How do/did you decide which genre to write about?
My first novel, which is women’s fiction with a touch of romance, chose me really. I just had to tell this story of a woman who had not only lost her partner in life, but also everything she had planned for the future.
My next novel will be New Adult, which I have really come to love as a reader. I think the current generation of twenty-somethings have really experienced a lot of change in terms of the path they take to adulthood (due to the economic and societal changes). From my own experiences, and from watching my friends challenges and journey’s, there is a universality to the struggles we have faced. I want to share with readers things I have learned, as well as letting them know that they are not alone in what they are going through.
I hope to one day write YA and fantasy.
With everything I write, I want there to be a rawness and a realness to the story. I want my readers to be able to reach into the page and pull something tangible out and say, “Yes. I get this because this is what I have lived.”
Where do you find your inspiration?
From all sorts of places. But mainly observing the world around me and asking questions. I’ll often see someone on the street who looks interesting for whatever reason, maybe it’s the outfit they have on or a look in their eyes, and I’ll think to myself, “Who are they? What is their story?” Then I will just make one up. This happened when we were celebrating my husband’s birthday downtown Detroit with our siblings and cousins. We were at a bar and it was right after Thanksgiving so it was really festive and warm, but the bartender was this gentleman, probably in his late thirties, and there was just something about him that intrigued me – when no one else was really paying attention to him. I don’t know if it was the kindness in his eyes, his hockey-player look, his weathered face, or the way he called me sweetie when he asked me what I wanted to drink. But there was something about him that made me think, made me ask questions. Don’t be surprised if he turns up in one of my novels.
Also, I find a lot of my inspiration from other art. Books, movies, television shows, advertisements, pictures, music, etc. There will be a moment or a theme or an aesthetic that I just love and will incorporate it into my stories.
I also love the idea that who you are and the decisions you make are not independent from how you were raised, where you live, your personal experiences, the time of history you were born into, your religious views, the society you live in, your biology, and your unique interpretation of the world. All of those things are so connected, you can’t untangle them from your behaviors and actions. So this leads to the question of why people do what they do. Specifically, people do bad things, but why do they do them? What lead them to that point? It’s all just shades of gray.
How do/did your personal experiences come into play when/while you are writing?
For me, writing is like exorcising demons. A lot of the ideas and concepts I want to write about explore situations I have been in and the feelings I have experienced. This is my way of making sense of them, and hopefully, helping others make sense of their own experiences too.
The idea for The Charm Necklace came in the form of a question: What would I do if I lost the person I want to spend the rest of my life with? How would I react? How could I possibly move on?
What part of the whole process was the most difficult for you?
For The Charm Necklace, I started writing it my senior year of high school, took a four-year hiatus for college, and then came back to it and had to completely rework it. That was tough. Not as tough as the developmental edit, though.
I find outlining is helpful to an extent. I always know the general direction of the story and the ending, but I don’t always know how I’m going to get there. Many things will come up in my writing and I’ll have to confront it, asking myself, “How do my characters react to this? What should happen next? Does this event move the story along or is it just a plot device?” Those moments, when I get stuck, tend to be the most frustrating and stressful. I usually have to walk away for a day or two and turn to my mom or my husband to help talk me through it. Or just go binge on episodes on Netflix.
How many hours a day or how often do you write?
On average, I write in the mornings Monday through Saturday. I wake up and get to writing first thing. After a few hours, I have to step away from the story and get some perspective. With this schedule, I am usually able to work through one or two chapters a week. But if I’m in the editing process, I can easily be working all day long on revisions.
When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
Well, I have always been a reader and loved stories. In fourth grade, I remember working on a collaborative story with one of my friends, where I would write a chapter and then she would write a chapter, but I don’t think we ever finished it.
