Barbara Dee is the author of the tween novels Just Another Day in my Insanely Real Life (starred review, PW), Solving Zoe (2010 Bank Street Best Children’s Books of the Year; 2010 and 2011 Texas Lone Star Annotated Reading List; Girls Life Top 100 Must Reads), and This Is Me From Now On. Her new tween novel, Trauma Queen, has been called “a laugh-out look at family and friendship” by Discovery Girls magazine, and named a Girls Life “Must Read.” Barbara has taught high school English and practiced law. She now lives with her family in Westchester County, New York. For more info, visit her website.
Let the conversation begin!
What was your favorite book to write?
I’ve loved writing every one of my books, but writing TRAUMA QUEEN was a special experience for me. Probably because it’s a story about the complex relationship between a mother and a daughter, I felt the emotions of both main characters very strongly. I actually laughed while I was typing certain scenes, and when I typed the last page, I was in tears.
I don’t have just one favorite, but some authors I love are Jane Austen, Flannery O’Connor and Alice Munro. They all write shockingly good sentences, have such a great eye for character, and share a deep appreciation for quirkiness.
What advice would you give young writers? Practice reading your work out loud. Your ears will pick up things your eyes won’t. This is especially important to do when you’re writing dialogue.
What is the most valuable advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t write what you KNOW. Write what you FEEL.
When are you the most productive?
Noon. Actually, my productivity peaks between 10 am and 2 pm. Earlier than that, I’m under-caffeinated and groggy. Later than that, I’m pretty worthless.
Are your characters fictional? Or do you base them off real people?
A combination. I love to people-watch, and I’m always taking mental notes. I also do a lot of eavesdropping. Sometimes little quirks of character and little snippets of conversation pop up in my writing, and I realize where they come from. (Starbucks! The train!) But most of the time, my characters are pure invention.
What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?
JUST ANOTHER DAY IN MY INSANELY REAL LIFE and THIS IS ME FROM NOW ON were easiest to write. SOLVING ZOE was hard, because it took me awhile to get to know the characters. TRAUMA QUEEN was somewhere in the middle. I knew the characters from the start, but it took me awhile to find the plot. (I’m a characters-first sort of writer.)
A month-long trip to Italy in September, all expenses paid, with unlimited gelato.