Author Interview with Tessa Hall

Cover-AGet to know Tessa…

Tessa Emily Hall is a 19-year-old who has been penning stories since before she could read. Her first YA inspirational novel, Purple Moon, will be published fall 2013 by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Tessa is also an editor for Temperance Magazine and writes for several online Christian teen magazines. She resides in South Carolina and is currently working toward her degree in English. She is also a coffee-addict, music-lover, book-worm, and has a passion for youth ministry, especially in the area of the written word. Tessa owns a blog, where she posts weekly devotions for teens, book reviews, writing tips, and more.

Let the conversation begin!

What one word describes you?

Introverted. I’m the definition of an introvert.

If I gave you a brick, what would you do with it?

I’d probably give it back to you because I’d have no idea why you gave it to me in the first place.

What do you do when you see a spider in your house?

Call someone else to come kill it. I’ve never been a fan of killing bugs, and I am terrified of spiders!

Do you bake or buy?

Why bake when you can buy?

What song best describes your work ethic?

Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield—it describes my writing career both literally and figuratively. There’s still a lot to be written, and there’s still a lot to look forward to in my career.

What kitchen utensil would you be? Why?

I’d be the spoon that gets to stir coffee every day. The reason is obvious.

If you were a road sign, what would you be? Why?

If there was a sign that said “Keep On Going”, I’d be that one—which is otherwise known as a green light. I am a strong believer in never giving up, especially when it comes to pursuing your dreams.

If you were to attend a costume party tonight, who would you be? Why?

Bella from Twilight, since I get told all the time that I look like her. Plus I wouldn’t have to dress up. 

Which is worse, being in a place that is too loud or too quiet?

Too loud. I can’t think straight in that kind of atmosphere, and I certainly can’t speak if it’s too loud. My voice is way too quiet.

What is one quality that you really appreciate in a person?

Selflessness. I love it when people lay down their own desires in order to put the desires of another first.

What classifies as a boring conversation? What classifies as an interesting one?

A boring conversation is one that is so forced with small talk that it’s almost fake. A conversation that is one-sided is also boring, especially when one person continues to talk about him/herself. An interesting conversation, however, is a genuine one. It’s when both people are so passionate about what they’re discussing that they could probably go on for hours without realizing how much time had passed.

What is your favorite board game?

I’m way more into card games than I am board games. However, if I had to choose, I’d probably say the game Sorry is my favorite. I grew up playing that game with my family and I still enjoy it—mainly because it’s simple yet fun, and it also doesn’t take too long to play.

What food item would you remove from the market altogether?

Soft drinks! I have never been a fan of them. When I finally realized that soda just didn’t taste good and decided to remove them from my diet when I was ten, I seriously lost so much weight. Soft drinks are nothing but carbonated sugar water. Ew.

What would you rather have: a nanny, a housekeeper, a cook, or a chauffeur?

Considering the fact that I love food yet have zero cooking skills and zero patience for cooking, I would definitely rather have a cook. 

What inspired you to write your first book?

I wanted to write a book about a teenager who had fallen away from the relationship she once had with God after her dad—who was a preacher—kicked her and her mom out of the house. It was actually inspired by the song “By Your Side” by Tenth Avenue North, as well as the skit that many churches have performed to the song “Everything” by Lifehouse.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I try to avoid writing the parts that most teenagers tend to skim over. With that being said, I’d say that my books might be a fast read, despite the fact that Purple Moon has almost 350 pages. I try to stay away from writing lengthy descriptions or backstories. Dialogue and the character’s internal thoughts have always been my favorite to write. I enjoy getting inside of my protagonist’s head and showing things from his/her perspective, which is also why I prefer writing in first person rather than third.

What do you think you do best in your writing? Bragging is encouraged.

It’s really easy for me to see things from my characters’ perspective—to feel their pain, understand their beliefs/opinions, as well as the reason behind their actions. I love to act, so putting myself in my characters’ shoes has never been difficult. 

What books have most influenced your life?

I read The Christy Miller Series by Robin Jones Gunn during my first couple years of being a teenager, and I really enjoyed being able to relate to what Christy—the main character—was going through. Those books were also one of the first YA Christian fiction books I have ever read, so they definitely influenced my love for that genre.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

I very much look up to Karen Kingsbury—who is known as the “Queen of Christian Fiction”—and the books that she has written. I would absolutely love to have the opportunity to sit down with her over coffee one day and ask her a list of questions on how she is able to write such emotional, yet inspiring, stories. 
What book are you reading now?

