I’ve wanted to write a book since before I could even write. I remember being so jealous of my older sister when she started Kindergarten because she could read and write and I couldn’t. I vowed at four-years-old to learn how to write and to be really good at it. When I was five and learned how to write, I wrote my first story called Mystery Bob. I’ve loved writing since then, but never attempted a book until the age of 31.
After graduating high school, I enrolled in college, got married and started having kids as early as age 20. I had originally majored in journalism, but switched my major to social work so I could graduate sooner and find a job that could help with the bills.
But my first book didn’t happen until I was 31. My middle child had nightly rehearsals for a community theater play and I would sit in the auditorium and browse YouTube. I became addicted to slam poetry videos and watched them for days. At one point, I was in the mood to read a novel and since slam poetry was on my brain, I tried to find one that centered around a slam poet. When I couldn’t find one, I started writing one.
I became obsessed with the story of Lake and Will and worked on the book day and night until it was finished.
I wanted my grandmother to be able to read it on her new kindle, so I researched ways I could transfer the word document to a kindle. That’s when I came across Amazon’s self-publishing platform. I uploaded the document and half an hour later, the story I wrote was for sale on Amazon.
I never tried to get it published before that because I didn’t know the first thing about publishing. But once people started downloading it, word started spreading. Within a matter of a few months, word of mouth got the book to #5 on the New York Times.
After that, I found an agent and began receiving offers from publishers. I chose to go with Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. Since then, I’ve signed several more deals with Atria Books because I love them so much. I’ve also released a novel and a few novellas as an indie author.
I wouldn’t change a whole lot because I really love where my mistakes have brought me. But the one thing I wish I would have done differently is take more pictures and videos of my children.
I first had Fred Water at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles. My favorite thing about it is the flat bottle, but the taste is great as well. I’m very picky about my water. There are certain brands that taste slimy to me, but Fred Water is so crisp and refreshing. And no, I don’t get paid to promote Fred Water. I have no affiliation with Fred. He’s an alpha-male and he treats me like crap.
My mother inspires me.
I think the word “fan” is awkward. But yes, there’s a reader group on Facebook called CoHorts. I’m very active in there and it’s a very positive place. You can join if you want!
I think my greatest weakness is my disorganization. I have a terrible memory and don’t use a calendar. I have little patience for organization, so I just avoid it. That’s also my greatest strength. Not worrying about disorganization allows me to be stress-free most of the time. I don’t worry about too much. I’ve messed up so much in life due to my disorganization that I just expect mishaps now.
I’m not much of an animal person. I like one of my three dogs (she’s a pom) because she isn’t demanding. And I’ll like my other two dogs (German Shepherd’s) when they get older and stop trying to climb through my car window and scraping the paint as they attempt it.
Not ugly cry. But a couple have made me tear up. I’m not an emotional person, but when I write, I get really attached to the characters and it makes me sad when they’re sad. It’s interesting, because I tend to take on the mood of my characters. If I spend the day writing a sad scene, I’m sad the rest of the day. So I always try to end my writing day on a funny note. It’s why I disperse a lot of humor into the sadness. It’s for selfish reasons. 😉
Random question. Lol. But there isn’t one. I drive an electric car that has no gas tank and no engine. There are two trunks because nothing is under the front hood. But the motor is beneath the car, between the tires.
That’s a tough one. I think my favorite moments were right after our babies were born. When Heath and I would just sit in the hospital bed and stare at our baby for hours. Nothing can come close to those moments.
It might be a strange answer, but I relate the most to Daniel from Finding Cinderella. He’s very sarcastic and doesn’t take life too seriously. I put a lot of myself in him.
Shel Silverstein and The Giving Tree.
Haha. ALL of them. I never feel like my books are good enough. I could edit them forever if I didn’t have a deadline to meet. I can’t go back and re-read my books because I cringe and want to change every sentence.
My titles almost always come first, or at least while I’m outlining. I tend to know what the book is going to be about before writing it and having a title helps me get started with writing.
Hopeless was a little different. The original title of that was “Fall Together.” But while writing it, the title became clear as characters were introduced. Now I couldn’t imagine it being anything else because the title ended up playing such a huge role in the book.
I like to choose names that are uncommon. Sometimes I pull names from readers and people on Facebook. Sometimes at signings I’ll write down names I come across that I like when I personalize books. I chose the name Layken because that was going to be my daughter’s name. But I ended up having all boys, so I never used it.
My little sister bought me tickets to go see Bon Jovi. They were my favorite band growing up. But my FAVORITE concert is definitely The Avett Brothers and The Airborne Toxic Event, two bands that are amazing live.
I don’t. I don’t live by a schedule or anything that requires organization. Neither does my husband, but he’s definitely the more responsible one in our marriage. I wake up every day without a plan. I just wait to see what kind of mood I’m in every morning and that depicts what I’ll focus on that day. The charity, responding to interviews, working on my book or simply doing social media. But mostly I just do things as they come up. And Stephanie, my boss, is a huge part of the reason I get things done. I have a lot going on and I know it would help me to keep a schedule or at least try to have some sense of consistency in my life, but it’s just not my personality. I prefer life this way.
