YA Author, Writing Instructor
What do you enjoy most about teaching teens?
I love working with writers of any age or level of accomplishment because I always learn something new.
Working with teens is a lot like writing for their market. They are fresh and new, full of excitement and edge, bursting with surprise and new ideas. They don’t know all the rules yet and so they break them in exciting and creative ways. Teen writers have a voice that hasn’t been stunted by failure and the ills of the world. And they are not afraid or ashamed to let their thoughts and ideas spill onto the page. They are anxious to explore and anxious to share—all the ingredients necessary for a lively writers workshop.
Which kinds of teen novels and genres do you like?
I’m a voracious reader and will read anything. But a book must hold my attention. I must care about the protagonist and the story must, must, must make sense. (Verisimilitude!)
I am drawn to mystery and suspenseful thrillers. Much of my television work demanded fantasy elements and extensive world building, which is fun and exciting to write. But as a result, I really enjoy reading a great story written within the confines of a contemporary setting.
My favorite YA author at the moment is A.S. King. She won a Printz Honor for one of her early books, but everything she writes gets great critical reviews. Not only have I read all of her work but I have met her in person. What I revere most is her boldface honesty and who she is as a person and a member of the YA writer community. Who she is illuminates the books she writes. I also love Rita Williams-Garcia, Tim Wynne-Jones, Libba Bray, Laurie Halse Anderson, Meg Cabot, John Green. The list goes on and on.
What kinds of writing and editing have you done?
I have written TV series, cartoons, comic books, graphic novels, direct music marketing letters (as Mariah Carey and MC Hammer), and restaurant and theater reviews (for free food and great seats). Now I am writing for love, and what I love to write are contemporary YA mysteries and thrillers.
What do you like best about writing fiction?
I love being able to slip into a character’s skin and become that person while I write. Writing can become very emotional. Sometimes I find myself going through the roller coaster of chaos I’m throwing at my characters. When they are sad or hurt, I actually get into a funk about it, until I figure out a way to get them out of their situation. Then I feel exhilarated.
What’s up next for you?
My young adult series (title pending) is about a teen detective (lots of action) who solves the cold case murder of her mother (tons of heart) using high school biology forensics. The book will debut on the Tor Teen list for October 2016.
What’s a challenge you face in your writing?
There are so many facets to writing. Each one needs to not only fit with the theme, style, voice, and so on, but build the story in a creative and interesting way. I’ve been writing for a long time, so when I get stuck on a story point I know how to work my way through it. But getting to The End of anything is always a challenge.
What's your advice for teen writers?
Just keep at it. Write. Write. And write some more. Rome wasn’t built in a day. If you can write, you never know where that can take you. Be patient. Give yourself that time. And keep writing. If you keep writing… you are a writer.