When I was in middle school and high school, my best friend Jane and I would take turns writing sections of a story, back and forth, until we had exhausted our creative energy. Writing with a partner like that inspired me to want to write better. Later, when I was in college, I enjoyed writing short stories - I fancied myself a female Stephen King - and would send them out to Seventeen and other teen/young adult magazines. I was so certain I would be published if only the editors would read my work!
What audience did you have in mind for your career as a writer – adult or children?
I did not set out to write YA fiction. I simply wrote the stories I wanted to tell and my agent said, “These could be young adult” and that’s how we sold them. I was kind of surprised that my stories were suitable for younger audiences because I was not aware of the amazing literature that is available for teens these days. I was remembering teen bookshelves filled with Sweet Valley High and Judy Blume novels. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the YA universe has become both vast and exciting! Now I’m very proud to be a YA author.
If you didn’t write as a child, then when did you start writing and what inspired you to start?
I became more serious about writing when I attended graduate school. I studied screenwriting as part of the graduate film program at Boston University and fell in love with writing all over again. The three act structure of screenplays was tremendously helpful to me when I turned to novels.
When was it published?
My first novel, LOVE, MEG was not the first novel I wrote but it was the first one that sold (sometimes you have to write a lot of stories before you write the one that other people will like). It was published last July, nearly 2 years after it was purchased and after a year of revisions with my editor. ALL ABOUT VEE was the first novel I wrote but will be published second, in April 2008.
What are the topics are some of your books?
There are a few common elements to the two novels that have been sold: teen girls who leave their homes, travel great distances to discover themselves, and ultimately, learn to accept the shortcomings of their families. Each book also contains lots of Hollywood and celebrity references (Meg writes to Jennifer Aniston, Veronica wants to be an actress) because I love to write about movies and television.
What kinds of things inspire you to write?
I become inspired by all that surrounds me: movies, television, books, Internet. I especially love to listen to people talk because it helps me imagine my characters’ voices. Sometimes I will see or hear someone on the street or in the store and think, “Yes, that’s it! That’s my character!” To get into the heads and backgrounds of characters, I spend a lot of time in my own brain, remembering all the things I did in high school: classes, friends, sports, parties, learning to drive.
Where do you get your ideas?
The idea for LOVE, MEG came when I was in Burbank, sitting in traffic, and looking up at a giant billboard with the cast of “Friends,” which was one of my favorite shows. And I wondered to myself, how could I become a friend of someone like Jennifer Aniston? Was it even possible? For ALL ABOUT VEE, shortly after I moved here, I saw an overweight woman standing on a corner in Beverly Hills and I thought, “Wow, I’ve never seen a heavy person in this town.” I began to wonder what it must be like to be an overweight actress - but an excellent one - in a town obsessed with looks. Then I realized that everyone in LA feels like they are fat - even women who are size 2!
How did your life change when you got married? Did it make it easier or harder to find time to write?
My husband believed in my writing from the moment I met him, so I have been very lucky in that regard. He has always been extremely supportive of my work, whether it was writing screenplays or novels, and was convinced I would be published one day. His confidence buoys me when I feel mine wane. It’s like having a silent writing partner.
Do you enjoy researching or do you prefer working totally from your imagination?
I try not to do too much research because then I will become bogged down with details. Plus I love to read and will use that research time to procrastinate. Most of the time, I will write as close to the facts as possible and then look up things I need to, things I can’t make up.
Do you work on more than one book at a time?
Because I get so focused on my characters, getting into their heads and hearing their voices, I find it hard to work on more than one new project at a time. I prefer to write original material - like an entire first draft of a novel - while I am rewriting something else. That seems to allow me to use both halves of my brain: the logical side and the creative side.
Do you write every day and do you have set hours that you work?
Yes, I write every day. I prefer the morning for new material and the afternoon for rewriting.
What other jobs you had before you became a writer/illustrator?
I had two very cool, very unusual jobs in my life before I became a published author: I was a script supervisor on films and television commercials in New York City and a broadcast standards and practices editor for The WB here in LA.