Everyone has an identity crisis when they are 16 or 17 years old.
Family or love or romance, whatever it is, is not restricted to perfect people. If it were, it wouldn’t exist. All of that comes out in my work in some way.
I always felt that church is where I’m going to find my community and people to live my life with.
I didn’t ‘decide’ to write YA, per se. But every time I thought of a story, it featured characters 15, 16, 17.
I do have a little bit more confidence in – or at least familiarity with – my process. For example, when it feels like it’s going badly or that I’m lost, I know I’ll eventually find my way because I’ve been through it before. But writing itself is still hard.
I don’t like to do too much psychological research because it might turn a character into a patchwork.
I don’t want to pretend like I’m some intellectual person who understands Flannery O’Connor.
I grew up in San Francisco in the 1970s. We were part of a church that belonged to the California Jesus movement.
I have no desire to go back to San Francisco.
I played the clarinet, and my sister played the violin… If we’d had the discipline and the passion, maybe we could have been good.
I remember being in high school and listening to Vivaldi’s ‘Winter’ and being so overwhelmed with emotion.
I tend to describe recurring themes as being part of a writer’s DNA – something so deeply embedded in us that even we don’t notice it until we’ve written three or four books.
I wanted to be free to write the way I wanted to write, and my impression of Christian publishing, at least in fiction, was that there wasn’t room for what I wanted to write.
I was a ‘learn by doing’ writer – I never took any formal writing classes. So it took a long time to figure things out and find my voice.
I wouldn’t say I’m stuck in my adolescence, but I think, like a lot of people, I carry my teen years with me. I feel really in touch with those feelings, and how intense and complicated life seems in those years.
I’m always in a place that is sincere but conflicted about different things that come with being a Christian and being an active, churchgoing Christian.
I’m not really a plot writer – I’m more interested in the characters and sort of small events that propel the story forward.
I’m so focused on trying to craft the story that I’m in my own little world with it and that process. The one reader I’m trying to please as I write is me, and I’m pretty difficult to please.
Is it good, bad, or neutral to recognize thematic patterns in your own work? When it comes to recurring themes, I’m of the mind that knowledge is probably not power, at least in terms of the work.
It’s hard to say when my interest in writing began, or how. My mother read to my sister and me every night, and we always loved playing make-believe games. I had a well-primed imagination. I didn’t start thinking about writing as a serious pursuit, a career I could have, until after college.
Making lists of favorite things is, for me, a task ridden with anxiety. What if I’ve accidentally excluded something I love? What if I discover something new tomorrow that I love even more?
My books have been translated into various languages and sold in other countries, but I never have any contact with the foreign publishers and am so disconnected from that process that it seems almost imaginary. With ‘How to Save a Life’, I worked closely with Usborne editors and have been involved in the publicity.
My books usually end where they began. I try to bring characters back to a point that is familiar but different because of the growth that they have gone through.
My first job is to write the characters as full and authentic people as well as I can.
My first published book, ‘Story of a Girl’, was the fourth book I wrote.
My parents met in music school and my father was a music professor and conductor. Growing up, we always had classical and contemporary music playing. There was a lot of Mozart and the Beatles.
My parents met in music school, and my father was a music professor and conductor. Growing up, we always had classical and contemporary music playing.
One of my favorite authors is Robert Cormier. He was a devout Catholic and a very nice man, which might not be the impression you get from reading his books.
Readers want a story, not a pattern. It’s the specifics of a story that make it really ping our various reader radars.
The characters are whole, real people to me that I’m getting to know, and since real people are all flawed, so are my characters, I hope.
The one reader I’m trying to please as I write is me, and I’m pretty difficult to please.
There were about ten years of trying, failing, trying again, suffering rejection, etc. My first published book, ‘Story of a Girl’, was the fourth book I wrote.
We write in ways that, we generally hope, reflect real life, or at least look familiar to humans. And in life, recurring themes are a recurring theme. We never quite conquer a pet vice or a relationship pattern or a communication habit. We’re haunted by our particular demons.
When a young reader tells you that they’d never finished a book outside of school until they read yours, or that they really needed to hear something that one of your characters says or thinks… that’s just rewarding and humbling.
When my characters are questioning things, it’s not me leading up to an answer; it’s me asking those same questions and letting the characters’ lives unfold and seeing where it takes them.
When the reader and one narrator know something the other narrator does not, the opportunities for suspense and plot development and the shifting of reader sympathies get really interesting.