Marissa has written and illustrated over fifty books. Twenty-six of them are from her best known series, Amelia’s Notebook. When she wrote the first book fifteen years ago, the format of a handwritten notebook with art on every page was so original, editors didn’t know what to make of it. It took a small, new publisher, Tricycle Press, to take a chance on the innovative format. Amelia’s Notebook was so successful, two more books quickly followed, and the backlist of the first three books was bought by Pleasant Company (publishers of the American Girl books) for three million dollars. Moss’ new project is a series of journals for younger girls, seven to ten years old, Daphne’s Diary of Daily Disasters. Paula Wiseman at Simon & Schuster plans to debut the books next summer. For more info, visit her website.
Let the conversation begin!
How many words do you write each day?
I don’t do word counts and when I’m starting a book, I don’t have set amounts, but instead set hours. I try to write for at least four hours a day. On good days, I can easily do twice that. On bad days, an hour is a struggle.
Outliner or seat-of-the-pantser?
I don’t work from an outline until I get towards the end of a book. Then I’ll have sketchy notes that I give myself permission to ignore.
How long do you take to write a book?
That all depends on the book. For the historical novels, there’s a lot of initial time spent in research and I need to do many more revisions than are needed in an Amelia book.
In grade school, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’ve always wanted to write and illustrate books. I sent my first book to publishers when I was 9, but it wasn’t very good and they didn’t even send me a form rejection. Just silence.
Easier to write before or after you were published?
Writing is always hard, but I’m better at it now than before.
Would you rather publish a string of mainstream books or one classic?
I’d love to write one classic book that really resonates with readers.
Do you begin with character or plot?
Both, though my stories are character-driven.
Where do you get your ideas?
I get my ideas from all kinds of things — snippets of overheard conversation, things I read in the newspaper, random stuff I notice that somehow gets the creative juices flowing. You never know what will become a story.
What advice would you give young writers?
Read, read, READ. And read some more. Get language into your blood, so you can hear the rhythms in your bones.
What do you consider to the most valuable thing you own?
My passport. It lets me go anywhere in the world. Traveling is a huge inspiration for me.
Most embarrassing moment?
You can read about that in Amelia’s Most Unforgettable Embarrassing Moments. Amelia is a lot like me when I was a kid and the things that happen to her really happened to me (mostly).
Do you let anyone read your WIP? Or do you keep it a secret?
My best reader is my youngest son. He’s an incredibly insightful editor. But I also have a writers’ group I share my work with.
What initially drew you to writing?
In a story, you can make whatever you want to happen, happen. You can’t do that in real life. It’s one of the things that makes writing so magical.