When did you first know you wanted to become a writer, and how long did it take you to get published?
I've always written; reading stories and telling stories has always been a part of my life, so it's difficult to say exactly when I knew I wanted to pursue it as a career. I've been writing every day since I was about nine, and I published my first book at 26--so in that sense, it took me about seventeen years to get published! But I submitted my first book for publication about five years before I ever wrote a book that made it onto the shelves.
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring authors, one thing that you feel changed the way you wrote and made your manuscripts publishable, what would it be?
The biggest game-changer for me and my career was learning about narrative structure and what that means. I had to understand how to tell a story--not just write a pretty sentence--before I could ever finish writing a good novel.
And if you could give them a second piece of advice?
Practice every day. Read as much as possible. It's the only way to get better.
How many drafts of a manuscript do you usually do between the initial idea and sending it to your agent or editor?
It really depends. I'm a sloppy drafter--I definitely go through a manuscript at least twice, and sometimes more, before the book even becomes decipherable!
What's your favorite thing about the writing process?
There is nothing so incredible as the first spark of a new idea. I love wrapping my mind around new characters, and taking my first, tentative steps into their world; it is quite literally like first beginning to speak a different language, or traveling somewhere new and slowly learning the geography.
If you could go back and change one thing about your writing career so far, what would it be?
Man. I feel so blessed, I don't even want to answer that question. I don't think I have the right to complain!
What's been your favorite book to write so far?
They've all presented unique challenges and yet been rewarding in such different ways. Books are like siblings, or children--they drive you crazy and simultaneously bring you joy in totally individual ways. In general, I do love the feeling of writing middle grade; it gives me the same sense of cozy satisfaction I first found by reading.
How do you feel Panic is most different from your other books, and how is it most the same? What expectations do readers need to check at the door?
Panic is the most strictly realistic book I've ever done, and also the grittiest. It paints an honest portrayal of some pretty disturbing issues, although it is ultimately redemptive, as are all of my books. I think readers will detect some of my favorite themes--courage, transformation, the discovery of self through sacrifice and giving--even though the book's world and its characters are distinct. In terms of expectations to check at the door? Heather and Dodge, the girl and boy POV characters, absolutely do NOT end up romantically involved. Not even close.
If you could pick three recent young adult books you most wish you had written yourself, what would they be?
Eleanor + Park; The Fault in Our Stars; and Shipbreaker.
About The Author
She attended the University of Chicago, where she continued to be as impractical as possible by majoring in philosophy and literature. After college, she attended the MFA program at NYU and worked briefly as the world’s worst editorial assistant, and only marginally better assistant editor, at a major publishing house in New York. Her major career contributions during this time were flouting the corporate dress code at every possible turn and repeatedly breaking the printer. Before I Fall is her first published novel.
She is deeply grateful for the chance to continue writing, as she has never been particularly good at anything else.
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About The Book
Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.
Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.
For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.
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