I truly adore fan mail. Renewed realization that my work really connected with someone--that makes it all worth it. If you've ever thought about writing to an author whose work you've loved, I encourage you to do it. Even if they are mega-famous or whatever, they will appreciate your words. It can be a great juxtaposition to all the criticism and impossibly difficult editorial feedback that comes with this business. (But if it's a lesser-known author, even more reason to take time to write to them. I promise, they will appreciate it!)
Some of the mail I've received recently included several questions for me. I thought I'd answer some of them here, because, who knows, maybe more people are interested, but just too shy to write to me, or are afraid of taking up my time. So these questions come from Khanh and Megan. Thanks so much for your wonderful letters!
Why did you decide to become an author? To be honest, I didn't really decide. I started writing when I was in my thirties and pregnant (I blame it on "pregnant brain"). It started out as a journal--something I had never done in my life--but when I wanted to write down really personal stuff that I didn't want read, I changed it to character names. Eventually, I started playing the "what-if" game with my "characters," because that was a lot less scary and a lot more fun than playing it in my own life. I grew to love the experience of understanding human nature and reactions, and coming up with stories in the process.
What kind of music do you like? I like a WIDE variety of music. I'm a long-time Polynesian dancer, so I love many varieties of Polynesian music. I love a lot of the eighties music I grew up with. Avril Lavigne is one of my current favorites--I love her girl-power lyrics, and they often inspire me in writing different characters. Plus I love anything with a good beat that is easy to dance to. I really dislike music snobs who think the only "cool" music is the kind they listen to.
Where have you traveled to? I've been very fortunate to travel a lot of places in my life! I've been to England, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Romania, Czech Republic, Alaska, Florida, California, Bahamas, Mexico, Seattle. With my Polynesian dance troupe I've traveled around Canada, the U.S., to Hawaii, and Japan. My next hope is to go to Spain and Portugal.
Do you like Harry Potter? Um...This is a difficult one for me to answer. I don't dislike Harry Potter, and I think the writing is marvelous. But--and this is completely personal preference--I'm just more of a real-world kind of girl. I get swept up in stories when I really believe they could happen to me, or to someone close to me. It's more difficult for me to get swept up in something more magical or fantasy-infused. Again, that's just me. My husband loves Harry Potter, and I have watched all the movies with him. They just haven't been terribly impacting or memorable for me.
Where do you write? I'm writing this at my kitchen table. I have a small office that doubles as a guest bedroom in my house, but I tend to gravitate back to the kitchen table. I'm not sure why. I guess I like the light in here. I used to write in coffee shops, and I can still write anywhere if I need to (I have a net book with an 8-hour battery) but this is where I most often write.
How do you decide what to write about? It's always different. With LOSING FAITH, I think my initial seed of an idea was to write about two sisters with a secret. I decided to make one religious and one the black sheep of her religious family. From there, the secrets started to reveal themselves to me. I also lost my best friend when I was sixteen. I've always thought there was so much to be explored with a teen experiencing death, and I wanted to delve into that more.
NEVER ENOUGH is also about two sisters, and I'm not sure why I've had such a fixation on sisters. I've never had a sister, but always wanted one, so maybe that's why. With NEVER ENOUGH, the idea came from real life. I have a good friend who suffered with a serious eating disorder. When I first started writing, it wasn't necessarily meant to be a book, or a book I would publish. I really just wanted to understand my friend more and learn how to be a help in her life.
Besides that, I get my story ideas all over the place: from chatting with people or hearing a news story. Quite often when I sit down to watch a movie, in the first ten minutes my mind speculates on where the movie is going to go. It often doesn't, and I end up with a story idea right there.
When you were in high school, did you ever think you would become an author? Not even close. When I was in high school (and this is definitely to my detriment) I didn't like to write, or even read. I found my love for reading in my twenties, and my love for writing in my thirties, but I've always wished I had started much earlier.
Would you ever consider visiting my English class? I would LOVE to visit your English class! Unfortunately, travel does cost money, and most schools do not have it in their budget to bring authors in from across the country. If I ever plan to be in your area, though, I would be happy to make some time to visit your school. One of my very favorite things is to talk to young people who are interested in writing and books.
What advice would you give to people who are thinking of writing a book? Write it! Get your ideas down on paper. Try to write every day, even if it's only a little bit, so your story can gain some momentum.Don't get caught up in the idea of publishing the book--write it first. Publishing is a whole other (stressful) world. Write the book you would want to read, and figure out what you love most in books and what you love least in books in the process.
Thanks again,Khanh and Megan for the great questions! I would love it if we could meet each other in person one day. I'm always *thrilled* when I hear that one of my books has sparked a love of reading in someone. It truly makes my day.
Happy reading and writing to both of you, and to anyone who has taken time to read this :-)