Author Interview with Robin Constantine

SecretsofAttraction HC CGet to know Robin…

Robin Constantine is the author of The Promise of Amazing and The Secrets of Attraction (Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins Publishers) A born-and-raised Jersey girl, she spends her days dreaming up stories where love conquers all, eventually, but not without a lot of peril, angst, and the occasional kissing scene. When she’s not writing she enjoys movies, days at the beach and road trips. You can find her at her website

 Quirky Questions

What are you thinking about right now?

A nap.

What one person or object best represents the 80’s

Rubik’s Cube.

What is the most shocking sight you’ve ever witnessed

Once at a Bruce Springsteen concert I saw a bunch of guys overturn a Porta-John while someone was inside. The door faced the ground, so the guy couldn’t escape without help. When they turned it upright, it took him awhile to come out. This was also before the concert so, one can only assume this poor guy had to go inside not exactly smelling like a rose. Only under extreme duress would I ever consider using one and if there were woods nearby, I’d take my chances there before stepping into a Porta-John.

What would you do if you wanted to annoy someone

Empty my drink with a loud rattling sound.

What do you do too little of?

Chill out.

What latest trend simply baffles you?


If you had to choose, what is the most important quality in a relationship—humor, smarts, personality, looks, money, or mutual interests? Why?

Humor. Looks fade, wealth can be fleeting, but make me laugh and I’m in it for the long haul.

If the plane you were flying in was about to crash, who would you like to be sitting beside? Why?

My husband, because he’d probably crack a joke and/or pull a MacGyver. I’d also like to be kissed one last time.

If you could add one feature to your cell phone, what would it be?

Being able to teleport somewhere on a whim.

If you could own a store, what sorts of things would you sell?

Books and cupcakes.

Writing Questions

Can you visualize a finished product before you begin a book?

Yes! This helps me on the days the words aren’t flowing that easily.

Do you feel that you chose your passion, or did it choose you?

A little of both, perhaps? I’ve always been drawn to books and stories – and even after time away, I’ve always come back. There are days I don’t feel completely passionate about writing, but I do it anyway and there are days I feel passionate about a story but the words won’t come. I think we chose each other, but need a break now and then!

Is there a particular place where you feel most creative?  

I know I should have some fascinating answer but at least while I’m writing – I’m most creative when I’m home at my desk. When I’m thinking things through I love to be in a natural setting – staring at the ocean, walking through the park or taking in the scenery on a road trip all help my mind get out of the way of itself so the story idea can come out and play.

Who or what has helped you to persevere and not quit?

I took my first SCBWI workshop years ago with Penny Pollock who was so positive and nurturing she made me believe I could succeed in this writing business if I worked at it. One of the things she said always stuck with me – “It takes years.” You don’t hear that often and accepting that reality, knowing you can’t control how fast things happen, really helped me. She was very down to earth and realistic about the whole business and I think the hours I spent in that workshop formed the backbone of my own philosophy about writing and publishing. There’s no such thing as an overnight success – even when it appears that way.

I also have a ravaged copy of Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott – which I keep handy to read when I’m in the need for inspiration or a good laugh. So much fantastic writing (and life) wisdom in those pages.

And I simply wouldn’t be able to cope without my writing buds.

What has been your greatest sacrifice that has enabled you to become the author you are today?

A social life – I’m only partly kidding. Also watching TV regularly – I’m like “Hey have you seen that show Friday Night Lights? And people are like…um, yeah, it ended a few years ago.” So, Yay, Netflix!

How do you balance your personal life and your creative endeavors?

I try and keep them as separate as possible. Of course, they intersect at times, but maintaining my “author” self apart from my “private” self is necessary for my sanity – but it’s like any job in that respect. It’s nice to be able to step away from some piece of writing that I’m struggling with or a heated Twitter discussion and really disengage from it and give my family and friends my full attention. It’s easy to burn out if I don’t keep them separate.

Has your creativity changed stylistically as you have matured? If so, in what ways?