Wings of Glass by Gina Holmes, which is a Christian adult fiction book about a woman in an abusive marriage. I have not been able to put it down since I started reading it the other day.

Name one entity that supported your writing journey outside of family members.

My teachers in elementary school have always been supportive of my writing, even way back then. They knew I loved writing, and the assignments they gave my class helped me grow in my craft tremendously. They are still supportive to this day, and even plan on buying a copy of Purple Moon when it releases.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Every time I read Purple Moon I find something I wish to change. This has definitely been a struggle for me, especially since I wrote the book three years ago and have grown in my writing since then. However, I have finally gotten to the point where I am satisfied with how the story turned out. Of course, I will always find things I wish to edit—but overall, I am happy with the story and can’t wait for it to be in the hands of my readers.

What initially inspired you to pursue a career in writing?

This is probably the biggest cliché to this answer, but it’s the truth: I have always wanted to be an author. Before I could even read—when I was three—I would dictate stories to my mom for her to write down, and then I would draw the illustrations. I have never stopped writing or wanting to be an author. However, I don’t want my books published just because of the passion I have for writing, but also because I know the potential that stories have to represent God’s love and to bring healing. That is actually my biggest reason for wanting to pursue this career for the rest of my life.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in writing? What comes easily?

As ironic as it is—considering the fact that I’m an author and all—I have always struggled with explaining things, both out loud and with a pen. Writing a description, or even explaining body language, is definitely my biggest weakness. Plotting is also challenging for me, especially since I am more of a character-driven writer. What comes the most easily for me, as I mentioned earlier, is getting inside of my character’s head. Also—since I tend to see my story play out like a movie, it’s never been a challenge for me to picture my scenes or figure out what should come next. Dialogue seems to come naturally for me also.

Who’s your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Oh man, this is such a difficult question, only because I have several authors that I love for many different reasons. However, Karen Kingsbury is definitely one of my top favorites. What really strikes me about her work is the way that she is able to write such emotional, grabbing, page-turning, touching, inspiring novels. I’m just in love with her work, despite the fact that I have only read five of her books and have seen one of her book-turned-movies.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t let anyone or anything get in the way of reaching your dream. Seriously. When I was fourteen, I emailed one author and told her that her book sounded really interesting. It was on my to-read list back then. I also asked if she had any advice to give me since I was an aspiring author. She told me that she wouldn’t recommend that I pursue writing, only because it was hard work and very unlikely to find success. Although she was right, I do not think either of those facts should hold anyone back from pursuing publication. Of course, I respected the author’s advice, but I obviously did not follow it. Yes, writing is definitely hard work. But since when has any career ever been easy? And yes, it is unlikely for a writer to be published. But I did. And so did all of the authors who wrote all of your favorite books. I certainly wouldn’t have found a publisher if I had followed her advice. No, writing isn’t going to be all fun and games. But if your passion is big enough, then none of that will matter. People may try to discourage you and tell you that it’s unlikely or that your work isn’t good enough or that the pay isn’t good or even that writing isn’t a real job. Ignore all of those voices, especially if it’s your own. Don’t let anyone—including yourself—keep you from reaching your dreams.

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Interview with Clare Di Liscia Baird

imagesGet to know Clare…

Writer of YA fiction and screenplays. Devout swimmer, lover of books. In 2006, I placed as a quarterfinalist in the prestigious Nicholl Fellowship with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Let the conversation begin!

What advice would you give young writers?

Easy. Know your craft. If you’re writing YA, read YA. And I mean a lot of YA. You should be going through tons of YA every year, chalking up points on your Borders reward card or using your library card so often that the plastic is bending on the edges. And not only should you be reading your genre but broadening your horizons and delving into anything that interests you. I love reading YA Fantasy, will I ever in a zillion years write a YA Fantasy? Never, but that doesn’t stop me from reading dozens of YA Fantasy a year.

Also, I hear a bit too much the line, ‘I don’t have time to read’ or the ever popular, ‘It interferes with my writing’. If this is the case, you need to do some serious reevaluating of your time management. For a writer, reading as well as writing is crucial. Along the writing vein, going to workshops, classes, and/or having people who are familiar with your genre reading and giving helpful insights is also crucial. It might sting a bit, hearing some criticism, it might even hurt. But to quote the wonderful Ellen Hopkins, “If two or three people are saying the exact same thing about your book, listen carefully to what is being said.”

