What resources have you found most helpful on your writing path? I find Casey McCormick's blog, Literary Rambles, extremely helpful. She posts great writing tips. The blog Query Shark by Janet Reid is another blog I find helpful. I get to see through the critical eyes of a literary agent, and I know what's in and what's out when it comes to query letter writing.
What's the most encouraging thing you've experienced along the way? One comment from a beta reader encouraged me. My librarian (and good friend) found an avid reader to critique my MS. This avid reader was a person I'd not met before, and I liked the idea of her critiquing my MS, because she could critique it and give honest feedback without carrying the guilt of hurting my feelings. In other words, she wouldn't hold any of her comments back. After she critiqued my MS, we met for the first time and sat down in the library and talked about my MS for two hours. She pointed out the elements that needed to be polished. She was critical and told it like it was. But at the end of our conversation she told me, “I want to see this book in Barnes and Nobles someday.” That meant a lot to me because, at that time, I felt like giving up on that MS and moving on to another writing project. Hearing her say that let me know not to give up just yet on it.
Favorite children's books? Authors? Ohh. . .what a tough question! I have a long list. Usually, I attempt to read books that's in the same tense I'm writing. Right now my MG MS is first person, present tense, so of course I'm gobbling up books such as THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH series by Carrie Ryan, or MOCKINGBIRD by Erskine. When I wrote my SF/ urban fantasy MS, I read books such as INCARCERON by Catherine Fisher. (INCARERON has a great plot!) Books in the fantasy and science fiction genres are entertaining to read, but more and more each day I appreciate the authors who write realistic fiction. Elizabeth Scott. Jay Asher. Historical fiction is important too. THE BOOK THIEF is a book I pull out once every few months to read. It's books such as TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harpee Lee that I think points people in the right direction. That's why I write—I feel as though there's stories out in the world that need to be told, and about the only way to bring it to people's attention is either by the media or by books.
What genre would you like to see become more popular in the near future? Since I'm under twenty-two, I haven't explored much in the adult books--I've kept close to YA books and sometimes MG books. I think paranormal has fizzled out--there's so many books on the shelves in that genre right now, and lately I haven't seen anything fresh. The characters and twists are usually the same. (Or at least, the books I read were like that.) I would like to see more, shall we say, urban science fiction both in MG and YA. More contemporary books would be nice. I haven't seen much historical fiction, but I would like to see more books in this genre--especially set in the Roaring Twenties.
What author (or person) do you most want to meet? I would like to meet Taylor. D. Lautner. Everyone always talks about his looks, but I would like to meet him because he seems as though he has a nice personality.
What keeps you going when you feel like giving up? I've been writing for almost seven years, and after studying and putting so many hours into learning the craft of writing, giving up just doesn't seem like an appealing option. I have come close to giving up a few times, but I keep telling myself, “I have a story to tell, a story that I want other people to hear.” If I give up, that story is only going to be known by me and a few other people (my beta readers) and that's it. I don't want that. I want many, many more people to read my stories.
If you could live any place on the planet, where would it be? There's a few places close to home that I'd like to visit. I've always been fascinated with lakes and snow, so a place like Michigan sounds like a great place to live. Even though the winters are long and cold, I heard the summers are fantastic. And all the lakes are perfect for kayaking! Also, Northern California sounds great as far as the forests. Australia? Savannah, Georgia? There's too many great places! It's hard for me to choose just one.
Describe your fantasy writing space? A small, quiet place with plenty of organization! Right now, my desk is just an old table. But I do have an ideal office in mind. Hopefully, the fantasy will become realistic someday. (Smiles.) I would like a small room, with nothing but a desk, chair, and shelf space. I would like for the walls to either be chalkboard or dry erase—that way I could write my ideas directly on the wall and erase them later.
What obstacles have you overcome in order to keep writing? Writer's block.
Best writing advice you've been given? I've been given a lot of great advice, and I'd like to share several. (Prepare yourself for a long list.) (1) Write every day, even if it's a small amount. (2) “Show” don't “tell” in your writing. (3) Use the active voice. (4) Listen to your critique partners and beta readers. If your beta reader says your characters are flat, then your characters are probably flat (despite what you tell yourself). If your beta reader or critique partner says you need to work on POV, then you probably need to work on POV. One opinion from a beta reader may be exactly that— an opinion from an individual. But if you have several people commenting on the same thing, then you need to take a closer look at the issue. You don't need to take every comment or opinion as wisdom, but it is wise to listen. (5) Read a lot. It's a good idea to read books in the same genre you're writing. When I was writing my SF book, I read a lot of SF and urban fantasy. Now that I'm writing an MG contemporary (and preparing to write an YA contemporary) I'm reading a large number of contemporary books. If you're writing a thriller, read all the thrillers you can. Watch thriller movies like the BOURNE series, or TAKEN. Carefully observe how the plot is structured. If you're writing a historical fiction, do history research and make sure your facts are correct. Perhaps watch documentaries.
What one word describes your writing process? Persistence.
What do you like to keep in mind while drafting a story? I like to think the first draft as the paint primer on a wall—it's important, but the most important details are yet to come. In my earlier (amateurish) years of writing, I stressed myself into making each purple prosed sentence, each paragraph, each chapter perfect. Biggest waste of time. I thought when I wrote “The End” at the end of a manuscript, I was done. Success! But no, the work has just started. The second draft is where I strengthen the characters and make them more unique and realistic. I make sure the plot doesn't have any pitfalls, and the chapters have good starting and ending points. The fun starts in the third draft. The third draft is where I tighten the writing (or cut out extra words) and make the passive sentences active.
How will you celebrate the publication of your first book? I'll take a month break from writing and read a lot. Then it's back to writing the next book!