Throughout middle school and high school, writing always came very easily to me and I found I really enjoyed it. My junior year I joined the school newspaper as a staff reporter, and by my senior year, I was co-Editor-in-Chief with my good friend, Sam. I had every intention of pursuing journalism but found that I did not like being a reactive participant in the process. I wanted to control it. So I dabbled in writing a few short fiction pieces. I got really good feedback, and I thought, “Okay, maybe I should try this.”
It has not always been an easy process, though, and I have suffered a lot from self-doubt. After graduating from college, I had time to write every day and I found such peace, joy, and freedom from anxiety that my doubts dwindled and I was reassured that there was nothing else I’d rather be doing.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I am one of those people who needs a lot of down time. So in my free time, I am often reading or watching TV. I love going to the movies and out to eat with my husband. I also work out regularly (walking the dog, doing Pilates) – it keeps me sane and grounded. I would probably be committed by now if I didn’t. I also enjoy exploring new areas, hiking, kayaking.
What advice can you give to others who want to pursue a writing career?
First of all, as vague and irritating as this sounds: you have to find what works for you. Find what kind of schedule works for you. Do you like to write in the morning? Late at night? Also, figure out what genres you’re drawn to. Maybe it’s women’s fiction, maybe it’s romance, maybe it’s graphic novels or even screenplays. Don’t box yourself into what you think you should be writing, what you think sounds good and prestigious. I never thought in a million years I would like writing romance. I don’t consider myself a romantic person and did not start reading romance (New Adult Romance, at that) until I was in college. I’ve never even read Fifty Shades. I’ve always been a big fantasy reader, and so has many of the men in my family, so at first it was embarrassing to tell them I was writing romance and even more embarrassing for them to read my manuscripts with sex scenes in them. I’d cover my eyes and tell my mom, “Just forget I’m your daughter when you’re reading this, okay?” And she came back with, “That’s all you got? Please. If you need to step it up, come talk to me.” Ultimately, you have to write what you love.
Secondly, read. Read. Read. Read. And then, read some more. Read the genres you love and know. Read genres you aren’t familiar with. Read new authors. Read old authors. Expose yourself to new books. Join a book club (or three). Read books. Study them. Think about them. And talk about them. I have only taken one formal creative writing class at a college, so basically, everything I’ve learned about writing has been from reading and the actual experience of writing. I also try to read writing craft books often.
Thirdly, do not be afraid of criticisms and editing. They are your best friends because they make your work better and you want your work to be the best it possibly can to do justice to the story and characters. Do not be afraid of change or new directions. Also, when listening to criticisms and suggestion, sit on it for a day or two and then do a gut check. Does it feel right to you? Does it advance the story or make it better? In the end, only you know the answer.
Fourthly, do it. Commit to writing whatever amount of time each week or month that you can. Do it. Enjoy it and let yourself have fun!
And above all, trust yourself. You know what you’re doing.
What genres do you enjoy reading?
My dad bought me the first Harry Potter book when I was eight years old. I’ve been hooked on fantasy ever since. But I also love to read some general fiction (Jodi Picoult is my favorite) and New Adult Romance.
I love YA. There is just something so special about that miserable, turbulent, sometimes simple, sometimes complicated, static-yet-always-changing time in life. I love the idea of all that unfulfilled potential just waiting to be tapped into.
I really enjoy books that help me escape from reality, but also challenge me to see the world in a different way.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
For Fantasy: J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Melanie Rawn, Karen Miller, John Flanagan, Kristin Cashore, Cassandra Clare, and Kelley Armstrong.
JONATHAN MABERRY has become one of my all-time favorite writers. I’m currently working through his Joe Ledger series. (Another of my dad’s recommendations)
For New Adult: Jamie McGuire, Megan March, and Brittainy C. Cherry.
For Young Adult: Gayle Forman, Sara Zarr, Stephanie Perkins, Jody Casella, and more that I can’t think of.
For Fiction: Jodi Picoult, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Harriet Evans.
Did I mention Jodi Picoult? She’s freaking awesome!