That doesn’t mean go home and delete your manuscript and fill in an online application to work at Target, but at least hit the pause button long enough to process it all before taking the next step. During this time of deep contemplation you might want to take a long walk, swim numerous laps, or roam the moors. Whatever works for you, do it before going back to your masterpiece with the needed newfound energy and determination to yield the best book you can possibly write. All I can say is, make a plan for success, follow through and you will succeed…

What is the most valuable advice that you received?

1. Please, at all times, conduct yourself in a professional manner. I realize this can mean a slew of things, but really it means just one thing, behave yourself. First of all the Children’s writing community is a small one. That means that basically everyone knows everyone. Your agent knows most editors and visa versa which means your behavior, the things you say, the things you do, most people can easily find out about. Case in point, at last summer’s SCBWI LA conference, a female writer, who had had one too many drinks, came up with the brilliant idea to accost a well-known and highly regarded editor in the ladies’ bathroom. I cannot begin to tell you what a horrible idea this is and a sure way never to get published in the world of children’s literature.

Luckily, I was at hand and swiftly interceded on behalf of the editor and redirected the poor inebriated woman to stop slurring and drooling out her incoherent pitch. Sadly, this is not the only case of inappropriate behavior I have been privy to. Another, one that would seem plainly obvious is be happy (to the point of forcing yourself) for your fellow critique and writing partners when they receive some success. There is absolutely nothing worse than a case of ‘sour grapes’ and seriously no one wants to hear ‘why did it happen for her? She’s only been writing for six months whereas I’ve been writing for four years.’  or going to everyone that you know infuriated since her agent won’t take you on as a client. It’s a turnoff to be miserable for someone’s happiness and once again, word travels fast in this community. One last thought along the same lines of being professional is: Do not lie, exaggerate, or embellish the truth to suit your own needs. This can be anything from saying you’re published when in fact you’re not (seriously, anyone with an iPhone can find out if you’re indeed published) and implying on query letters to agents or editors that so and so personally recommended you to them when in fact they didn’t. Once again, remember the phrase ‘small community’ and put it to memory. Trust me when I say that you don’t have to stoop to fabricating or coercing your way into children’s writing.

2. Join SCBWI.

The delightful Laurie Halse Anderson personally told me this during her book signing for Wintergirls. I had just started writing my very first YA novel and seriously didn’t have a clue what to do next. I just thought I would write this one book and that would be that, but Laurie had a different take on it. She signed my copy of Prom with the words: To Clare—Who has her own stories to tell!!  Stories. In the plural. Not one book, but many books. A career. Obviously, I took her words to heart and went to my very first SCBWI summer conference in 2009 as a brand new, wet behind the ears, member ready to take on the challenge.

Joining SCBWI opened me to a whole world of endless possibilities. I got the information I needed to make the right choices. My iPhone had everything on it from QueryTracker to AgentObvious. I did my research. I followed numerous agents, writers, and editors on Twitter getting a feel for who they were and what type of material they specialized in. I got a Facebook account and started making friends from fellow writers and presenters I had met at conferences and workshops. I even took the time to scan through Predators & Editors in line at the grocery store to know who to avoid and who to possibly query. Before signing with an agent, I researched the agents interested in representing me, reading their books, blogs, websites, as well as looking them up on Publishers Weekly and even politely asking some of their clients on my Facebook account for their thoughts.

I hope that everyone reading this will benefit from my insights as they strive for excellence. Be patient and conduct yourselves with impeccable dignity. Success is literally around the corner.

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Interview with Award-Winning Author Don Tate

Traylor Abridged-1-largeGet to know Don…

Don Tate is the illustrator  of numerous critically acclaimed books for children. His bold and dynamic art has been noted for it’s versatility of style, though Don does not feel his art represents any so-called trademark style.

IT JES’ HAPPENED: WHEN BILL TRAYLOR STARTED TO DRAW, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, (Lee & Low Books, 2012) (ages 4-up) marks his debut as an author. It Jes’ Happened is a Lee & Low New Voices Honor winner, and an Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor winner, 2012. It received starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and School Library Journal, as well as being selected as a Kirkus Best Children’s Books List Selection, a Booklist Editors’ Choice, 2012, and a New York Public Library Top 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing, and more! Also honored as a Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Books of the Year, 2012. For more info, visit his site!

