1) How long have you been a member of SCBWI? What’s the most impactful thing you have learned from being in SCBWI?
I’ve been a member of SCBWI for so long! I think I’ve been a member since the late 1990s.
The most impactful thing I’ve learned from SCBWI happened when I attended my first SCBWI National Conference and Norma Fox Mazer was a keynote speaker. Back then, I knew I *wanted* to write a novel, but something held me back. There was a lot of starting and stopping. Norma talked about her “fedora method” of pulling down a hat over her eyes while she wrote to block out that pesky internal editor. I went home and started writing what became my first published novel, Unexpected Development, which is now out of print. That one talk changed my life. And I wrote Norma an email to let her know how much she’d helped me and to my surprise, I heard back from her. She died shortly afterwards, and I was so happy that I’d been able to thank the person who had been so influential.
2) What genres do you write in?
I write in multiple genres. If I read it, I’m either already writing in it or I want to. My published work, however, is mostly in contemporary teen romance, teen paranormal mystery, and urban fantasy. I’m a mood reader and have also found that I’m a mood writer. My most recent published works are a teen vampire trilogy with Entangled Teen: The Afterlife of the Party, I’m with the Banned, and A Sucker for You.
3) What is your writing process like?
My writing process might go against conventional wisdom, but I write when I can. I don’t require a lot of lead up or candles or quiet or a huge block of time to do it. I try to make sure I write every day or at least make space in my life to have at least a block of time every day, but if it doesn’t happen, I don’t beat myself up about it.
Part of my writing process is creating a soundtrack/playlist for my work in progress. I usually listen to it when I first sit down to write. It helps to put me into the emotional world of my characters. I’ve found, though, that the process isn’t the same for every book. In fact, it’s rarely the same, except for the part where I have (hopefully) a finished novel at the end. I’m always looking for novel writing craft tips, but I’ve learned that what works for one writer might not work for another. It’s not a one size fits all solution. Publishing is an ever-changing, difficult business and there is a certain amount of luck involved. The trick is to be ready when that luck comes along.
If I’m under contract, I am much more deliberate in my writing plans because people are relying on me and I do everything I can to turn in a book on time. Publishing is a business and I try to hit every deadline, but sometimes, life does happen.
I do have a neat little accountability trick for first drafts. I use an Excel spreadsheet to track my word count progress. And for me, progress not perfection is the key to a first draft, so a spreadsheet really helps me to see that I’ve actually made some progress every week.
4) How long have you been writing? How did you first get into writing for children?
I’ve been writing since I was assigned a journal-writing unit in elementary school. I think there are a lot of people who helped me on the journey to becoming a writer, including my hometown librarians.
I first got into writing for children because of a bookstore. I used to work at a university and my office was in the same building as the beloved children’s bookstore A Whale of a Tale. I would spend my lunch hour (and a hefty portion of my salary) at the bookstore. I still clearly remember gulping nervously before telling the owner, Alex Uhl, that I was writing my first novel. Support your local bookstores!
5) Did you go to school for writing or take classes?
I took writing classes and I still attend classes, webinars, and conferences whenever I can.
6) Do you have a dedicated writing space?
I do have a dedicated writing space, but I also like to get out of the house sometimes and write at bookstores, cafes, or even at the beach.
7) Are you working on any fun projects now?
I am working on three fun projects. The first project is my first adult mystery, which is at the end of the first draft stage, the second project is an adult romance, and the third is a tween collaboration with another children’s author.
8) Do you illustrate as well or have any plans to do so?
I don’t illustrate, but Priscilla Burris is my favorite illustrator. If I ever published a picture book or early reader, she would be my dream illustrator.
9) Any tips for writers that are starting out?
My tips for writers that are starting out is to find a way to carve out time for your craft, be ready when an opportunity arises, and realize that rejection, although it feels personal, is just part of the business. Don’t get me wrong, I still want to cry when I hear a no, but I don’t let it stop me from continuing to write and submit.
10) Do you currently have an agent? If so, how did you end up with that agent?
My agent is Stephen Barbara at Inkwell Management. He’s been my agent since 2006 and I cold queried him originally. Then two months later, he sold the first three books in my Dead Is series at auction.
11) List 3 to 5 interesting things about yourself.
1) I’m the youngest of twelve children
2) I have identical twin daughters (and boy, do the books and movies usually get the twin stuff wrong!)
3) My eyes are green and only 2% of the population have green eyes (at least according to Google.)
12) Where can people find you?