Here's my "author" interview with myself. I think it gives you a little insight into me and my personality!
When did you realize you were born to be a writer?
I started writing when I was a kid. I even came in second in a county wide writing contest when I was a freshman in high school. (I lost to my English teacher’s son… I wanted to cry fix, but they showed me the shiny trophy and I was distracted.) When I got to college, I decided I needed to get serious and got a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Psychology, but I kept writing a few pages of fiction here and there. When I graduated, I was pretty directionless. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, so when someone commented that I would be a good college administrator, I thought, “Sure, what the heck.”
Best and worst mistake of my life. Worst because midway through my first semester, I realized I was tired of school and just wanted to be a writer. Best because I finally figured out what I wanted to do with my life and I met so many amazing people who encouraged me to follow my dreams. They continue to be the greatest cheerleaders of all time. I finished my program, came home, wrote seventeen chapters of a horrible novel, had two babies and thought this is as good as it’s going to get.
Then one day, when I was folding clothes and watching The Ellen Show. Ellen was interviewing Stephanie Meyer about Twilight and I remember Stephanie saying she had three small kids at home and had never wanted to write a book before but she had to know how the dream ended. I thought to myself, “Hey. I only have two kids and I’ve always wanted to write a book. If she can do it, why can’t I?” That week I started writing The Partizans and within 6 months had a first draft. It was that moment, on October 3, 2009, that I knew this is what I was supposed to do with my life.
What is your current work in progress about?
The ACADA Chronicles: Book One is about Natalia Tate, , a high school senior who finds her life turned upside down when her absentee father shows up in the middle of the night demanding she take a vaccine that has never been tested, for a virus no one has ever heard of and he won’t tell her why.
Before he leaves, Natalia’s father gives her two things: a packet of plans for her to follow to prepare for the impending medical disaster and an extra vial of the vaccine for her boyfriend, Josh. But when Josh refuses the vaccine, questioning her father’s mental stability, Natalia begins to have doubts of her own. That is until reports of flu-like outbreaks become the leading story on the evening news. Unable to ignore her father’s warning any longer, Natalia begins preparing for the end of the world as she knows it. But even in the midst of sealing up the refurbished firehouse she shares with her mother and stocking up on food, she can’t help but wonder if life after the virus is still going to be worth living.
What inspired you to write The ACADA Chronicles?
I was talking with my friend Jessica about the Hunger Games. She said she wasn’t sure if she really liked it, to which I replied I needed to re-evaluate our friendship. (Turns out I could overlook that one flaw.) We got to talking about why she didn’t like it and she said she couldn’t imagine how the world could get so bad that children would be sent into a fight for the death for entertainment. I thought about that for a while and decided someone should write a series that takes the reader one hundred years into the future, in thirteen to sixteen year increments, showing how a cataclysmic event can start a chain reaction leading up to a total breakdown of social and moral law, replacing it with a centralized power dictating the coming and goings of its citizens. Then I thought, “Wait, maybe I can write that.” And that’s what I’m doing.
Who are your favorite authors?
Wow. You know that’s a common writer question, but when you have to answer it, it can be tough. I would have to start with Lurlene McDaniel. She was the first author who kept me reading well into the early morning. Then Marcus Sakey who is not only my first author mentor, but a genius at building suspense into a grocery list; Kelsey Timmerman, who has changed the way I look at sweat shops and underwear; and Veronica Roth, who writes books I wish I had thought of.
What are your top three favorite books?
The Stand by Stephen King, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. It’s a diverse group, but in their own ways, they have all inspired me to be the writer I am becoming.
Do you outline?
Yes and no. I use Blake Synder’s 15 Beats and set up what the pivotal moments in the plot will be. How I get from one point to another is a complete mystery. I tried outlining the first horrible seventeen chapters of a novel that was destined for manila envelope hell and ended up with 2-D characters that I didn’t even like. I realized I have to allow my characters to grow into themselves and a lot of times they don’t behave the way I think they should. So now I give them freedom, with a few constraints.
What is your writing routine?
I need to get one! I try to write in the evening for about four hours, edit all weekend and then slip in reading in the afternoon. One of my munchkins is still home with me half a day, so I hope next year will allow me to write full time during the day. So I guess the answer to this question is I’ll get back to you next September.
Do you have any quirky habits when you write?
I hate to admit it, but I have several. First, I can not write without coffee. I prefer to write in a public place, like Starbucks where I can constantly feed my addiction. I always start my writing session out with the same song: Extraordinary by Mandy Moore. It's my mantra song right now. Occassionaly I change up songs. I have a playlist for each of my characters and I play that while I'm writing scenes from their POV. Since ACADA is written in first person, I'm really glad my MC likes the same music I do!
What is your favorite thing about writing?
Talking to other writers! Writing a book is a solitary task and I am a people person, so sometimes it’s hard for me to stay focused on the work when I want to be on the social network sites. I’ve found conferences give me the right balance of learning my craft and commiserating with my people.
What is your least favorite thing?
The amount of time I sacrifice with my family. I love my kids and husband like crazy, but in order to pursue my dreams, sometimes I have to let Netflix babysit my kids. I try to make time for them daily, but if I were completely honest, this is worse than any rejection I could get. But we make up for it as often as we can and I think teaching my kids the power of passion is part of my job as a parent. (Say that five times fast!)
If the author could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I think it would be Maureen Johnson, 13 Blue Envelopes. I follow her on twitter and in addition to being a talented writer, she’s freaking hilarious. Seriously, if you don’t follow her, you should. I just want a chance to see her mind working in person!
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
It’s so simple, but it has to be said. Don’t dream about writing. WRITE. (And then edit. A lot!)