Let the the conversation begin!

Your book, It’ Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw, was named an Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor Book. Congratulations! Can you take us through the excitement upon receiving this news? 

Soon after It Jes’ Happened published last year, my editor started sending congratulatory emails whenever the book received a nice mention in a review journal or made an end-of-year Best-of list. Earlier this spring, she sent an email containing the words “Ezra Jack Keats” and “Award,” I figured that Greg Christie, the illustrator, had won something for his wonderful art. But not me. Then I read the email again, and I was floored to realize it was an award for the writing. 

How has this award changed you? Do you write differently because of it? 

The award hasn’t changed the way I write, but it has given me a boost of confidence. My name, in a small way, will forever be associated with the great Ezra Jack Keats, the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, and the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection. The jacketflap of an upcoming book describes me as ‘Ezra Jack Keats honor award-winning author, Don Tate.’ What a way to write in confidence! 

Traylor Abridged-spreadlargeYou have recently gone through a plethora of career transitions. From illustrator to author, then on top of that, going from graphic reporter to author, illustrator, and speaker. What prompted these changes and how are you adjusting?  

For the past 16 years, I worked as a full-time newsroom artist at the Des Moines Register, and as a graphics reporter at the Austin American Statesman (I illustrated children’s books on the side). During that time, I witnessed the downsizing of newspapers. A lot of very talented people lost their jobs, and I figured my days were numbered, too. To prepare for what was obviously inevitable, I asked my bosses to be released from my full-time status. This would allow me to devote more time to my career as a children’s book illustrator, author, and speaker. This past January, the inevitable happened, I was laid-off from the newspaper. The experience was both scary and liberating at the same time. Scary because I lost my steady income source. Liberating because I was  now earning my income by doing what I wanted to do. When I’m invited to speak at a school or conference, I don’t have to ask anyone permission to take a day off or worry about switching schedules with a coworker.  

What are your biggest career challenges? 

The biggest challenge is in balancing book-making-time with speaking time. I visit and speak at a lot of schools and conferences. It’s a part of the job. Speaking earns decent income and allows for promoting my books. But it also steals valuable time away from book making. Income may become a challenge. Until this week, I was living on severance income from the paper. That ran out. So from this day forward, children’s books are my sole income source. I’ll need to be creative, productive, resourceful. 

What’s on the horizon? 

I’m in the process of selling my next authored book. I’ve received an offer and have accepted. It’s the story of a young boy who wanted to learn how to read at a time in this country when reading was outlawed for African-Americans. It’s an important story for every child. 

Where do you want to be in the next ten years? 

In the next ten years, I’ll be doing what I’m doing today: Writing, illustrating, speaking. Again, I love what I’m doing, so I see no change there. 

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Interview with Award-Winning Author Jane Yolen

Get to know Jane…

Jane Yolen, often called “the Hans Christian Andersen of America,” is the author of over 300 books, including OWL MOON, THE DEVIL’S ARITHMETIC, and HOW DO DINOSAURS SAY GOODNIGHT. The books range from rhymed picture books and baby board books, through middle grade fiction, poetry collections, nonfiction, and up to novels and story collections for young adults and adults. 

Her books and stories have won an assortment of awards–two Nebulas, a World Fantasy Award, a Caldecott, the Golden Kite Award, three Mythopoeic awards, two Christopher Medals, a nomination for the National Book Award, and the Jewish Book Award, among others. She is also the winner (for body of work) of the Kerlan Award, the World Fantasy Assn. Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Catholic Library’s Regina Medal, and the 2012 du Grummond Medal. Six colleges and universities have given her honorary doctorates. If you need to know more about her, visit her website.

Let the conversation begin!

When was the last time you did something for the first time?  What was it?

Three years ago, my first (but not my last) graphic novel. FOILED. 

Two years ago a children’s picture book in sonnets. EMILY’S SONNETS (out this fall) 

Giving an important lecture at St Andrews University in Scotland this fall. I have had a summer home there for the past 20 years and mostly live there as Mrs. Stemple. Only about two dozen people actually know I write. 

If you couldn’t write books, what career would you pursue?

