When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I grew up across the street from an old library with English architecture – beautiful red brick and Bedford stone. I loved nothing more than walking under its high beamed ceilings, searching the shelves for books, and taking them home to get lost in the pages and experience the characters’ lives. I can’t remember a time that I didn’t want to do for others what those authors did for me. Though, I must confess, my first attempt at writing resulted in blatant plagiarism. My book was handwritten on graph paper and was entitled, The Night Before Christmas.
When and where do you write?
I write best while my kids are at school. During the summer, I have to get creative, writing very early in the morning (like 6:00ish), or during my kids’ nap time. The most important aspect of these times happens to be that my children aren’t underfoot, which means my world is quiet. Really, though, I write whenever and wherever I can. With two small children, I don’t have time to waste. I have a super-awesome MacBook Air, which gives me the ability to work more efficiently. My writing locations vary from my home office to the couch or my patio. I have worked in bookstores, Dorothy Lane Market, and outside under a tree.
Where do you get your ideas?
My ideas come from all sorts of places. The inspiration for The Tension of Opposites came from an interview Oprah had with a young man and his parents after he returned from a four-year abduction. One Moment was inspired after my publisher rejected my first idea for my second book, saying they preferred I follow The Tension of Opposites with something darker. Frustrated, I decided to kill off a character in the first chapter – that’s dark, right? – and the ideas just started to flow. I draw from every experience I have ever had and every person I have ever met. Some authors talk about a dream bringing them an entire book in some brilliant flash of subconscious creativity. I am still waiting for that kind of epiphany to strike me!
What is your favorite thing about writing?
When my characters start talking to me and the scenes unfold like a movie. When I just have to sit down and write or I’ll explode.
What is your least favorite thing about writing?
Struggling through a scene that isn’t quite ready to be written – but I’m a firm believer of writing through writer’s block. If I don’t have anything to work with, I can’t make it better.
What is your best advice for other writers?
Read. Write. And then do both some more. Research your genre. Figure out what’s top notch and how you can get your writing up to that standard. And if you want to be published, study that side of the game even more. Research agents and don’t give up until you find one. Rejection can be difficult, but let it fuel your fire instead of putting it out.
Explain your “almost” kidnapping.
One day when I was three or so, my mother and I returned home from some random excursion to find a man in our garage. Those were the days when people didn’t have remote garage door openers, so he was easily able to break in and wait. When my mother lifted the garage door and found him there, he took her inside and ransacked our house. I was left in the driveway, in the car, by myself. At some point during the burglary, the intruder lost the keys to the stolen car he had parked in our garage. He then decided to take our car. Which I was still in. As he got into the driver’s seat, my mother pleaded with him to leave me behind. I doubt he ever planned to take me, so “kidnapping” is a strong term compared to the other stories we hear about in the news. However, if my mother hadn’t insisted, I could easily have been taken that day. This story has been with me all of my life. My biggest fear has always been being kidnapped or facing an intruder.
Describe your journey to becoming published.
Oh, dear. This could be long! When I had my first child in 2005, I decided to quit teaching after eight wonderful years as a high school English teacher in Springboro, Ohio. I spent the next three years writing and researching (agents as well as the young adult genre). After two books and a depressingly large stack of rejections, I was offered representation by Alyssa Eisner Henkin with Trident Media Group. I had just landed my dream agent! After a lengthy revision process, Alyssa pitched my book to ten editors. I received three offers within three weeks! Eeks! In July, I accepted a two-book deal with Egmont USA.
For more on my journey to publication, check out my blog series, One YA Author’s Journey to Publication