A major topic within Year of Mistaken Discoveries is family, with an exploration of many different aspects of adoption. Is there a specific reason you chose to write about adoption; did something specific interest or inspire you?
I have always been interested in families of choice- people that we bring into our life who are as close (or sometimes closer) than “blood relatives. I wanted to explore the friendship between Nora and Avery and how they had been extremely close and had grown apart. I decided to make them both adopted because I wanted it to be something they had in common, but show how they had dealt with it very differently. I spent time talking to several teens who had been adopted as research.
The odd thing was that after I’d written a draft of the book, one of my cousin’s and her husband adopted their baby girl. I had a chance to see them go through the process and the joy that it brought to their lives and how they created their own family. It made writing about the topic more special.
I’ve always found your characters to be very relatable. You’re able to present very rounded characters, with both good and bad qualities, who are dealing with very real situations. How do you find the voices for these characters? Do you ever struggle to find a voice that readers will find accessible or is it something you easily tap into?
Thank you! Coming up with characters is one of my favorite parts of the process. I went to college for counseling/psychology because people fascinate me. The truth is that no one is all good or all bad; we’re a mix. Even when we make bad decisions, in the moment that we’re making them, they seem like good ideas. I think it is easier to write well rounded characters when you don’t judge them. I like my characters- all parts of them.
Has the title changed or stayed relatively the same as your novel journeyed towards publication?
Ha! I think we had about a million different titles. The truth is I am terrible at coming up with them. When I am writing I tend to give the book a really simple title, like Avery’s Book. Clearly, while this makes it easy to remember, it’s not exactly catchy. Once the manuscript is complete I tend to brainstorm a list with my editor and we trade ideas back and forth until we both have the “a-ha!” moment and know we landed on just the right title.
What book or author has most influenced you as a writer or in general?
Many people dream of their ideal jobs while working somewhere less desirable to make ends meet, never realizing what great experience those jobs of necessity are for their future. What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing?
How is it possible to pick just one! I grew up a total library junkie. I would go every week and check out stacks and stacks of books. I loved Judy Blume and the book The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. When I was about eleven I convinced my parents to let me check out a Stephen King novel, Salem’s Lot. I told them I wouldn’t be that scared because I knew it was just made up. Then I ended up sleeping with the lights on for three months after I finished it. I remember being so amazed that someone could make something up so well that even though I knew it was “fake,” I would feel real emotion. It seemed like magic. I wanted to do that.
If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why?
I had all sorts of jobs in school from retail, to the Dairy Queen, to waiting tables. After college I worked for years as a counselor. I’m a huge believer that all experiences are helpful to a writer, from travel to having your heart broken. There’s no doubt that working as a counselor has been a huge help to me as a writer. I spent years studying how and why people do the things that they do. It helps with creating characters and helping them behave in realistic ways.
This was hard. There are so many great words. If I have to pick one, I’d pick dog. I’m a huge dog fan. If there is ever a bad day I know I can count on my dog, Cairo, to make it better. It’s hard to be unhappy when rubbing a fuzzy belly.
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?
Like you, books have always been a favorite escape. I am one of those people with books stacked in every corner of my house and always have one that I’m in the middle of reading. In terms of a place, whenever I find myself stressed or need to get away I take a walk on the beach. That’s my favorite escape and if I can do it while walking my dog it’s even better.
Learn more about Eileen and her books here.
Check out my review of Year of Mistaken Discoveries here!