As a child I wanted to be a ballerina or failing that, own a horse farm. Then I wanted to be either a lawyer or Ethel Merman. This is what I do. Fantasies still exist in my head but now I get them down on paper. 

If you could date any celebrity, who would it be and why?

Johnny Depp for sense of humor (but he couldn’t smoke in my presence). Emily Dickinson just to have a conversation with her. Isak Dinesen so she could tell me a story. Robbie Burns so he could write me a love poem. 

What specific thing have you done that impressed yourself?

Had three children and didn’t die giving birth to any of them. (I read too many Victorian novels in college!) 

Can you share a nugget of writing wisdom?

I wrote this on a friend’s blog recently: “I always love doors opening. It is part of the reinvention of self that every artist has to do on a daily, monthly, yearly basis. If we don’t take that step out, away from the known and into the unknown, if we don’t take that step through to back home, then we are wasting our talent and our time on earth. 

“Take a step, breathe in the world, give it out again in story, poem, song, art.” 

If you could pick one fictional character to meet, who would it be? What would you ask him/her? 

Aragorn Strider: Why did you love a faerie princess and not Arwen? 

Do you keep a writing journal?

A generalized online journal at my website. 

What is the biggest distraction in your life right now?

Traveling on book tours, giving speeches, and doing interviews. (Sorry, you did ask!) 

What is your favorite quote? Why?

“Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—
Success in Circuit lies. . .”
 

by Emily Dickinson because that is what every writer needs to hear. 

Top three greatest books ever written. Go.

You have GOT to be kidding. I could name my favorite top greatest most compelling etc. books ALL DAY LONG. And the list would vary from hour to hour. Or even from minute to minute. 

Biggest pet peeve? What do you do that annoys your friends and family?

Bite my nails. Really. Childhood habit I have never broken. Oh—and wanting to fix everybody’s life! (So sue me, I’m a Jewish mother.) 

Name a turning point in your life that makes you smile/cry.

How I met my late husband. 

What is the worst possible name to call a child?

Stupid. 

What do you miss about being a child?

Having an entire universe and time to explore it ahead of me. 

What is the best part of writing? Worst part?

Best: going to work in my jammies.

Worst? Losing the most important word in a story or poem when the phone interrupts me, and then never finding it again. The word, that is, not the phone. I can always find the phone. 

If you could only write one more book, what would it be about?

Don’t be silly. I write a bunch of books at the same time. 

What is your passion?

It used to be new babies, chocolate, and quiet nights with my husband.

Now it is hoping I will live long enough to hold a great grandbaby some day, eating raw veggies, and Internet dating sites. Feh. 

Coffee or Tea? What is the worst drink you’ve ever tasted?

Hate coffee, hate the taste of liquor. Single malt is pretty high up on the can’t-stand-it meter. 

Daily word count?

Yes it does.

Why do you write?

Because I have to, because I want to, because—it turns out—it’s the one thing I am actually good at. (I first wrote “the one thing I am actually god at—and that works, too!) 

When are you the most productive?

Mornings. 

Is it possible to lie without saying a word?

Well, pick a soft bed. . .or an Escher drawing. . .or photograph fairies.

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Author Interview with Josh Berk

josh-berk-9aac5bb0a664564bGet to know Josh…

Josh Berk is the author of THE DARK DAYS OF HAMBURGER HALPIN, GUY LANGMAN: CRIME SCENE PROCRASTINATOR, and STRIKE THREE, YOU’RE DEAD – the first in the “Lenny & The Mikes” series. For more info, visit his website. For too much info, visit his Twitter.

Let the conversation begin!

What one word describes you?

“Not that good at following directions.”

Do you bake or buy?

Eat.

What song best describes your work ethic?

“I Don’t Wanna Go Down To The Basement” (Ramones)

What is your concession stand must-have at the movies?

Popcorn and M&Ms and then you dump the M&Ms into the popcorn. My sister invented this. She is a genius.

What is one quality that you really appreciate in a person?

As Oscar Wilde once said, “I’d rather talk to an interesting jerk than a boring nice person.” What I’m trying to say is, a quality I appreciate is when people don’t fact-check my quotes.

What is your favorite board game? 

Scrabble, even if it often ends in bloodshed.

What would you rather have: a nanny, a housekeeper, a cook, or a chauffeur?

