What’s the last thing you wrote?
For an assignment: a movie tie-in is keeping me in shape this weekend. Don’t laugh—this thing pays almost twice as much as my raise at work for the entire year, and it will take a fraction of the time to complete.
For myself, which is what really matters: Yesterday I snuck into a short story I’d last worked on a year ago and rewrote the first half, changing the distance of the voice to add some dimension. The second half will need to be rethought and entirely rewritten… haven’t started on that yet.
Was it any good?
The assignment: It may be what they want, but I wouldn’t say it’s “good.”
The story: I like what I’ve done. And I’ve had a crush on this unfinished story since the summer of 2001, but no one else who’s read the previous incarnations sees what I see in it. Yet.
What’s the first thing you wrote that you still have?
My mother kept my first attempts at writing books, scribbled out (literally) before I even started school. One is about pigeons, another about aliens. But on my hard drive the oldest pieces of writing I have are from college. I found one a few days ago that was about my trip to Japan. Reading it over, I was equally excited and trying not to cringe.
Not since college. My poems were godawful and should not be shown to anyone ever. There was once a website that had one of my poems up (without my permission, mind you) and I wrote them asking them to please take it down. I was horrified at who might see it.
See answer above.
Favorite genre of writing?
Literary fiction, hands down. What I’ve also been loving lately, though, since I sometimes get to read them at work or as a freelancer, are the edgy, angsty YA novels. The idea of what constitutes “YA” fiction has expanded in ways that never existed when I was a teenager—as a writer who often writes from the teenage perspective I find this both exciting and confusing. Sometimes I’m not sure what I’m writing or should be writing, what direction to take, what label to give myself. Some YA novels I’ve read are more literary than I realized could be done. If you want to see what I mean, check out this stunning YA novel called Feathered by Laura Kasischke (who also happens to be a literary writer and poet). It comes out this April.
Most fun character you’ve ever created?
A., a teenage runaway, sociopath, and deliciously unreliable narrator.
Most annoying character you’ve ever created?
A., a teenage runaway, sociopath, and deliciously unreliable narrator.
Best plot you’ve ever created?
I haven’t created a plot I’m fully happy with yet. This, I believe, is my weakness. Maybe once I get a handle on this, I’ll finally publish an original novel under my own name. Yes, I’m scared of plot. Let’s not talk about it, okay?
Coolest plot twist you’ve ever created?
I said I don’t want to talk about it!
How often do you get writer’s block?
I’d say every few months. I go up-up-up, then I go down-down-down.
Write fan fiction?
Do you type or write by hand?
I type—with two fingers and my thumb.
Do you save everything you write?
Yes, obsessively. I create backups and change the names of files to the date I’m working on them. One short story can have an archive folder filled with thirty or forty or (ugh) many more drafts.
Do you ever go back to an idea after you’ve abandoned it?
I don’t so much abandon ideas as let go of them because I’ve gained truckloads of doubt or lost interest. I could always go back to them one day. I am finicky and change my mind often, so you never know. Besides, sometimes an old idea can be picked up and re-purposed into an entirely new creation. I’m all for recycling.
What’s your favorite thing you’ve written?
A paragraph here and there. One is from a novel I spent five years on and put aside (note: not necessarily abandoned for good). Others are from the novel featuring the fun/annoying character I mentioned above. My current favorite paragraph is from a short story about two sisters and takes place at the reservoir my friends and I used to sneak into to go skinny-dipping as a teenager.
What’s everyone else’s favorite story that you’ve written?
Who knows. If I knew that maybe I’d have more direction.
Do you ever show people your work?
I haven’t been in a workshop in a long time. I’d like to be. Or maybe not so much a workshop but a writing group. But I do show one person everything I write: E, my best friend and love of my life. He’s a tough critic, but he also somehow sees straight to the heart of what I’m trying to accomplish with each piece. I’ve come to rely on his critiques to help me get there. (He says he’s my biggest fan.) He’s also very cute, so, yes, I got lucky.
Did you ever write a novel?
For myself: Two unpublished novel manuscripts are stowed away in various stages throughout the apartment—no wonder the place is such a mess. I’m working on a new novel now.
On assignment: I’m on deadline for my fourth novel for young readers as we speak. In fact, that’s what I should be working on instead of answering these questions… yikes, it’s due in less than two months.
Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?
I cannot write romance. Angsty teen drama, for sure.
What’s your favorite setting for your characters?
Upstate New York. I felt trapped living there—so now I trap my characters there. I’m so cruel.
How many writing projects are you working on right now?
Now I’m going to make myself panic. The number is seven: the movie tie-in, the middle-grade novel assignment due in less than two months, my own novel, I would say three stories are in progress, and an original middle-grade novel is begging me to continue work on it and I wish I could.
Do you want to write for a living?
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Seriously, I wish I could and YES.
Have you ever won an award for your writing?
Yes. I’m actually still shocked when I think about it.
Ever written anything in script or play format?
Yes. Okay, let’s be honest. I have tried. I’m considering studying screenwriting to expand my repertoire. That sounds funny, I know, but screenwriting is a big mystery to me and I’m fascinated by the process of it and I want in! (I also think learning how to write a good, well-paced screenplay could help me with my plot insecurities in my fiction.)
What are your five favorite words?
It all depends on what I’m writing—a word could be my favorite for an instant, because it’s perfect in a particular sentence, but then I might never use it again.
Do you ever write based on yourself?
Always. Sometimes obviously, sometimes barely at all, but I’m not above mining my own fears and memories and experiences and loves and hates (as well as those of my own family) for my fiction.
What character have you created that is most like yourself?
Her name started with an R. and she was in my first unpublished novel that started with a B.
Where do you get ideas for your characters?
People-watching. People’s deep, dark secrets—be careful what you confide in me. My own foggy memories. Overheard conversations. Blogs. Magazine articles. MySpace page confessions that probably shouldn’t be up on a public website. Private notes dropped in the subway. Graffiti. The car crash that is reality TV. Just simply walking down the street.
Do you ever write based on your dreams?
I guess, but dreams are usually so much more symbolic to the dreamer. At least mine are. In fiction they need some ooomph.
Do you favor happy endings, sad endings, or cliff-hangers?
I tend to appreciate a good sad ending that pulls out my guts and makes me question the point of my life, but that’s just me.
Have you ever written based on an artwork you’ve seen?
Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
My day job is to be concerned with spelling and grammar. So when I’m writing I am very adamant about letting myself be free and go crazy and NOT CARE AT ALL about spelling and grammar. Sometimes I throw Chicago style out the window and I love doing that. I can’t help but strive for consistency though—there’s always the faraway thought of, one day, a poor copy editor having to go over my work. So I guess what I know about spelling and grammar seeps in even when I’m not trying, impossible to keep at bay. Still, it’s physically impossible for me to copyedit my own work. It’s like I’m blind to it, some weird writer/copy editor condition I’ve been struck with.
Ever write anything in chatspeak (how r u?)
Uhhh. Some of the YA novels I was hired to write have that stuff peppered in there, so yes, I have done this, I admit it.
Entirely in L337?
Was that question appalling and unwriterly?
I wanted to skip it, so yes.
Does music help you write?
Yes, but only once I’ve played a song on repeat enough to not get stuck up in the lyrics.
Hey, writers. Let me distract you even further: why not try this meme?