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Q: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
A: I always, always knew I wanted to write, but I thought it was going to be more fact than fiction. I grew up keeping journals; I was editor of my high school newspaper and a college magazine. But it wasn’t until my senior year as a journalism major at Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!) that the idea of writing fiction really hit me.
The amazing Pulitzer-winning novelist Richard Ford came to teach a creative writing class and I couldn’t resist taking a shot and applying. I wrote a short story and crossed my fingers. Somehow, I was one of 15 kids who got in. The class was incredible–and life-changing. Getting to sit in a room twice a week and study with a master? I soaked up every minute. Of course, I was scared to death and incredibly intimidated (by everyone in that room—each of those students was so talented) but I learned so much.
Q: Who are your favorite writers?
A: I‘ve always liked to keep a pretty well-balanced reading diet: a mix of the must-read classics and delicious current fare. I grew up devouring Judy Blume, Louisa May Alcott and Frances Hodgson Burnett. I loved the wild worlds of Lewis Carroll and Roald Dahl. I was addicted to all mysteries from the NANCY DREW series and anything written by Joan Lowery Nixon, to the timeless horror of Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, and Robert Louis Stevenson. In high school, I also began my lifelong love affairs with Jane Austen, the Brontes, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and J.D. Salinger (my number one literary crush will always be Holden Caulfield.) But, of course, I cheated on all of those loves time and time again with SWEET VALLEY HIGH.
Some of my more current faves? There are just so many: Dave Eggers, Tom Perrotta, Richard Ford, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Helen Fielding, David Nicholls, Joshua Ferris, Jennifer Egan, Audrey Niffenegger, Nick Hornby, Arthur Phillips, the list is endless.
And then, of course, there are those amazing YA authors I admire so much: Josephine Angelini, Lauren Oliver, Cara Lynn Shultz, Suzanne Collins, Stephenie Meyer, Ally Condie, Erin Morgenstern and on and on.
Q: What’s your writing process like?
A: Before I put any words on the page, I spend forever outlining and developing the story, that way when I finally do sit down to write, it (hopefully) flows out a little better. But there are good writing days when a book seems to write itself, and rockier days when every sentence feels like a struggle for some reason. On those days I rely more heavily on my key writing tools: mocha frappuccinos, jelly beans, and good music.
Q: What do you listen to while you write?
A: For ILLUMINATE, I was constantly craving either haunting, ethereal tunes or rousing anthems. I started off with a lot of Coldplay and then 30 Seconds to Mars (truth be told, I’ve had a crush on Jared Leto ever since My So-Called Life. Sigh.) Then I found a few songs that I got obsessed with and played on a loop for hours like “Norway” by Beach House. But I didn’t come up with the perfect soundtrack until after finishing the book. Check out my ILLUMINATE soundtrack here!
And my INFATUATE soundtrack is here! (More 30 Seconds to Mars, of course, and all sorts of other good stuff!)
Q: How many books will be in the Gilded Wings series?
A: I’m planning on a trilogy, but I can imagine it’s going to be hard to say goodbye to those characters, so you never know!
Q: What inspired ILLUMINATE?
A: A bunch of things, I suppose. First, of course, I consider the book an update of THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (one of my favorites!) and FAUST, with some new twists, a few angels and devils tossed in, and most importantly, a strong heroine. I grew up on NANCY DREW mysteries–a strong, smart, fearless girl constantly piecing together puzzles and setting out on adventures—even though I never quite felt as strong and confident as Nancy. So I wanted to write a book about a girl who’s destined to be a hero but who still has to overcome her own insecurities to get there.
As for the whole idea of Haven being on the outside looking in, that probably came from my magazine work. Covering celebrities has taught me a thing or two about what it’s like to observe a lifestyle up close while still remaining way outside of it, like Haven does when she’s thrown into the glamorous world of the Lexington Hotel.
In my first job out of college, I worked at the great-though-now-defunct movie magazine Premiere. I was an administrative assistant by day but a “party reporter” by night and I always had to pinch myself: I couldn’t believe that the girl who was voted “Quietest” of her high school class somehow ended up standing on a red carpet asking questions and roaming around lavish movie premiere parties cornering celebs to get soundbites. Though I was nervous every time I went out to cover an event, I loved it.
Q: What’s next for Haven Terra and the Gilded Wings series?
A: In Book Two, INFATUATE, the action moves to New Orleans—a city I happen to be madly in love with. Haven and her pals have their work cut out for them trying to battle a new clique of devils in the Big Easy. What a fabulous place to get into trouble though, right? This time around I looked to another of my favorite classic horror tales for inspiration–DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE–along with some of Robert Louis Stevenson’s amazing short stories like “The Body Snatcher.” I like the idea that Haven is at war with herself in this book. She and her fellow angels are each fighting a battle within because these devils really know how to get under their skin. But I don’t want to give too much away, you’ll have to read!
Q: Do you plan to answer some more Frequently Asked Questions?
A: Yes, I do! Send them my way! More FAQs coming soon!