1. Paperback, hardback, audiobook?
YES. With hot chocolate.
2. Pick a genre, any genre!
I like my genres like good chocolate, a blend of dark, rich drama and sweet comedy. Also, anything riffing on something else, like fairy tales, history, art, other books, is my fave.
3. What is the first book you remember reading?
Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! by Dr. Seuss
(Also Dick and Jane books, but boooo for boring.)
4. What book shaped your childhood most?
The Narnia Chronicles. Relatedly, we had a wardrobe.
5. When did you first start writing?
Before I could write. My sweet kindergarten teacher Miss Connors let us tell her stories at her typewriter.
6. What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?
That feeling of excitement… of imagining what could be and wanting to share that experience.
I still feel that way. But now I also write to tell the truth, for catharsis, to explore what haunts me, to ask questions. And still, for that exhilaration of the “What if?” Of making someone laugh or cry. The thrill of spinning straw into gold.
7. What book/poem are you most proud of creating?
Love, Violet a picture book, illustrated by Charlene Chua, about a crush between two girls. It was hard to write but holds my whole pounding heart. And my hope for a more loving, accepting world for kids.
8. Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?
Hahaha. No. So many of my first books will never be published! But the boxes of pages have made nice fire starters. True story.
9. How many books/collections have you published so far?
Two picture books.
10. What genres do you write in (or hope to)?
Picture books (lyrical, realistic, humorous), middle grade fantasy, graphic novel, poetry, creative nonfiction
11. Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?
Both. As they say, don’t mess with writers. They might describe you.
12. To plan, or not to plan your plot?
I used to be a “pants-er,” flying happily by the seat of my pants. Several abandoned novel drafts later, dozens of dead picture books later, I now plan. It saves me oodles of pain and heartache. It usually goes like this: Gather. Daydream. Doodle. Then: chart, chart, draft. I’m now chronically ill with ME/CFS, an energy illness that affects memory and causes brain fog. So, planning is the only way. It also helps my very distractable skipping-through-the-meadow-sniffing-every-flower brain to stay on the path.
13. What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?
Traditional. At the moment, yes.
14. Do you currently have a WIP?
And sometimes, I enjoy visiting with the ghosts in my story graveyard.
15. What do you consider your *current* magnum opus?
A big (super-planned-out) mess I’m in love with. I’m living in rural northern Italy, just below the mountains, and I’ll simply say: the fairy tale vibe is strong here.
16. Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or, if yours features no romance, tell us about your favourite character friendship!
Ah, shy Violet who dreams of adventuring with the one girl in her class who makes her heart skip. The girl with the leaping laugh who races like the wind. Mira. But every time Mira comes around, poor Violet goes shy!
- From Love, Violet, illustrated by Charlene Chua @charlenedraws (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Jan. 2022).
17. Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.
I listened to the soundtrack of Shakespeare in Love 10,000 times while writing Love, Violet. So many times that I think the pulsing heartbeat that runs through that music showed up in the story.
Whenever she tries to talk to Mira, Violet’s heart gallops away, THUMPity TUMPity THUMPity! Isn’t that the true music of love?
18. Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)
- Art © 2022 Charlene Chua, used with permission from the publisher.
19. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Trust the messy process, don’t give up, even when you need to give up on a project. Remember to love what you do. That you are not your work, and sometime the work won’t work. But we must put our whole selves into our work or its heart will never beat. (Okay, so I broke the rules. That was several things.) Here’s one more: Learn the rules, then play as only you can!
20. Have you entered any writer contests? Tell us about your experience!
Yes! I won $25 for the story “The Shapable Rainbow” in a contest run by the Iowa Readers Association in 1983. I was in grade school. I still love the plaid pleated skirt I wore to the ceremony. And I didn’t get paid to write as an adult until… mmm… 41?
21. Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers?
Excluding people I know personally… Elizabeth Acevedo, Elana K. Arnold, Jonathan Auxier, Akwaeke Emezi, Neil Gaiman, Adam Gidwitz, Dashka Slater, Mariko Tamaki, and a strong feeling that Daniel Nayeri and Anna-Marie McLemore are about to join this list.
22. Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!