1. What are you working on right now?
Right now, I’m in the middle of edits for my debut YA contemporary novel, TWELVE STEPS (coming 25 March 2014 from Swoon Romance), and finishing up revisions on my upper middle grade novel, LETTERS FROM HEAVEN.
In TWELVE STEPS, sixteen-year-old Andi knows she could be better than her sister, Laina, if people only gave her a chance. But when Andi's crush asks her to fix him up with her sister, she decides to stop waiting. The only chances she'll get are those she takes for herself. Andi devises a twelve-step program to wrangle the spotlight away from Laina and make it her own.
LETTERS FROM HEAVEN is about thirteen-year-old Missy Tuttle, whose mother dies from a brain tumor. Dad starts dating again (way too soon), her best friends have gone AWOL, and Missy has no one to turn to. But then a letter arrives, signed “Love, Mom.” When the letters keep coming, referencing events Mom couldn’t possibly have predicted, Missy realizes she’s receiving actual letters from heaven.
2. How does it differ from other works in its genre?
I’ve noticed, in a lot of middle grade and young adult novels, the parents are absent or basically invisible. LETTERS FROM HEAVEN centers around Missy’s changing relationships with her family and friends, in the wake of her mother’s death. Although it’s definitely the story of Missy’s journey, her parents are not absent. In fact, her mother is a strong presence throughout the pages of the novel. In TWELVE STEPS, Andi’s story also centers around her family relationships. (Specifically, it’s the story of her relationship with her sister, but Andi’s parents are definitely a part of her life.)
I grew up in a large, close-knit family, and my mom and dad were “the cool parents,” not because they let me get away with whatever I wanted, but because they were fun to spend time with, even though they expected me to follow the rules. Those close family ties are reflected in all of my novels.
3. Why do you write what you do?
I write stories in a wide range of genres. From YA contemporary romance (my debut novel, TWELVE STEPS comes out in March 2014) to MG contemporary w/ a hint of magic (LETTERS FROM HEAVEN) to my fantasy picture books to the knitting how-to book I’m working on. But everything I write has one common theme: Finding beauty in unexpected places and looking beyond the surface to find hidden potential.
4. How does your writing process work?
I’ve noticed that my writing process is different for everything I’ve ever written.
My first (still unpublished) novel was written almost as diary entries. Over the course of 3 weeks, I poured that first draft onto the page as if I was my main character… and I ended up with a full first draft with well-defined characters and lots of interesting events, but no real plot to tie the whole story together. I typed up my hand-written pages, printed it all out and literally cut and pasted scenes, moving things around until the plot emerged. (That’s when the real work of revising began!)
LETTERS FROM HEAVEN came in bits and snatches over the course of three years. It’s the most personal, and emotional, story I’ve ever written, and it took a lot out of me. Whenever a scene got too difficult to write, I’d simply skip over it. Instead of writing the full draft at once, I wrote it in layers, adding in the scenes I’d skipped and filling in gaping plot holes with each revision, until the full story had evolved on the page.
For TWELVE STEPS, I had to write an outline. I’m usually a “pantser” when I pick up my story pencils (writing “by the seat of my pants” instead of plotting out the details in advance), but Andi is a planner and a list-maker. In order to get into her head and find her voice, I had to step into the unfamiliar organizational territory of outlining.
And my latest, super-secret work-in-progress is coming in bits and snatches of conversations first. I’ll fill in the details once I get the story down in dialogue form. J
The only consistent element in all of my manuscripts is that my first drafts are always written by hand on plain, spiral-bound notebooks, with special pencils that I started collecting in third grade, specifically for this purpose. (I bought a bunch of pretty pencils from the school store and announced to my entire class that I wasn’t going to sharpen them until I was ready to write my first published novel. And when I finally sharpened them a few years ago, I knew I was ready to get serious about my writing.)
Look for these authors and their answers next week: