Frequently Asked Questions
Did you always want to be a writer?
No, when I was growing up I wanted to be a painter. But I always wrote too—kept diaries and wrote poems. During college I made the switch, mostly because I was a much better writer than I was a painter. I still miss all those smelly paints in wonderful colors.
When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
When I was in college I began to take my writing seriously and made the switch from visual arts.
When did you publish your first book?
I have a book of poetry called Breakers which was published in 1979. My first YA novel, Lombardo's Law, was published in 1993.
Where do you get your ideas?
Ideas are the easy part. I know people don’t always understand that, but once you open yourself up to them, ideas are everywhere—newspaper and magazine articles, in stories my friends tell me, in snippets of conversations I overhear at the mall or the supermarket. When I do school visits I’m especially open to what’s going on around me—you never know where you’ll find an idea that will spark a book. Of course, you never have just ONE idea for a book—you need to weave several ideas together to make it rich enough (like cake and ice cream and butterscotch syrup.)
Do your own children inspire you?
Sometimes, although now they aren't teenagers anymore. There was a time when my daughter Kate was a lot like Bess in Gracie's Girl. And my son Morgan asked for a secondary character in Razzle to be based on him. So, Primo (he chose the name) is pretty much Morgan. But I reach back to my own teenage years to access the emotions.
How long does it take to write a book?
Not every book is the same, of course. I think I wrote What’s in a Name in only three or four months, but most of my books take at least 8 months and sometimes a year. Then it takes the publisher another year and a half to get the book out. The whole process takes at least two years or more.
Will you ever write a sequel to any of your books?
This answer has recently changed. I've always said I wouldn't do a sequel for fear it would disappoint fans of the original book. But so many people have asked for a sequel to Hard Love that I reconsidered. I always thought that getting into Marisol's head would be fun, so Love and Lies is told from her perspective and begins a few months after Hard Love ends. Since it's told in a different voice than Hard Love I guess it's more a companion novel than a sequel. And yes, Gio is in this one too.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Simple advice, but not always easy to follow. Read everything you can get your hands on, all sorts of different things—fiction, nonfiction, plays, poetry, newspapers, the toothpaste tube. And then, write. If possible, write every day. This keeps your writing flowing and makes it easier to face the blank page. Don’t worry about publishing anything for a long time. You wouldn’t expect to play at Carnegie Hall the first year you took piano lessons--writing is no different. You have to practice it a long time.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Grace Paley, James Merrill, Barbara Kingsolver, Katharine Patterson, Brock Cole, M.E. Kerr, Virginia Euwer Wolff, M.T. Anderson and many more!
Greg Brown, Lucinda Williams, Dar Williams, Chris Smither, John Gorka, Cheryl Wheeler, and the Nields, to name a few.
Favorite movies and TV shows?
I'm still mourning the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, not to mention Veronica Mars, Freaks and Geeks, and The Gilmore Girls. (Actually, I'm still mourning the end of The X-Files.) I also loved Firefly, another Joss Whedon show--he's the king of smart, funny TV. Current favorites are The Office, House, and Grey's Anatomy. In movies: anything by Robert Altman or Francois Truffaut, early Woody Allen. Also loved Muriel's Wedding and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, both Aussie films full of ABBA music and very silly. And, of course, Serenity, which is also Joss Whedon. I love movies and will watch almost anything.
Bagels, cheese, chai soy lattes.
Funny, it's always been red, but I realize as I get older it seems to be changing to the more sedate hue of blue. Actually there's not a color I don't like.
How do you pronounce your name?
You can go here to hear how to pronounce my name.
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