I don’t think stress is avoidable. I do think stress is made up of both external and internal factors. There are things I don’t stress about that my family members stress about for me because it’s just their nature. I believe nothing is permanent so why treat it like it is?
I actually wanted to be a writer but it’s tough to make a living as a writer. I was in college and had kids, so I chose what would get me a degree and a job faster. Also, social work didn’t require a minor.
I travel so much that when I have downtime, I just want to stay home with the kids. My favorite times are when we all leave our electronics in the kitchen and curl up on the couch and watch movies together.
I actually hate pizza.
When I graduated college, my step-father let us borrow $15,000 to go toward the cost of a house. We found a single-wide trailer house for $14,000. We had three kids and I didn’t make much money, even with a degree, so I wasn’t able to pay him back very fast. I still owed him the majority of the money when I got my first royalty check, so I used it to pay him back. It was a very exciting moment for me. My parents have helped me so much and I just wanted to get to a point where they didn’t have to worry about my finances anymore.
This is one of the most common questions a writer receives. And it’s always been the hardest for me to answer. I think a more appropriate question would be where do you NOT get your inspiration, because I find it everywhere. A sentence in a song, a conversation in a restaurant, a dream while I’m sleeping. There are constantly things happening every day that I want to write about, but I force myself to focus on one book at a time.
I’ve been very fortunate in my writing career. Because of this, I wanted to do something to give back. I honestly didn’t think The Bookworm Box would turn into what it has. My sister and I had talked about doing a subscription box for about a year before I finally got to a point between books where I could help her work on it. When we launched, we sold out of 400 boxes in 4 minutes. We now cap sales at 2,000 boxes a month and have been able to donate almost one million dollars to various charities since we began. If you want to read more about this, go here.
I read almost all books on my phone, so I read in spurts now. I’m too busy to carve out actual reading time so I usually read when we’re in the car or I’m in a waiting room or on an airplane. (Or the bathroom.)
But I honestly don’t think I’ve just picked up a book and sat down somewhere comfy to read it in at least two years. I read in the in between.
I have enjoyed every trip I’ve ever been on. But the Philippines will always hold a special place in my heart. It was both due to the company I had with me and the unexpected beauty of the people.
Definitely one horse-sized duck.
I don’t NOT believe in them. But it’s hard for me to believe in things I’ve not had personal experience with. It is a bit ethnocentric to think we’re the only planet with life.
I collaborated with Tarryn Fisher on the Never Never series. Collaborating is hard. The fact that I’m not organized enough to depend on myself makes me not want the pressure of someone else depending on me. Creativity is a very solitary thing. Tarryn and I got through it with ease but I’m not sure there are many people I could recreate that dynamic with.
To go out to eat.
I have no process. Every book has been a completely different experience. Sometimes I outline, sometimes I pants it. I don’t like to put a schedule on my creative side so I tend to just write when I feel like writing and where I feel like writing. I do have an embarrassing ritual. I HAVE to wear a new pair of socks on writing days. Brand new. I don’t know why.
I would get tattoos of all the things she hates.
People knowing who I am.
When I grew up, I would read books and never think twice about who wrote them. Maybe that was because we didn’t have social media and it wasn’t easy to reach out to the people who wrote my favorite books. But now, social media plays a huge role in the career of an author and it makes them more recognizable and accessible. I love that people get enough enjoyment out of my books to want to follow me on social media. Still to this day I’m shocked when people know who I am in public. Maybe I’ll get used to it, but I doubt it. I hope not.
It was a cat. I was about eight years old and one of our outdoor cats had kittens. I spent a week with them inside the house on the back porch until my mother said they needed to go outside. I put them in the barn behind our house with their momma cat. The next morning, I went to check on them and another cat was eating them. No joke. It was so traumatic. There were kitten pieces all over the barn. I was hysterical and sobbing. It looked like something out of a horror movie.
I’ve hated cats since that day.
Not a single thing.
There have been a lot of significant moments, but there was one day in particular that really made me think about what type of person I wanted to grow up to be.
My younger sister has a different mother than me and my older sister. Her name is Lindy and we were visiting her and my father for Christmas break. Lindy took my sisters and I on an outing where we spent the day doing secret, random acts of kindness.
We got a bag of quarters and went and filled parking meters. Then she took us to antique stores and we would walk around and listen to the customers talk about things in the store they wished they could afford. When the customer would walk away, we would grab the item and take it to the register and secretly pay for it and leave it for them.
After that day I knew if I ever grew up and had extra money I would do things like this and I would teach my kids to do things like this.
I often hear people saying that acts of kindness should always be done in secret. Because if they aren’t, it’s self-fulfilling.
I believe this to an extent.