I used to believe I couldn’t write if I wasn’t inspired – and that is a dangerous thought. You can find inspiration through your writing, and you need to be able to write, even on the days you don’t feel like it. It’s about being disciplined.

When do you feel the most energized?

If we’re talking time of day, it varies. I used to be such a night owl, but I find I get more concentrated work done in the morning now – like early early, when everyone else is asleep. As for the point in my process when I feel most energized, it’s about the second or third revision – when I really know my story and characters and I can play around with things. That’s usually the time I write and write and write and look up to find a few hours have passed or I’ve forgotten to eat.

How do you deal with creativity blocks?

I try and work through them. If I’m blocked, sometimes it means that I haven’t quite worked out a part of the story and need to pull back. Other times it means I’m burnt out and need to do something fun, and completely unrelated to writing. Figuring out which one it is, is usually the trick!

How much of your own life is reflected in your work?

At one time I might have said none – but really, there is a lot of me in my books and yet they are not autobiographical. I think you can take an experience and change it, or take your feelings about an experience and expand upon them – which is what I find I do a lot.

Which of your books gives you the most pride or satisfaction?

Hmm…since I only have two books out so far, and they are companions, I’m going to cheat and say both. These books are like a love letter to my sixteen-year-old self. They are books that I would have loved as a teenager. They reflect a lot of my high school experience — going to an all girl school, being silly with my friends, obsessing over guys and basically figuring out who I wanted to be. That said — I do have a special place in my heart for my first book because it was my debut and put me in touch with so many amazing people. I also really adore Grayson Barrett, so there’s that too.


Author Interview with Kristen Kittscher

unnamedGet to know Kristen…

Kristen Kittscher is the 2014 James Thurber House Children’s Writer-in-Residence and debut author of The Wig in the Window (2013), the first in a planned middle grade mystery series from Harper Children’s. A graduate of Brown University and former middle school English teacher, Kristen is a contributor to the Los Angeles Review of Books and The Rumpus and presents frequently at schools, libraries, and festivals. Kristen lives with her husband in Pasadena, California, where she is at work on the next mystery in her series, The Tiara on the Terrace. For more info, visit her website, Twitter, and Facebook.

Quirky Questions

What is the best thing about getting old?

I’m getting old? You can’t tell me these things! I still feel like I’m ten. However, I will say that the confidence that comes with having more practice living in the world is something I’d never trade to be young again.

If someone spied on you, what embarrassing fact would they discover?

That on a writing day, when I have no plans to leave the house, I am ALWAYS in my pajamas.

What one commercial product are you totally loyal to?

Persil — a German detergent. My husband brings it back from his family in Germany.

Fill in the blank. Rap music makes me….

…wish I could rap myself! I’m constantly in awe of the talent it takes to bust out with those rhymes.

unnamedWriting Questions

What are the biggest challenges you have had in the realm of your art?

All of it is challenging, and I think that’s why I love it so much. When things come too easily, I’m suspicious. I like to be in over my head and constantly pushing into unknown territory. I started writing late, after many years of teaching, so I feel like I’m still very much learning my craft. 

What life experiences have inspired your work?

My middle school teaching is definitely my main influence. Observing the ups and downs of the seventh grade social landscape and reliving the angst of that time through my students definitely seeps into my character’s points-of-view. As a childhood spy myself, of course my own spying experiences inspired amateur sleuths Young & Yang in The Wig in the Window. My best friend and I had the “0013 Spies Club,” named for our 007 and 006 agent monikers. Of course, we had lots of fights over which of us got to be 007…

How do you know when a book is finished?

When I start to notice the changes I’m making are very superficial and I’m no longer filled with ideas for solutions and changes, I’m finished. I remember my editor very patiently listening to me as I wrung my hands over whether the seagulls in a certain scene were “soaring” or “gliding.” That book was definitely done at that point; I just wasn’t accepting it!

Why were you drawn to a career in writing instead of to a job that might offer more stability and security?

