photo: Jen Skipper

A bit about me:

I love books. Almost every job I've ever had was, in some way, related to books. I have catalogued them, repaired them, barcoded them, shelved them, sold them, edited them, reviewed them. And now I get to write them!

Of course, I have many other things on my "to do" list, but there's nothing I like better than sneaking away for a few minutes and jotting down an idea for a new story. Beginnings are my favorite part of writing because everything is possible--I haven't had to make any tough choices yet, and my characters aren't sad or troubled or in danger. All of that comes later. It has to, or there's no plot!

I also love to cook, knit, read, and watch television (but only shows with truly great writing). Here are some of my current favorites:

1. Billions

2. Homeland

3. Ray Donovan

4. Big Little Lies

Notice a pattern? They're all dark, serious dramas with high stakes and lots of plot twists. Exactly like the books I aspire to write.


If I'm being really honest, I don't get asked *that* many questions (except "Paper or plastic?" and "Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?" etc.). But in my time as an editor, a teacher, and a writer, I've developed a sense for what questions readers generally have for authors. So here are the questions I predict you would ask me if you could.

1. Where you do get your ideas?

Anywhere and everywhere. Ideas are slippery things; the ones that seem great at first aren't always the best when you try to build on them, and some that seem like passing thoughts end up sticking with you and inspiring a whole story. The first image that sparked Wonder Show was in a dream I had (which sounds horribly cliche, though I know some writers who swear by napping as a way to generate or percolate ideas). I saw a girl riding a bicycle across a prairie, and had the sense that she was a) from a long time ago, and b) running away from someone. Then the book evolved as I wrote it. I added ideas from various sources as I went. It was kind of like wrapping new rubber bands around an existing ball of rubber bands.

     A word of advice for new/old/aspiring/confused writers: It is normal to worry that if you use all of your great ideas in the same project, you will never have another idea. But you will. Ideas beget ideas. They spread, they breed, they spark each other. I promise. 

2. How long did it take you to write Wonder Show?

If you are an aspiring novelist or a get-rich-quick schemer, you may want to skip this one. From start to finish, Wonder Show took seven years. Appalling, I know, and yet I'm told that this isn't an unusual timeline for a first novel. It should be said that while I was writing the book, I got laid off from my full-time job and then worked two part-time jobs, PLUS I moved twice, got married, and had two children. Life got in the way, as life will do. I figure if I can get the second novel done in half the time it took me to write the first, and then the third done in half *that* time, pretty soon I'll be writing a book a week. Easy peasy.

3. Who are your favorite authors?

"Favorite" is such a tricky word for me. I was the kid who could never pick just one favorite color because I worried that all of the other colors would feel bad. I will say that I have temporary favorites, as I go through different phases of reading and writing, and I have old favorites to whom I periodically return when I need a fix. John Irving is one of those; I read A Prayer for Owen Meany biannually. Ditto for Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle, and Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach. Favorite YA authors include Han Nolan, Sonya Hartnett, M.T. Anderson, Garret Freymann-Weyr, and Jennifer Donnelly.

Want to know more? Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Or email me with a burning question of your very own.