Reading and Writing FAQ's

What books did you love growing up? What books do you love now, and would recommend to other readers? 

This is such a hard question because this answer could be a five page essay with footnotes, but growing up my favorite books were: The Babysitter's Club, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, The Giver, Hatchet, Peter Pan (of course), The Westing Game and Island of the Blue Dolphins. The adult reads that have shaped my life and career are the Game of Thrones series, Harry Potter, Red Rising, I’ll Give You the Sun, State of Wonder, Peace like a River,  The Poisonwood Bible,  Forever, The Time Traveler's Wife, The Hunger Games, and the Eragon series.

What inspired you to become a writer and what is your favorite part of being one?

 There are many essential pieces that came together to make me a writer: the books I read growing up, the encouragement of my parents and teachers, my own love and passion for writing, and the winding path of education that always directed towards my craft.  Writing is like breathing to me; it’s necessary to keep functioning at a level that’s healthy and creative. I had teachers from elementary to college that encouraged this gift and that also brought the writer in me to the surface. My favorite part of being a writer is when I get to interact with readers about my books. That and the actual writing. I get to live in worlds I create and that's pretty amazing.

They always say that to be a good writer, you need to read good books. What authors do you enjoy reading?

Well, I can personally recommend Ann Patchett, C.S Lewis, J.K Rowling, E. Lockhart, Pierce Brown, Sarah J. Maas, Julie Murphy, Angie Thomas, Jandy Nelson, Jennifer Niven, George R.R. Martin, John Green, Jeff Zenter, Brianna Shrum, Leigh Bardugo, Kent Haruf, Ernest Cline, Audrey Niffeneggar, Neal Schusterman, Liane Moriarty, and Lev Grossman just to name a few.  We could be here all day.

What encouragement would you have for young, aspiring writers?

I think the most important thing to do if you want to be a writer is to read. After reading, the most important thing you can do is to write and learn about writing; immerse yourself in that world. Go to conferences. Meet other writers. Read books about writing. That's the best way to start. I would also tell aspiring writers to trust their own story ideas and not wait for approval from others because it won't come. The best stories come from your heart and no one else can pull from that place; only you. You already are a font of originality; don't waste time wishing you had written something someone else did.

Read books. Get writing.  Learn your craft as you go. Finish at all costs.

What was your biggest inspiration while writing your books?

I have a great need to tell the story that's in my heart, and to entertain readers with that story. Readers and the scenes in my mind are always my biggest inspiration. I want to thrill, I want to ask questions that haven't been asked before and I want to give my readers a strong protagonist to cheer for.

What is usually on your nightstand?

A endless TBR pile of three to four books, my phone and eight half empty water glasses. I’m totally the girl from Signs, only with a bad book hoarding habit.

What book was the most challenging to write?

I would say would be Wendy Darling Seas, because that had pirate battles, and to understand those, you had to be an expert on pirate warfare, old ships, weapons and pirate lingo all at once. Then I had to write that into a comprehensive, engaging scenes over and over again. While it was my most challenging book, I believe it is also my best book.

What is something your readers would be surprised to know about you?

That I didn’t always believe that I could be a writer. I thought that was for other people, but here’s the secret: big dreams are for everyone.

Where is your favorite place to write?

In my imaginary office where it rains every day and I have a giant bay window that overlooks a rocky, cold ocean.  Until that is a reality, I write at my local Starbucks, cozied up with a hot chocolate and earbuds.

What is your favorite book of all time?

Classic? Jane Eyre. Contemporary? The Poisonwood Bible.

Describe your writing style in three words.

  Ambitious, dark, unflinching.

What is your writing process? I usually start with a piece of music that really speaks to me. I use that to help myself imagine the finale of the book and then I start writing. First, I outline the themes of the book and then I follow that with a chapter by chapter general outline.  I write linearly and I just power through until it’s done. If I deviate from my outline, that's okay; I let the story take me like a current. It takes me about 6 months to finish a book and that’s pushing it. I'm usually in edits for another two months after that.

And now, a list of favorites: Food? A gourmet grilled cheese and tomato soup. Movie? Moulin Rouge. Favorite fictional hero? I’m a sucker for Hermione Granger, Edmund Pensieve and Quintin Coldwater. Dream vacation?  A month in Kauai in a rental property just outside of Princeville. Person? My kid and my husband. Weather? Cloudy, grey and rainy.  Hogwarts House? Slitherclaw.  Westeros House? Greyjoy.

Between your Queen of Hearts saga and the Wendy Darling series, you’ve got a reputation for retellings. Do you have plans for more classic literary reimaginings?

I do, but I’m not at liberty to say which one is coming next. However, I can tell you that I love side strong side characters, and that my next book will have a male character as its lead.

Wendy Darling FAQ's

Who your favorite “original character” from the series? And what was your favorite “update” to the original story’s Neverland mythos?

My favorite original character from the series is probably John with his minced words and his narrow view of the world, or Hook with his diabolical obsession with killing a child.  My favorite update to the story deals with Peter’s relationship with the Lost Boys; how he uses them and how they come to Neverland in the first place.  There is so much story to be told there.

Now that you’ve imagined incredible new things for two beloved literary worlds, which would you choose to spend time in: Neverland or Wonderland?

Probably Neverland, as my version of Neverland was based on Kauai, which is my favorite place on earth. Wonderland might be a bit too whimsical for my dark heart.

  What inspired you to write your own spin on Peter Pan? Specifically, what prompted this darker version?

   I knew that after Queen of Hearts I wanted to write another fairytale retelling with a strong female  character.  When I first picked up Peter Pan to read it again before starting Wendy Darling, I was struck   by just how adult that story is. As a child, you remember the Lost Boys having fun and Peter flying, but there are a lot of dark and twisted things about the story of Peter Pan; gender roles, violence, strange hints of hatred for Mothers…it’s a much deeper and more diabolical story than it gets credit for. That darkness resonated with me, and I knew that Wendy Darling would be the character, and the book, for me.

As you mentioned in your wonderful essay, “My Feminist Heroine Isn’t a Warrior, and That’s Okay”, Wendy isn’t a Katniss or a Buffy. She’s a different kind of bold, but just as important as more violent protagonists. Was that deliberate?

Absolutely. Dinah in Queen of Hearts was rageful, jealous and violent.  In Wendy I wanted someone that was the complete opposite of that, someone who was graceful, sweet and family-minded. It doesn’t take a warrior to change the world; it just takes someone who finds the will to be brave in the gravest of circumstances.