, helpful critiques. The people in my workshop group are some of my dearest friends.
Favorite line or quote from one of your books.
Can I choose two? From Unwritten: “What if every story ever written is a world in another dimension, waiting for us to find it?” — I love this because I think it’s totally possible! One theory some physicists believe in is that there are infinite universes. If there are infinite universes, then isn’t it possible that some of them could be the universes contained inside of books? I certainly like to believe so!
And from REWRITTEN: “Why did you make so many people get eaten?” — This line always makes me laugh because in REWRITTEN we get to see how Gertrude Winters used her novels to get literary revenge on people she was mad at by writing bad things about them. Which is something I’d NEVER do, of course….. (Okay, maybe I’ve done it once or twice…..)
Describe the character that is most like you.
If I had to choose just one character, I’d pick Gracie. Often when I was thinking about how to make her react in a certain situation, I’d think: “What would I do in this situation?” But honestly, I put bits and pieces of myself into all of my characters. Certainly, there are parts of me in Gracie’s mom, in Gertrude Winters, even in Cassandra, the villain (not that I’m proud of that). I think to successfully write any character, even the bad ones, you have to empathize with them, and in order to do that, you draw on pieces of yourself: emotions you’ve felt, things you’ve experienced…. Sometimes this even happens unintentionally. I’ve included things about myself in my stories that I didn’t even realize were based on my own life until a family member pointed it out. So sometimes this slips in subconsciously.
Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Read read read!! I don’t think anyone has any business writing books unless they love to read them. I teach creative writing, and I can ALWAYS tell when someone doesn’t read — their stories come out sounding like episodes of a television show. When you read books, you absorb some of the rhythms of story structure, and of language, so that much of what you do as a writer becomes intuitive. (Also, reading is my absolute favorite thing in the world! I love reading even more than I love writing!)
Leave us with some wise words. What advice would you give the readers of this interview?
One of my writing teachers once said to me (I’m paraphrasing): “I’ve taught many writers over the years, and in the end, it wasn’t the ones with the most talent who ‘made it’ and published lots of books. It was the ones who worked the hardest and kept at it the longest.” Those words always stuck with me. There are so many things about writing and publishing that I can’t control. I can’t control which of my books are published, or how many copies I sell. The only thing I can control is how hard I work at it, and that I keep coming back to the page day after day and returning to the work I love. I share my teacher’s words with you in the hope that they inspire you as much as they did me!
Thank you so much for having me!!!
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Where can we buy your books?
Rewritten can be pre-ordered here.