For many years, I was actually drawn to jobs with more stability and security because I didn’t think I had enough talent to be a writer. Being a professional writer felt like an entirely impractical aspiration, so I settled for doing jobs that nevertheless involved being surrounded by stories and language. I worked in script development at Warner Brothers, for a translation agency, and as an English teacher. I’ve taught English in some form since 2000. It wasn’t until I was inspired to write for my seventh graders that I realized the two paths don’t need to be mutually exclusive.

Who do you consider a literary genius?

Oh, there are so many! Vladimir Nabokov takes the prize for me. When I consider he didn’t always write in his native language, I’m especially dazzled. As far as living authors go, I’m in awe of David Mitchell. 

What obstacles have you had to deal with in your career? 

My career is just getting started, so I’d have to say having the courage to even embark on it in the first place has been the biggest obstacle. I am always fighting to get out of my own way and have more faith in my own instincts and abilities.

What are your words of wisdom for someone starting out in the field of writing?

Be kind to yourself and don’t rush. 

What traits, if any, do you think that creative people have compared to people who are not creative?

None. I think all people are inherently creative. Some people are simply more regularly accessing  divergent ways of thinking and taking the time to be playful. If being playful and making things is a priority for you, than you are creative!


Author Interview with Tracy Clark

ScintilGet to know Tracy…

Tracy Clark grew up a “valley girl” in Southern California but now resides in her home state of Nevada with her daughter and son. She’s an unapologetic dog person who is currently owned by a cat. She is the recipient of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Work in Progress Grant and a two-time participant in the prestigious Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program. Her debut novel was inspired by her enchantment with metaphysics as a teen, seeing it as the real magic in life. When not writing and mothering, Tracy is a lover of words, a private pilot, and an irredeemable dreamer. For more info, visit her website.

Quirky Questions 

What one person or object best represents the 80’s?

Since the first person to come to mind was Cyndi Lauper, I’m going to go with her. With a nod to MTV and big hair. Notice, all three of these things tie together? Do I get extra credit?

What would you do if you wanted to annoy someone?

Are they a writer? Writers are easy to annoy. Just constantly interrupt our flow.

What is the biggest indication that someone is a nerd?

The glorious, heady shine that comes off of nerds when they’re being their wholly unique, quirky, nutty self and unconcerned with what people think about it. 

What latest trend simply baffles you?

Staring into devices more than we stare into the world or each other’s eyes. 

What bad habit will you purposely never quit?

Being mouthy. 

If you had to choose, what is the most important quality in a relationship—humor, smarts, personality, looks, money, or mutual interests?

Personality. Mutual interests almost tied, though. I wish more people talked to us when we are young and beginning to date about paying attention to how we feel with someone and what we really want out of our ideal relationship. Do you feel treasured? Truly loved? Respected? Is there passion, not just “chemistry” but shared passions? So many questions we neglect to ask.

If the plane you were flying in was about to crash, who would you like to be sitting beside? 

No one I know. No one I love. 

TracyWriting Questions

What is your typical day like?

I wake up, exercise, get the kids to school, and write until they come home. After that, it’s a mix of mom duties and author duties and life’s plot twists.

Can you visualize a finished product before you begin a book?

Yes. Most of the time I know my end point. It’s getting there that can be tricky!

Who or what has helped you to persevere and not quit?

My writer friends and critique partners. My own stubborn will.

What has been your greatest sacrifice that has enabled you to become the author you are today?

Me time.

If you knew that you had only one last opportunity to express yourself creatively, what message would you want to convey to others?

There are no throwaway people. Every one of us is here to contribute something good to the world. Find out what it is and do it, or you’re wasting the gift. Give more thought to what your highest vision is for yourself than you give to the latest celebrity news or negativity and strive each day to see that highest vision realized. If you skimmed over all of the above, just LOVE.

When did you realize that you had a gift for writing?

Tricksy bloggesses! All I know is that I lack the passion, drive, desire, or talent to do anything else for a living.

Has your creativity changed stylistically as you have matured? If so, in what ways?

Absolutely! I had to learn the rules before I could break them, and my newer work shows stylistic exploring on my part. I hope my creativity both matures and breaks FREE with every new project. Mostly, I’m less afraid and more daring than I used to be.

When do you feel the most energized?

