Did you always want to be an author?
I wanted to be a LOT of things growing up…a vet, an actress, a scientist, a make-up artist, a designer, a dancer…but writing is something I LOVED to do. English was a no-brainer. Essays? ADORED them. Book reports? BRING it. Calculus? Um, oh, just no. Throughout my studies, I usually had a creative writing outlet, whether it was a class, a journal or stories that I wrote and shared with my friends, or kept private – I always had something brewing. So I suppose the short answer to that question is…YES.
Why do you write for young adults?
You know that inner child everyone is supposed to have? Well, mine is sixteen. I’ve tried my hand at different genres but my voice always led me back to young adult. I love that it’s such an emotionally charged part of life. Everything is new. Everything is epic.
Where do your ideas come from?
Everywhere. The recipe for my ideas would read something like this: A little bit of personal experience…tossed in with a LOT of imagination…some occasional hard-boiled (a.k.a. fun) research…and an awful lot of staring into space.
What’s your typical writing day like?
One of the best things about writing is that there is no such thing as a typical day. When I’m in first draft mode…I tend to dawdle. I get really impatient and easily distracted – ooh, sale at Old Navy?...see ya!...but when I get in a groove I try and finish several chapters a week. If I give myself a specific word count, I rebel. So I give myself personal deadlines and rewards. Shoes and spa treatments are good. Chocolate even better.
Revision is an entirely different animal. I forgo a lot of creature comforts during revision. I go awhile between haircuts. I wear the same thing. I usually revise in a different room too. I don’t know why. It feels like it helps.
Revision on deadline is, well, intense. I tend to eat bad food. Skip exercising. Walk around muttering to myself. Sleep with my story close by. And try really hard not to alienate those around me or look like a crazy person.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Shhh!! (knocks wood) Sometimes. If I ever feel blocked I try and figure out why. Sometimes it means I’m overthinking or tried to do too much too soon. I switch gears, listen to my muse and play hooky for a day or so.
Who is this muse you speak of?
I know The Muses are these, like, Greek goddesses, but my muse sort of pops up as a laid-back surfer dude. And he likes to goof off. A LOT. And no, he’s not real to anyone but me, so I can’t introduce you but he says “Hey, s’up?”
Plotter or Panster?
Both? I usually work out a rough outline for a book, but as I’m writing if a character or scene decides to take a different direction I go with it. Usually after a first draft, I outline again because I have a better idea of where I want to go and what I’m trying to say.
Critique group or lone wolf?
CRITIQUE GROUP! Or critique partner. Writing is such a lonely endeavor and you can honestly become a little, um, squirrely if left alone with your imaginary friends too long. Reclusive, eccentric, bestselling authors can get away with this, but it’s important to have some writer buds. You know those friends who will hold your hair back when you puke or lie and say you’re staying over their house when you’re not? Yeah, they got nuthin’ on writer buds. I can safely say I wouldn’t be sitting here, typing this, if I hadn’t been in a critique group. My writer buds have been there to network, cheer me on and talk me off the ledge of “I quit” more than several times. Oh, and they point out plot holes too, which is all kinds of nifty. Just don’t expect them to figure out how to split the dinner check. Then it’s every writer for him/herself!!
Agent or no agent?
Agent! Agents do more than sell your manuscript for you. They advise. They nurture. They deal with your neurotic questions. They are your liaison with your publishing house and make sense of confusing contract terms. Oh, and they are awfully nice too.
How did you land your agent?
I connected with my agent through the 2009 Get Your Stiletto in The Door contest run by ChickLitWriters.com. Getting an agent wasn’t the prize in the contest (that was a $50.00 Amazon gift card!!) but I knew my manuscript would be exposed to people who could help me. It was like getting a golden ticket to Hollywood Week on American Idol! Not only did I win but my agent was one of the judges for my category and requested a full when the contest was over. I revised the manuscript according to her feedback before sending it back and two weeks later had an offer of representation. That contest changed my life.
Do you wear stilettos?
I wish. More of a flip-flop, strappy sandal, TOMS sort of chick. But they are sooooo pretty!!!
Any advice to give aspiring writers?
Write. Write. And write some more. As cliché as it sounds…believe in yourself and your ability. Read, read and read some more. Study your genre but also read for fun!! Join a writing organization. It’s a great source of contacts. Go to conferences, sit down, talk to the person next to you. Find someone other than your family to read your work. It might take a lot of trial and error but you will find The One (or the ones). Query. Don’t take rejections personally. At all. Even if sometimes it feels personal. And be persistent!! Oh, and make sure you go out and goof off now and again. Get some sun in your eyes. Floss. Splurge on a good office chair. And a rhinestone studded stapler. You know, just because.