TGIM! I thought that Monday would be a good day for some Reader Q&A. I like to answer questions here on my blog if they’re not too personal for the reader and I think you guys might be interested in them. Like these:
What is your favorite part about writing? – Raanan
Interacting with my readers is the best part! When I’m writing a new book, I try to write the kind of story that I would have wanted to read as a teen. But writing is a mostly solitary job, so the only way to know if people are liking my books is by hearing from readers. My ultimate goal is to write books that can help my readers feel less alone. If my readers feel better about life or connect with my characters in some meaningful way or can maybe even look at their own problems from a new perspective, then I’m doing my job. I love getting to talk with readers in person. Meeting all of the very important people who encourage kids to read is a joy as well – teachers, librarians, booksellers, and other mentors all rock.
Regarding the writing process, my favorite part is completing the first draft of a new book. At that point, I have something tangible with which to move forward. Right now I’m writing my fifth book and I have to say, it’s a bit scary! Even though I have an outline (which is constantly evolving as my characters reveal more of themselves to me) and I’m super excited about the plot, I worry that what I’m writing isn’t good enough. Once the first draft of a book is done, I’m relieved that I can begin to shape the story into the best book possible.
How long did it take you to write your books? – Ali
Each subsequent book seems to be taking less time to write. When It Happens took a really long time to complete. Back then, I was mostly writing on weekends and vacays. The original manuscript was submitted in 2001 and the book was published in 2006. There were tons of problems with the manuscript! It went through about nine revisions. Take Me There had maybe four revisions and took about two years to write. Now that I’m a full-time author, I can write a first draft in a few months. Waiting for You and Something Like Fate each had about three revisions. I hope this means that I’m improving as a writer. As I learn more about the writing process, I try to avoid making the same mistakes twice. This is a challenge since I make a lot of mistakes!
Do some of your characters reflect some of your characteristics? – Eden
They do. Sara from When It Happens is very close to me for that reason. I think a first book tends to be the most autobiographical. That’s the book you pour all of the emotions and observations you’ve been storing up into, so my first book was inspired by several of my own experiences. Sara is sensitive, artistic, and longing for a better life – all parts of the person I was at her age. However, I usually like to write about characters with traits that I wish I had. For example, I don’t like being tall. So the main character in Something Like Fate is tiny and very pretty, sort of like Rachel Bilson. She can wear all these cute little sun dresses that I can’t. I’m jealous.
You said you started the author dream around 16. I was wondering if you were always a good writer or if you just started to write after that point? –
I’ve always been a writer. My first story, “The Carrot and the Rabbit,” holds a special place in my scrapbook. There are other random things I remember, like my 8th grade English teacher reading my creative writing sample in front of the class. I wrote part of a sequel to The Outsiders in 7th grade. That was the most horrid fan fiction ever. And I did some standard writer stuff like editing the literary magazine. Writing has always been a big part of who I am on many different levels. I’ve always been a passionate reader. These two things are strongly connected. I don’t think it’s possible to be a good writer without being a reader. So my reading obsession definitely improved my writing.
I’ve been getting lots of email lately from aspiring writers asking for advice. You can find some on the Q&A page of my website and in my Q&A blog tag. Bottom line: Never give up.