I learned a big lesson that day that kindness and generosity don’t have to be flaunted all the time, or even rewarded. But it does need to be taught. Had Lindy not taken us out on that adventure and allowed us to see her random acts of kindness, I wouldn’t have learned anything. There are times I’ll do things and tell no one, but there are also times, especially in CoHorts, where we share and talk about our random acts of kindness. And these acts inspire more acts and it’s a beautiful thing to see. So don’t be afraid to show people that you do kind things. But don’t be boastful about it and don’t share every act you do. Share the ones that need to be shared, but remember that kindness should always be given without expectation or a need for acknowledgment or reciprocation.
I’m sure this answer changes on my mood, but right now it would be STRESSED OUT by Twenty-One Pilots, Graveyard Near The House by The Airborne Toxic Event and February 7 by The Avett Brothers.
Great question! It energizes me if I’m feeling the story. If I’m not, it exhausts me. I make it a point to stop writing when it becomes a chore. I want to enjoy what I do and if I force it, I’ll feel like I’m working. Right now it’s still exciting to create books. I want to keep it that way.
So many things to love! I love their passion and excitement. When readers bring books for me to sign that have been worn down and highlighted, it makes me happy. The t-shirts they make, the friendships they form at the signings, the questions in the Q&A’s! I love signings. But the thing I don’t like about them is my inability to recognize people. It’s a real problem. I meet people all the time and have no recollection of meeting them when we come in contact again. And it isn’t just readers. It’s people in my community, my children’s friends, my OWN friends. I just have a terrible memory and absolutely zero face recognition. Every day there are new people to add to my brain and I get really paranoid that I’m going to meet someone I should know, but not remember them. I’ve hurt people’s feelings because of this. But it isn’t personal, it’s just my flaw.
It isn’t you. It’s me. 😉
I probably average about 3,000 a day on a GOOD day. I’m not a fast writer.
Or at least they’ll realize it when they’re adults.
Justin Trudeau, Harry Connick Jr and Twenty-One pilots.
I would make movies! Produce, direct, etc. I might do that one day. I’m still young. (Age is a matter of perspective.)
I used to take piano lessons as a teenager. My piano teacher signed me up for a competition at the local university. I was fourteen and it was my first competitive piano recital. I didn’t know what to expect, so when my mother and I arrived, I was the only one not dressed in a black skirt and white shirt. In fact, I was wearing neon pink. And then when the other contestants began to take their turns, I started freaking out because apparently, these were prodigies from all over the world who came to compete. I had only been taking lessons for a little while, so I was a beginner at best. My mother and I were in the audience waiting for them to call my turn and we both started laughing uncontrollably. We do that when we’re together. If one of us starts to laugh, we can’t stop. We’ve had to walk out of several movie theaters for this reason.
When they called my name to perform, my mother leaned over and said, “If you want to be a no-show, we can slip out the back door.”
I loved that she wasn’t going to force me to perform because she wasn’t the type of mom to pretend her daughter was the best at everything. We both knew I was out of my league, but I didn’t want to not perform just because I knew I wasn’t going to win. So I stood up and walked to the stage and handed the judge my ticket. She said, “You have two minutes to warm up if you choose and then you can begin your piece.”
I didn’t need the warmup, so I sat down and just started playing my piece. When I finished, no one clapped. The judge said, “You may begin your piece now.”
I said, “Uh…that was my piece.”
I was so bad, the entire audience thought my piece was my warmup. Needless to say by the time I made it back to my seat, my mother and I were laughing so hard we had to run out the back door.
It was embarrassing for sure. If I had been alone, I would have been mortified. But having my mother there to laugh at me somehow made it one of my favorite memories.
I still feel like I’m learning and have so much more to learn. I don’t feel I’m in a position to give advice. But I’ll list some things that have helped me navigate the industry better and might help someone else.
1) Do not compare yourself to other authors. If you’re focused on how your book didn’t sell as many copies as “so and so’s” book, you’ll begin to resent your work and your career.
2) Write for yourself. If you try to write what you think people want to read, you won’t be able to put your whole heart into it. Write the story you would want to read. The more interested you are in your own words, the more honest your book will be.
3) Don’t write to get rich. The chances of a book finding an audience large enough to pay a bill, or even recoup your publishing costs, is slim. Write because you love to write, not because you need to.
4) Many disagree with me, but I let go of all expectations when writing a book. If I expect to hit the NYT or sell a certain number of copies, I will be setting myself up for possible failure. And then if those goals aren’t met, the joy of writing the book is overshadowed by a sense of failure. I’ve had many friends who started out this way, with high expectations for their books, and then became so jaded by the industry that they hate writing now. If you write a book and finish a book, that is a HUGE accomplishment. Let that be your only expectation—to write it and be proud of it. And then if something happens beyond that, it’s icing on the cake.
5) Google is your best friend. If you have a question, Google has the answer. Research, research, research.
Yep. Visit the Shop.
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