Mornings, after a workout, after a curiously chocolaty coffee, after stimulating conversation.

Does your writing reflect your personality?

I’m sure most writers would say that a lot of their own personality shows in their work. In some form or another, my snark comes through loud and clear.

How much of your own life is reflected in your work?

I notice certain themes crop up over and over—like being “seen” or “heard”, which have been issues for me. A book that hasn’t been published, but I have hopes for, is very autobiographical. I find that most writers need to get that one out of their system. It’s cathartic, but I hope also good story telling. That book won the SCBWI Work In Progress Grant, which I’m very proud of.

Which of your books gives you the most pride or satisfaction?

I obviously have a soft spot for SCINTILLATE because it was my first published book (the 4th I wrote.) But I have a YA thriller coming out in spring of 2016 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt called, MIRAGE, and I’m really proud of the writing I did on that book. 


Author Interview with Murielle Cyr

MurGet to know Murielle…

Murielle Cyr lives in Quebec, Canada, with her family, which includes a frisky yellow Labrador and a Tortoiseshell cat with an attitude. Teaching grade school for many years inspired her to write for children, although she also wrote adult fiction at the same time. She writes in different genres including short stories and poetry for adult readers, as well as stories for middle-grade and young adults. Her recent publications include Culloo, a middle grade novella published in 2012; Turtle Wish, a picture book for young readers which came out in 2013; and Catori’s Worlds, a science fiction novel for young adults released in 2014. She is presently working on the second novel in the Catori’s Worlds series, as well as a historical novel about life in pre-WW2 Quebec. For more info, visit her website, blog, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Quirky Questions 

If you could have a remote control for anything, what would you choose?

A remote that takes care of all the house cleaning. 

What one thing annoys you most at a restaurant?

Tables placed so close to each other that you get elbowed by the other customers at the next table. 

What food do you not eat enough of?

Raw meat or fish. 

If you were any animal, what would you be? 

A crow—they are so majestic and intelligent. 

If you could change one thing about airlines to make your flight more enjoyable, what would it be?

More legroom and wider seats. 

How would a dictionary define your writing process?

Slow and unsure of herself. 

What irritates you the most in a social situation?

Artificial small talk. 

What word describes the outfit you’re wearing right now?

Ready for bed. 

If you opened the freezer right now, what would you love to find?

A carton of caramel ice cream. 

What is a lie your mom told you when you were little?

That newborns were found under cabbage leaves. 

51j7MGA4SmLWriting Questions

How do you know when a book is finished?

It feels like the main character doesn’t want to go any further. An emotional or psychological level has been reached where the character needs to rest before continuing any further.

When did you know for certain that you wanted to pursue a career in writing? Have you ever questioned that decision?

I’ve known since grade school that I was going to write. Writing though isn’t always about sitting down to put words on paper—there’s the thinking, wondering, imagining, and dodging life’s obstacles that goes on before you actually put on your writer’s cap. I’ve never regretted it because it’s an integral part of me—almost like having an extra room attached to your heart.

Do you ever feel that you have to censor your creativity because you don’t want to offend anyone?

No, I don’t think creativity can be censored. If you channel it towards living up to other people’s expectations, then creativity ceases to exist.

What are your words of wisdom for someone starting out in the field of writing?

I think you have to be a good listener and observer before starting to write. You also have to live the pain and fear before trying to find the words to describe it. Don’t invent a vision—have one. Don’t be in a hurry to publish your work—let it stew for a while before going back to it.

Why were you drawn to a career in writing instead of to a job that might offer more stability and security?

I taught grade school for many years but I still found time to write. I never considered writing to be a career, but rather a way to express myself.

What obstacles have you had to deal with in your career?

I think my biggest obstacle is finding the right balance between writing and carrying on with the daily activities. There’s so many things you have to do, see and feel before you have enough material to write about?

How did you pick your writing genre?

I write in different genres. My short stories and poems are more or less adult fiction, but I’ve also written picture books for toddlers and stories for middle school children. My latest novel is a science fiction story for young adults. I try to choose the most appropriate genre for my target readers.