2018 was a FANTASTIC reading year for me! Here are…
Introduction: About You
3 Little Known or Interesting Things About You
1. I am a registered nurse with experience in spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury
2. I have a very clear line on my neck and chest where I only have freckles on one side.
3. I freaking love SCIENCE! I majored in Biology (emphasis on the tiny things: cells, microbiology, virology, immunology)
Hogwarts House and/or Camp Halfblood Cabin (If you have not been sorted or if you have not taken a quiz, I have linked them for you.)
For some crazy reason I’d never taken this quiz before but I just did and I am a RAVENCLAW…to no one’s surprise!
If you or one of your books was the answer on jeopardy, what do you imagine/wish the question would be?
A middle grade novel set in southern New Mexico which has a hidden family pedigree for a “magical” mitochondrial inheritance pattern that can be solved alongside the novel. (Told you! Science-geek!)
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I will use something called binaural beats to get myself focused. I tend to get interrupted a lot (2 kids!) or distracted, so when I know I need to sit down and focus or if I know I won’t get a lot of time to get something done, I’ll put binaural beats on and my headphones and it will get me laser-focused to get my work done. I had a doctor I used to work with tell me about using these frequencies in the background behind music or working out or studying and decided to give it a try. You have to listen for 3-4 minutes and use headphones because of the different frequencies in the left/right sides, but it works to get me ultra focused.
What is the first book that made you cry?
TUCK EVERLASTING. Spoilers ahead. I remember when reading it in 5th grade, the ending really got to me. I couldn’t believe that Winnie didn’t drink from the spring and had died. I was so upset that she didn’t choose to drink from the spring. I have recently re-read it and it still made me cry, but for a different reason entirely. This time I was crying for Tuck’s reaction to seeing Winnie’s grave and knowing he would never get what he wanted most, death. And I also cried that they had just missed seeing one another again by just a few years. It’s astounding and wonderful to me that the same book can make me cry in a different way all these years later.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
BOTH! When I am fast-drafting a zero draft I am super energized and excited, my fingers usually can’t keep up with my brain and my drafts are full of half fleshed-out ideas and typos. On the cusp of revision, I am usually exhausted and already weary about the realization of the work it is going to take to get the manuscript to the place I want.
About Your Books
Tell us about your book(s)-length of time it took to write, journey, publishing, release dates, etc.
In writing my debut, INTO THE TALL, TALL GRASS, I sat on my toddler’s floor (now she’s 6!) every night in an attempt to keep her in her bed and wrote the zero draft. I can’t remember how long it took me, but I do remember I had a lot of false starts. I then got pregnant with my second child and I had no brain energy to write and I was sure this whole writing thing was a fluke. But about six weeks after I had her in the beginning of 2017, I started back in with the goal of querying by the end of summer. But two kids is a lot and while I made progress, the manuscript wasn’t ready. My new goal was to get it ready by the end of the year and to start 2018 with it being ready for querying. I made that goal. By early 2018 I was querying and the rejections were rolling in. But so were some requests, so I knew I had something there. In February I queried Kristy Hunter with The Knight Agency and she responded immediately asking for more pages. I sent those and she got back to me pretty soon after and wanted to talk.
We spoke on the phone (I was a nervous wreck!), and she was so enthusiastic about my project and totally got what I was trying to accomplish with my manuscript. We talked for a long time and I felt like her general positive outlook and enthusiasm would be a great fit for my tendancy toward cynicism. I signed with her and we did two rounds of revisions. Then went out on submission during the dreaded SUMMER!!!! Everyone says submission is the worst and it pretty much is. I thought I would be able to withstand the dread, but it is long and painful and you never know when your inbox is going to ding with that dreaded rejection. But after a few weeks, I had some rejections and then an R&R! I was eager to get started on the R&R, but I wasn’t sure how to incorporate the notes and it was hard to focus. But, two weeks later, in August (the dead of summer people!), editor Karen Wotjyla with Margaret K. McElderry books offered on it. Her vision was exactly in line with what I was trying to do and her vision matched mine. She was the one who was able to help me get INTO THE TALL, TALL GRASS from the vision I had in my head onto the page. It was a match made in heaven. The contract was signed in Sept 2018 with a release date of April 7th, 2020.
Favorite line or quote from one of your books.
This one comes from the beginning and it’s about how different the protagonist, Yolanda and her sister Sonja deal with questions they get about being twins. It really shows the differences between the girls and gives you a good look at their differing personalities. It also is an original line that made it through all the revisions and edits!
“How they could be twins puzzled nearly everyone they met. Twins? But you look nothing alike, people would say. Sonja, the more patient one, would take a few moments to explain the difference between identical and fraternal twins, while Yolanda would roll her eyes, incredulous that people could be so uninformed about basic human reproduction.”
Describe the character that is most like you.
All of my characters have a little bit of me in them (it would be impossible if they didn’t!), and my family will definitely say I was a bit cranky as a kid…so that makes me most like my main character, Yolanda. She protects herself by pushing others away, and I can definitely relate to doing that. But through growth and change, she realizes that sometimes it’s not everyone else who is the problem, but it’s you and your view of the world. I love how Yolanda changes over the course of the novel and learns that even if you believe something about yourself, that there is always the capacity for change and growth.
Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Read everything and figure out what you like and why. Figure out what works and why. The more widely you read, the more you can hear stilted dialogue or strange wording. The more plot structure enters your mind through repetition. Then sit down and write. Give yourself small attainable goals. Keep going. It’ll be messy and it’ll feel all wrong, but keep going. Eventually, the words on the page will get closer and closer to the vision in your mind.
Leave us with some wise words. What advice would you give the readers of this interview?
Don’t be afraid to try something new. I didn’t have the courage to take writing seriously until after I became a mother. I wish I would’ve had the confidence to try it when I was younger. It’s a waste of time to not pursue something you enjoy because you are afraid. Just jump on in. Even if you fail, you’ll never regret trying.
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