Your debut, Vivian Divine is Dead, starts with a bang and very rarely slows it’s pace, but, those times when things do quiet down and Vivian has time to think are often telling and important. Did you struggle to find places to incorporate those quiet moments, given the rapid pacing of the majority of the novel?
Yes, I do. Every writer struggles with something, and for me, it’s quiet moments. This also means that I often struggle with character depth, because those times of reflection are when we get to know the heart of the character. I think its partly because my favorite plots are from TV shows like 24, where the characters don’t go into great depth very often, but mostly follow an exciting plotline that drives them past their physical and mental comfort levels. So yes, I do struggle with it, and I’m working to overcome it in my future books.
Upon receiving a death threat, Vivian, a teen celebrity and actress, flees to Mexico until it’s safe to return to the States. Can you talk a bit about your choice to weave Dia de los Muertos into the story?
I write mainly because I love seeing daydreams in my head. I love to imagine a scene and play through it. It’s almost exactly like watching a movie or having a lucid dream. It’s extremely enjoyable, and I get to craft it and watch it from every angle, in full Technicolor. So part of the Dia de los Muertos stuff is for the visuals.However, the other, deeper part is that I’ve always struggled with the death of the people I love. It’s terrified me my whole life, and the only way I’ve found relief for my fears is through seeing death differently.When I went to Dia de los Muertos in Oaxaca City, Mexico, I saw that it is possible to celebrate death. To celebrate the life someone who has died, rather than only mourning your loss and feeling guilty about what you didn’t or didn’t say or do, was incredibly helpful to me. This attitude towards death provided me with the internal freedom I needed to live happily, despite knowing death is by always by our sides.I wanted Vivian to have this revelation too, since it was so meaningful for me, and hopefully some of my readers walked away with a little less anxiety about death as well, or at least a recognition that there is a different way to see death.
Tell me a little bit about your writing process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle? The end?
I write differently now than I did when I wrote Vivian Divine is Dead. Writing VDID was like throwing scenes at a wall for years and hoping that some of them would stick. I wrote scenes and put them in wherever they would fit, and then I wrote more scenes and more scenes… I must’ve written 2000 pages of scenes. It took the help of my wonderful editor to straighten it all out.
Now, with my new book OUT OF MY MIND, I started with a basic outline. It has changed a great deal, and gotten much more complex, but I go back and rewrite the outline every few months to make sure that I’m on the right track.
What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing or provided inspiration?
I’ve been a college English instructor for almost ten years. I’ve taught creative writing and screenplay writing, which were my favorite subjects, and literature and composition. I have learned from my students every semester, about how writing can change someone and which writing styles people grab onto and don’t want to let go. I’ve also worked in a couple of film festivals in New York and California, which is where I got the young Hollywood star idea.
If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why?
Unique or cuddlebuggery. They just sound good on the tongue.
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?
My parents were always supportive of me hiding from reality. They picked me out as a creative kid from the beginning and always encouraged me to indulge in it. Of course, I’m not sure if they believed it would ever make money for me, but they saw that I was most fulfilled while writing or engrossed in a book. I give them a great deal of credit for giving me that gift of time, praise, and support.Later, my husband helped me confront reality, which meant that I had to take all of these daydreams and stories and funnel them into something that could be completed and handed to someone to read. His disciplined approach and encouragement was invaluable, and so was his plot advice.
What can readers look forward to next?
My next book comes out in 2016. It’s called OUT OF MY MIND, and it’s a story about a teenage psychic who works undercover finding criminals and solving crimes. Since she can’t share the truth about her life with the people she loves, she’s always torn between who she really is and who people think she is.
About the author:
Ends 3.20.2015. US only. 1 winner.