My first YA novel was THE FUNERAL SINGER. I had been writing middle grade, and I was at a children's book writing conference in the Pocono Mountains one weekend where T.A. Barron, author of the Merlin series, was a keynote speaker. He made an offhand comment that kids today have a screwy idea of what it means to be a hero. That remark really resonated with me, and on the four-hour drive home from the conference, I decided I wanted to write a book based on that theme.
Was there a specific book or author that made you think - I could write like that?
I love YA. About 90 percent of what I read is YA and I honestly think it's some of the best literature out there, but I can't say I've ever tried to emulate any author. Part of me WISHES I could write like Ruta Sepetys, because she writes so beautifully and with such lyrical language, but ultimately, my style, my voice is mine, and that's how it should be.
How long did it take for you to write the first book? Was it harder or easier to write your second book?
It took more than four years to write and revise (and revise and revise) my first book. Each book since then has taken about eighteen months. So I learned a lot, and in some ways, it has gotten easier, but each book has its own challenges.
Are you active in any writing critique groups?
I have been in several critique groups in the past and highly recommend them. Now, though, I simply don't have the time to spend doing extensive critiques. I do have a critique partner, but she and I tend to share our work when it is "almost ready," meaning we are mostly looking for final edits--the kinds of things a writer simply can't see when she is too close to a piece.
What makes for a good YA romance novel? How do you get into the mindset?
For me, a good YA romance novel starts with a great character--someone whose life and motivations extend well beyond the romance story line, so that the romance ultimately complements that. And of course, you need a swoony boy! Writing YA romance is the most natural thing in the world for me, because I remember very vividly what it was like to be a teenager and to have those teen crushes and heartbreaks, and the awkward kisses and the awesome kisses, and all of those "first" experiences that make for such great stories.
How did you go about finding a publisher?
How do you write? Do you do an outline first? Do you do individual character development before doing the full plot?
Before starting to write, I tend to have a general story arc in mind--a beginning place for my character, an ending place, and a few major scene ideas, including the climax. Other than that, I make it up as I go along. The creative process is such a mystery and a wonder to me.
What do you know now about writing/publishing now that you wished you had known sooner?
I am a joiner/researcher/learner by nature, so very early on in my writing career, I was on all the message boards and belonged to a lot of writing groups and went to many classes and workshops and conferences, so I knew quite a lot about what to expect of the publishing business by the time my first novel was written. Of course, since then, much of it has changed!
What is the best advice you've been given about writing or that you've learned that you would like to pass along?
Celebrate every victory. This business is so full of rejection and heartache, we as writers have to make it a point to celebrate the good parts. And while sometimes those good parts are contracts or release dates or positive reviews or hitting bestseller lists or any number of things that fall outside of our control, those good parts also can be the steps we take and can control along our writing journey. A chapter completed. A fun bit of dialogue. A perfect simile. Celebrate all of it.
What other works do you have in the process?
My third YA romance, THE BOYFRIEND WHISPERER, came out in November. I am now working on a sequel, THE BOYFRIEND WHISPERER 2.0. It's my first time writing a sequel, and I'm having lots of fun with it.
Are there any writing points you’d like to cover?
We live in such an amazing time, when we can connect so easily with other writers and with readers. I am so grateful to the many friends I have made in the YA community, and I just want to advise people that you never know where those connections might lead.