frequently asked questions
Where do you get your Book ideas from?
Oh boy. I honestly have no idea. I've tried, in moments of intense deadline pressure, to sit down and think think think of ideas! But that doesn't work. It never does.
Instead, I try to not think about writing. I go for walks, listen to music, talk to friends, read magazines, snuggle my dog, whatever helps me not stress about it. I find that if I just sit back and focus on other things, eventually the right idea will show up. For example, the idea for Far From the Tree began while sitting in a car and listening to a Florence + the Machine song. See what I mean? Totally unplanned! So I guess that's my answer: I don't know where the ideas come from, but I'm always happy - and relieved - when they show up.
How did you first get published?
In short, I took a chance and it worked out.
The longer version: I had worked in publishing for years, but I never really thought that I could become a published writer. Growing up, I had never met a single author so I had no idea how to get started. But by working in publishing, I was suddenly surrounded by authors and suddenly, it didn't seem like an unachievable goal anymore.
Finally, I decided to quit my job and take a year to try and really figure out how to become a writer. I had no book ideas at all. I didn't even know how to write a book. (Six books later, I still don't.) But there was a class at UCLA Extension about young adult literature taught by Rachel Cohn, and it started on the very first day of my unemployment. I took it as a sign and enrolled in the class. One of the assignments was to write a first chapter of a novel, and after spending a lot of time listening to music, I came up with the initial idea for Audrey, Wait! I wrote that first chapter fairly quickly, and it's still, word for word, the very first chapter of that book. Rachel was kind enough to encourage me to write more, and after I had about half a novel, we sent the pages to an agent who then offered me representation. (Eleven years later, she's still my agent.) I managed to finish the book and on March 2, 2007, it sold to Razorbill and my editor Kristen Pettit, who is, conveniently enough, also the editor of my most recent books, Emmy & Oliver and Far From the Tree.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR WRITERS AND PEOPLE WHO WANT TO EVENTUALLY PUBLISH A BOOK?
My biggest piece of writing advice is to focus on other things besides writing. The world is a big place and if you're going to write about it, you need to know what it looks like. Take a sociology class, travel, talk to people, read outside your favorite genre, pay attention. The more experiences and knowledge you have, the better writer you'll be.
Also, read. Read, read, read. I can't say this enough. Read whatever you want, whatever you can get your hands on. Find the writers who are better than you and learn from them.
I meet so many readers who want to publish a book right now - RIGHT NOW! - and I always say, "You have time." And you do. Take the time to make your manuscript as good as it can possibly be before sending it out on submission. And on that note, project confidence in what you've created, even if you're shaking in your shoes. Don't tell people how much your book sucks. Whenever I send a brand-new first draft to my agent or editor, it takes all of my self-control not to attach a huge bullet-pointed list of everything that's wrong with the book! Have faith in your ability to not only create something, but to fix it later.
If you do go out on submission, make sure to find an agent who not only wants to represent your current manuscript but your future ones. They should return your calls and emails promptly, consult you before making decisions, and be your 24/7 advocate. Google them, ask around, make sure they're on the up and up. If you sign a bad contract, they could hold a percentage of your earnings for the rest of your career, and who wants that? Not you.
Never read the comments.
At the end of the day, remember that writing, not publishing, is the thing you love the most. Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of that. If you focus on your work, on improving and learning and getting up and trying again, the bumps in the road will smooth themselves out.
And good luck!
IS YOUR BOOK APPROPRIATE READING MATERIAL FOR MY CHILD?
Unfortunately, I can't answer this question. I don't know you or your child, so I would encourage parents and guardians to read the book and make that decision as a family. If you need more information, Common Sense Media is a great tool for learning more about the content of my books and whether or not they're suitable for your child.
HOW CAN I GET A SIGNED COPY OF ONE OF YOUR BOOKS?
As of December 2017, you can find signed copies of Far From the Tree and Emmy & Oliver at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, Barnes & Noble at the Grove in Los Angeles, Barnes & Noble at the Americana in Glendale, CA, and Books of Wonder in New York. All stores will be able to ship to you.
How's your dog hudson? WILL YOU EVER BRING HIM TO AN EVENT?
He's wonderful, thank you for asking! As I type this, he's napping and snoring, which is one of his favorite hobbies. As for events, maybe! When I do book signing events, I like to focus on talking with readers, so having Hudson there can be a little distracting. That being said, he loves to meet people, so we shall see.
Do you ever do school visits?
I do! And I enjoy them! Even the ones that start at 7am. I always leave a school visit with a whole new level of respect for teachers. How do you do it every single day???
If you'd like me to come visit your school, do a Skype discussion with your class, or talk at your library, please email me for rates and dates. Thanks!
I have to write a report on you and it's due TOMORROW! Will you tell me everything about your book and your personal life?
First of all, as a fellow procrastinator, I commend you. Not everyone can do their homework the night before and get away with it, so I understand both your initial panic and your inevitable triumph.
That being said, no, I can't help you. You're welcome to read through some reviews on Goodreads if you need to know more about my books. As for me, you can absolutely peruse my About Me page or read through the rest of this FAQ. You're also welcome to noodle around on my blog or even on my Twitter feed. Everything that you need to know will be there. But let's be honest. When I was in high school, I barely did my homework, so I'm not going to do yours.
ARE YOU EVER GOING TO WRITE A SEQUEL TO [INSERT BOOK TITLE HERE]?
Alas, no. All of my standalone titles are just that: stand alones. As for the AKA series, I have no plans to write a third book. My brain is always thinking of ideas, of course, but that doesn't mean I should write them. Maggie & Co. will always have adventures, I'm sure, but I won't be the ones planning them this time.
Can i send you an email? What about a gift? Do you have a PO Box?
OMG YES. I love getting emails from readers! You can write to me here. Unfortunately, I can't respond to emails or offer life advice, but please know that I read every single one of them and they absolutely make my day.
As for gifts, that is very kind and very unnecessary! No gifts required, but all snail mail can be sent to the address below. And thank you for thinking of me!
3950 Eagle Rock Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90065
GOOD NEWS! I FINISHED A BOOK! CAN I SEND IT TO YOU TO READ?
WELL DONE, YOU! Finishing a book is so freaking hard. I didn't finish one until I was 28 years old, and that book was called Audrey, Wait! so you're way ahead of me.
But alas, due to a lot of complicated legal jargon, I can't read any unpublished manuscripts. I'm sorry! Instead, try to find some readers who will give you honest but kind feedback. I always have a few trusted friends read my very first drafts, and they have made all the difference.
What's your next book about?
As soon as I figure it out, you'll be the first to know. Promise.