How long have you been writing?
I wrote my first story when I was in sixth grade. It’s also the year I got my first diary and started logging every experience and feeling as if the memories would disappear if I didn’t catalog them.
What made you want to become a writer?
I had an inkling that I wanted to be an author before I hit double digits. Shortly after I turned eleven, my grandma—who was working on her autobiography at the time—took me to my first writers’ group meeting.
In my tween and teen years, I started dozens of stories but hadn’t figured out how to push through and finish them. Then, my senior year of high school, I took a broadcasting class and fell in love with journalism. That propelled me to get a degree in Broadcast Communication from Washington State University. I spent several years as a television news reporter before switching gears to work in print news as the editor of a business publication.
While I enjoyed writing news stories, the pull of fiction kept tugging me back. And, little by little, I chipped away at a novel that was more cathartic than anything. It took me about two years to complete, and while that practice manuscript will never see the light of day, it was significant. I’d crossed the finish line. I knew I could write a novel through to The End.
I haven’t stopped writing since.
Where do you get your ideas?
Everywhere. Literally. I can be waiting in line at the DMV or running on the treadmill or talking to a friend. Something will pop in my head—triggered by a scene or a word or just a random thought—and my mind will start pulling the idea together.
I have a list of story ideas on a bulletin board in my office. Some are more developed while others are just a few lines/notes that I hope will turn into something great.
How do you pick your characters?
I believe the characters actually pick me. They’re sort of fuzzy at first, like I’m looking at them through a dirty lens. That prompts me to start thumbing through magazines or websites, searching for images that look vaguely like the blurry picture in my head. When I find the one(s) I’m searching for, it clicks as if I’ve found a long-lost friend. I study their face, their expression, their eyes. I imagine their voice. The way they walk. A character’s personality sometimes surprises me. I like it best when they fight for center stage.
How long does it take you to write a novel?
That depends. Sometimes years, sometimes months. Never weeks. I’m simply not that fast. To be honest, it annoys me how slow I can be.
My first novel took me two years, the next took three months. The one after that, six months. The one I’m working on right now took me at least four months, but the rewrites have tacked on another six (and I’m still going).
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Unfortunately, I’m a terrible plotter. I try, but my characters never want to listen. They make unexpected choices that skew the storyline. They say things that change the tone. And the ripple effect from one character can throw my entire outline out the window. Flying by the seat of my pants is thrilling. The writing feels organic. I think I’m addicted to it. The story surprises me in unexpected ways. But the pain of revising because I’ve created serious plot holes is like coming down from a high. Each time I start a new novel, I tell myself to plot better. To stick to the outline. I have yet to do so.
Do you ever get writer’s block?
Sometimes I can’t get out of a scene, but in most cases (99% of the time) it’s because I don’t want to kill my darlings. I get so caught up in keeping a section or a line, I can’t move forward. I find that if I open a separate word document and paste parts I need to cut—for possible use later in the story—it helps me move on. Truth be told, I rarely use the parts I carve out, but that little trick at least helps me break through so I can keep writing.
How did you get your agent?
I have to credit one of my critique partners for that. She convinced me to participate in #RTSlap, a Twitter pitch event I hadn’t planned on entering. I was full of coffee and optimism, so I sent one pitch out into the Twitterverse and called it good. Later that night, I checked my account and saw an agent had favorited my tweet. Eureka!
That favorite meant I needed to send my query and first 10 pages off, and I was elated when that partial quickly turned into a full. Not long after that, I received an email from the agent that she wanted to talk about representation!
What’s your favorite book?
There are so many to choose from! Some of my favorites include but are not limited to: the Unwind series and Skinjackers trilogy by Neal Shusterman, the Quarantine series by Lex Thomas, The Rose Society and Legend series by Marie Lu, The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, Candor by Pam Bachorz, Spin and Arranged by Catherine McKenzie, A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini—I could go on forever!