I think the first time I actually put pen to paper (or crayon to construction paper, actually) was when I was in kindergarten. I had just seen a VHS copy of the Rankin Bass animated production of Peter S. Beagle's masterpiece THE LAST UNICORN. (My fairy tale series THE POPPET AND THE LUNE is greatly inspired by that work). I began as I think most child authors begin, with plagiarism. I re-told the story of the last unicorn as I had imagined it as a six-year-old girl, expanded on the parts that excited me, and dropped out "boring" parts all together.
I continued to write throughout my childhood, but I didn't write my first novel until I was 11.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
It was a combination of factors, to be honest. It took me while to really believe it, but I am a very good writer. I've had countless experiences that, when I recount them, sound like wish-fulfillment fantasies about people praising my writing, agents demanding full manuscripts at writer conferences, professors and teachers expounding to my class about my work. I sound like a jerk to my own ears just talking about it, but that was a big turning point for me in my publishing career: owning the fact that I am really freaking good at what I do.
Another important fact is that I tend to be a little anti-authoritarian. I don't like the system of "gatekeepers" in the traditional publishing world. To be sure, that word "gatekeepers" gets thrown around a lot in the indie publishing world, but it's nothing to laugh at. Who are these people to say "no?" Really, truly, when you get down to it? They are people who are interested in making money for their publisher, and publishing good literature is secondary if you're lucky. Which, I understand, I really do. But as much as I want to live off royalties from writing, that's just not why I write. Not at all.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The greatest joy of writing for me are the moments where it seems like some strange kind of alchemy has happened in my brain and in my story, when I want to punch the air and go "YES" because something magical just happened on the page that I never could have planned. For as much as a person outlines and "hammers things out," it seems a great deal of the magic of writing happens unexpectedly, when you're in the flow and words and inspiration are just pouring through you. I live for those moments.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I'm not writing or at my other day job, I spend as much time as possible with my animals. I have 3 cats and a dog, so they all require ample petting and loving. I also LOVE to cook, especially since I have some dietary restrictions which makes cooking a little more adventurous. Since I am a homeowner I sometimes like to refill my creative well by working on home improvement projects, gardening, picking out paint chips, etc. But mostly, to be honest, I like to watch weird movies and hang out with my best friend while we talk about how awesome writing is.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in the village of Williamsville, a quiet little suburb of the City of Buffalo, New York. I went to a very good public school, and because it was such a safe area to live I had a lot of unsupervised adventures with my friends. I probably experienced more than some teenagers, a lot less than others, but I like to think it was the beginning of me becoming a fairly well-rounded individual.
Less discretely, growing up there influenced a number of my story settings, most obviously in the Arcana Series--the first book takes place almost entirely in Williamsville and Buffalo.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
"Don't Turn The Page--There's A Monster At The End Of This Book!" A Sesame Street book featuring Grover. No, I'm not joking! I really think that book helped me learn about developing tension, and twist endings.
But also, the first book I can remember the experience of reading was "The Silver Slippers," a little book about a girl who wasn't a very good dancer, but who worked very hard and became the prima ballerina. I know now that in the arts that's a very unlikely story (especially dance! Ye gods what a competitive world that is), but it's true that if you really love something and you work hard at it, you will learn and grow and get better.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first story that was not a blatant plagiarism was "Morning and Midnight" about a golden horse and a black horse, and the horse bandits that stole them, and how they rescued each other from a cruel racing track torture chamber, and then had little golden and black ponies together. It was laminated and spiral bound, hand scrawled on lines drawn with a straight-edge, and of course I did all the illustrations, too! I think I was in second grade. Thank goodness for creative writing being a part of the curriculum.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I wake up sometimes with words in my head--a statement, or a snatch of poetry, or a sentence or two. I don't always use those words in my work, but they always inevitably inspire something greater. For this piece, I woke up from a dream about a city filled with ghosts with the words "Smoke still rises from the ruined skyline. The City--she's still burning" stuck in my head. As much as I LOVED those two sentences, they didn't actually make the cut for the final draft. But they did launch a book about a post-apocalyptic ghost story that became GHOST CITY.
What do your fans mean to you?
So much. I know how much thought I put into each and every book purchase I make, so the fact that they went ahead and purchased my work makes me want to hug them and give them cookies and say "I really think you'll like this, and I promise it will be worth it." It's a weird thing to be a writer: you write because your heart commands that you must, but you never feel fully satisfied with a project until at least a few complete strangers have read it and enjoyed it. For me, that's not even about stroking my ego. It's more like fulfilling my purpose.
So thank you, fans. Without you, what purpose would my stories have?
What are you working on next?
I have TWO projects I'm currently working on: the as yet untitled second book in my Arcana Series (sequel to THE HIEROPHANT) as well as a kind of super secret project with another YA fiction author. While GHOST CITY was a bit of a departure from YA for me (still something I think young adults could enjoy, just not something working within that "genre" trend) I'm diving back into my YA projects and hope to be putting out at least two new novels this year.
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