I kind of like driving and don’t really mind cooking. Hanging out with my kids is okay. So I’ll go with housekeeper. Who likes keeping houses? Not this guy.

DSC01392Would you rather be trapped in an elevator or stuck in traffic?

I have a border-line psychotic fear of being trapped in an elevator. Whereas I actually rather like being stuck in traffic. Just turn the radio up loud and let it rock, baby. (Who am I calling “baby??”)

What do you think you do best in your writing? Bragging is encouraged.

I’m pretty good at dialogue. I’m also really good at similes. I’m so good at similes, I’m like … a someone who is … good … at … a thing.

What book are you reading now?

Ten Little New Yorkers by Kinky Friedman. He’s my favorite mystery writer.

Name one entity that supported your writing journey outside of family members.

I just want to say the entire community of YA authors is a very supportive and cool bunch.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

I never think about it! That way lies madness!

What initially inspired you to pursue a career in writing?

I grew up in a family of book-lovers. Both my parents were librarians and encouraged a love of writing and reading from an early age.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

If an idea scares you or seems too impossible to pull off, try it anyway! Don’t be limited by fear and don’t worry about perfection. Even if you throw away every word you wrote at the end of a day, it was still a productive day as long as you wrote. You learned something and the only way to get better is to practice.

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Interview with New York Times Bestselling Author Lauren Oliver

OliverlGet to know Lauren…

Lauren Oliver captivated readers with her first novel, the New York Times bestseller Before I Fall, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year. She followed that up with Delirium and Pandemonium, the first two books in her bestselling trilogy, which concludes with Requiem. Delirium has been optioned for film by Fox 2000 Pictures. Oliver is also the author of two luminous novels for middle-grade readers, The Spindlers and Liesl & Po, which was named a Kirkus Best Book of the Year. A graduate of the University of Chicago and NYU’s MFA program, Lauren Oliver lives in Brooklyn, New York. You can visit her online at her websiteWikipedia, and Tumblr

Let the conversation begin!

What one word describes you?

Disciplined. Wait, that’s so boring. Okay, I’m changing it. Passionate.

If I gave you a brick, what would you do with it?

Use it as a paperweight OR bake brick-chicken with it.

What do you do when you see a spider in your house?

Smash it. Unless it’s a really cute spider, in which case I catch and release.

Do you bake or buy?

Buy. But I love to cook.

What kitchen utensil would you be? Why?

A meat thermometer. I can handle the heat.

Should you tip for takeout?

If you can afford it, of course.

If you could be anyone else, who would you be? Why?

Beyonce. I don’t feel I need to explain.

If you were to attend a costume party tonight, who would you be? Why?

I don’t know, but it would have to involve feathers. I’m in a feathers-phase. So…Big Bird?

Which is worse, being in a place that is too loud or too quiet?

Too loud!

What is one quality that you really appreciate in a person?

Loyalty.

What is the most distinguishing landmark in your city?

Most people would say the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building. I like the Brooklyn Bridge!

What classifies as a boring conversation? What classifies as an interesting one?

Boring conversation = a conversation in which no one asks a question or expresses a point of view

Interesting conversation = one in which people have different opinions

What is your favorite board game?

Clue!

What food item would you remove from the market altogether?

Bananas and flavored yogurts.

What would you rather have, a nanny, a housekeeper, a cook, or a chauffeur?

Definitely a housekeeper. I’m incredibly messy.

Lauren_Oliver_hl_md_3.jpg.290x620_q85[1]Would you rather be trapped in an elevator or stuck in traffic?

Stuck in traffic! I live in terror of being stuck in an elevator.

What inspired you to write your first book?

My first book EVER? Or my first published book? My first published book is called Before I Fall and it was inspired by my meditations about social hierarchies in high school.

Do you have a specific writing style?

Probably, but I’m not sure I know how to describe it!

What do you think you do best in your writing? Bragging is encouraged.

I think I’m good at generating realistic characters and at basic “style” stuff—like metaphors, lyricism, and vivid language. I am less-good at world-building and at keeping the action moving!

What books have most influenced your life?

It’s too hard to pick. I’ve been a lifelong reader; I’ve been inspired and influenced by almost everything I’ve read.


If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

My father, for sure. He writes nonfiction books, so ourchosen genres are very different, but he’s definitely been my mentor!


What book are you reading now?

Right now I’m reading THE NEAR WITCH, by Victoria Schwab, and OUR SONG, by Jordanna Fraiberg.

Name one entity that supported your writing journey outside of family members.

Harper Collins! They’ve supported my books from the start. And Dub Pies in Brooklyn, where I get my coffee.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

I want to change small things on every page—turns-of-phrase, images, redundancies. But I don’t have any burning desire to change any of the major action.


What initially inspired you to pursue a career in writing?

I’ve just always loved to write. I don’t think I ever assumed I would be able to make my career as a writer—but I always knew that I would write stories. At a certain point, I just decided to see whether anyone else wanted to read them!

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in writing?

Plotting, for sure! And world-building. I’m working on both.

What comes easily?

Dialogue, character development, and description.

Who’s your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I can’t list a favorite—that would be like asking me to name a favorite, I don’t know, pasta shape! THEY’RE ALL SO DELICIOUS.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Read as much as possible!

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Interview with Bestselling Author Maria Murnane

51rUP0O7mZLGet to know Maria…

Maria Murnane is the author of the best-selling romantic comedies known as the Waverly books, which have sold more than 150,000 copies worldwide. In addition to writing novels, she has embarked on a career as a public speaker and author consultant. She graduated with high honors in English and Spanish from UC Berkeley and received a master’s degree in integrated marketed communications from Northwestern University. She currently lives in New York City. Learn more at her website.

Let the conversation begin!

What one word describes you?

Determined.

If I gave you a brick, what would you do with it?

Throw it at the master programming code that charges us $150 to change our own flight reservations online. I will never understand that.

What do you do when you see a spider in your house?

I try to catch it so I can release it outside. (Now if it were a snake, I’d run screaming into the street.)

Do you bake or buy?

Buy.

Do you believe in UFOs?

No.

What kitchen utensil would you be?

Ice cream scooper. How could you not be happy if you were an ice cream scooper?

If you could be anyone else, who would you be?

Adam Levine has a pretty ideal life. He gets paid very well to do what he loves with his buddies in Maroon 5 and also gets paid very well to help those who aspire to be where he is on The Voice.

If you were a road sign, what would you be?

Detour. I ditched a successful career to try to make it as an author. And I did it!

What is your concession stand must-have at the movies?

I rarely eat at the movies, but if someone with me is eating popcorn, it’s hard not to have a few handfuls.

Which is worse, being in a place that is too loud or too quiet?

Too loud.

What is one quality that you really appreciate in a person?

Reliability.

What is the most distinguishing landmark in your city?

Statue of Liberty.

What classifies as a boring conversation? What classifies as an interesting one?

If I can’t think of anything to say next, I’m bored. If I can’t decide what to say next, I’m interested.

What is your earliest childhood memory?

My mom tucking me in for an afternoon nap.

What is your favorite board game?

Payday.

Maria headshot #1 April 2012What food item would you remove from the market altogether?

Soda.

What would you rather have: a nanny, a housekeeper, a cook, or a chauffeur?

Housekeeper.

Would you rather be trapped in an elevator or stuck in traffic?

Traffic. At least I can listen to music. I can’t sing to save my life, but I love to listen.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I’m not exactly sure—I’d always thought it would be cool to write a novel, and I guess one day I decided to stop thinking about and just do it.

What do you think you do best in your writing? Bragging is encouraged.

Fans tell me that reading my books is like watching a movie because I paint such a vivid picture for them, which I think is an incredible compliment. A lot of readers also tell me they love my dialogue because it sounds so authentic.

What books have most influenced your life?

Probably the Judy Blume novels. I grew up reading them.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Jennifer Weiner. When I read In Her Shoes I remember thinking life would be so much more fun if my job were to write novels instead of working in high-tech PR, which is what I’d been doing. I wonder if she has any idea who I am now. That would be amazing.

What book are you reading now?

The Paris Wife.

Name one entity that supported your writing journey outside of family members.

Delta Gamma.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Yes! I would never stop editing every book I write if my publisher didn’t force me to turn them in.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in writing? What comes easily?

Dialogue comes easily to me. Keeping a story moving forward can be challenging.

Who’s your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I don’t have just one favorite author, but I love Pat Conroy’s prose. It’s beautiful.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

If you feel like there’s a book inside of you, just write it! You’ll be so glad you did, and no one will ever be able to take that feeling of accomplishment away from you.

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