Book Nerd Interview
Dear Jean and all the Nerds,
Thank you so sincerely for hosting this interview and especially for the fun and thoughtful questions!
Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Oh, wow! Nothing like jumping right in with the deep question! There are so many answers, but I guess I’ll go with: freedom of expression. Storytelling, writing—there’s no barrier to entry. Words are free to all of us, any single one of us, to use to express our ideas, dreams, feelings, experiences. For fun, for escape, to cope, to overcome, to grow. The possibilities are limitless. We can all be storytellers. How beautiful is that?
What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
Ha! I always answer this question the same way: I like NASCAR. Really.
Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
My favorite all-time book is The Hunt for Red October, which is way out of my genre! Second is The Killer Angels, also out of my genre. I read both as a teenager and my love for them is enduring. I devoured Tom Clancy as a kid and I still wish I could go back and recapture the joy of reading Red October for the first time. It was just—Jack Ryan! And submarines! And excitement! At the time, I thought of him as a sort-of modern day Indiana Jones. I barely knew what sexy was, but smart men in dangerous plots was definitely sexy. (Still is.) The Killer Angels is just beautifully written and a brilliant study in characterization. In my genre? Probably Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races tops my favorites list.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
Probably how to work under pressure. That’s very practical, I know. But a valuable skill!
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
You can’t edit what you haven’t written.
Can you tell us when you started Lost in Thought, how that came about?
I know exactly how, and where, and almost when! One day when I was regaling my husband about something I’d read, he said to me: I’m surprised you never wrote a book. And do you know what I said? I said: I don’t think I could finish one. We were in the car. I still remember exactly the bend on I-84E where we exchanged those sentences. Later, I got mad at myself, because I’d never tried to write a book. I’d not finished lots of things, but how could I know I wouldn’t finish this one if I didn’t try? So I determined to prove myself wrong. I started writing in the late summer of 2010 and finished the first draft in early February 2011. I told no one—not even my husband—until December when I was over half way.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Lainey?
In all honesty, the most surprising thing I learned was that I could create her at all. I enjoy discovering her foibles and her strengths—because that’s what it is, discovery. Sure, I’ve written it all, but sometimes it’s the character revealing herself to you as much as it is you dreaming up the character. What I didn’t dream, before I started writing, was that I could actually do it. But I did. I have. Lainey was my first character and Lost in Thought was my first book, but I’ve written several more since. I surprised myself, in a good way, and I’m still doing it. The next most surprising thing has been how people have enjoyed reading about her as much as I enjoyed writing her. That’s pretty grand.
If you could introduce Carter to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Etienne St. Clair from Anna and the French Kiss. They’re enough alike and enough different that I think they could be great mates. Same for Gray Newman from A Breath of Eyre.
You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
Love what you love, without caring whether or not it’s cool. I don’t mean romantically, though that too, just—the stuff that makes you happy. Love it without caring so much if other people love or hate it. And a corollary, don’t spend a lot of time hating or feeling superior to things other people love. That’s a hollow place to seek out personal validation. The world could use a lot more “Go <my team>!” and a lot less “<Your team> sucks!”
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
I do try not to lie, just to be tactful about truths, but occasionally silence is golden. Sometimes you just grin and bear it, you know? If I’ve been invited to dinner with someone I don’t know well, I’m not likely to answer, “Actually, I don’t like this soup at all.” Later, when you’ve become good friends, you can tell them and laugh about the terrible soup.
Where is the best place in the world you’ve been?
Prague. I’d go back right now if I could. The food, the music, the strange collection of architecture, the hrad. It’s a lovely place.
What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?
Well, it’s not funny or quirky, but for four summers, I was the manager of a busy store on the Ocean City (NJ) boardwalk. There was actually a lot I loved about retail! I learned how to fold shirts like a boss and give change without using the calculator. Also, I got to see the ocean every day.
When was the last time you told someone you loved them?
Every single time I say goodbye or goodnight to my husband, daughter, parents, or other person I love. For whatever reason, if I never get to speak to someone again, I hope “I love you” were the last words I said.
Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heartbreak, or having never loved at all?
On one hand, if you never had true love, would you know? Would ‘good enough’ love be good enough? But I’d probably take the true love with a side of heartbreak. You learn a lot and, though during the heartbreak stage it might not feel like it, love, even true love, is not rationed. You can find it again.
What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
As is, I always feel stuck in between being “a child of” the eighties and nineties. I don’t really fit in either, having bridged them both. I imagine I’d have been better suited to the sixties or seventies. This question kind of makes me think of Midnight in Paris, though. Maybe the only time we’re supposed to be in is our own.
What's the loveliest thing you have ever seen?
Sappy answer alert: my daughter. She’s the best.
Where can readers stalk you?
Lainey Young has a secret: she’s going crazy. Everyone else thinks she has severe migraines from stress and exhaustion. What she really has are visions of how people died—or are going to die. Not that she tells anyone that. At age 16, she prefers keeping her crazy to herself. When doctors insist she needs a new and stable environment to recover, Lainey’s game to spend two years at a private New England boarding school. She doesn’t really think it will cure her problem, and she’s half right. There is no cure, but as she discovers, she’s not actually crazy. Almost everyone at Northbrook Academy has a secret too. Half the students and nearly all the staff are members of the Sententia, a hidden society of the psychically gifted. A vision of another student’s impending death confirms Lainey is one of them. She’d like to return the crappy gift of divining deaths with only a touch, but enjoys spending time with Carter Penrose—recent Academy graduate and resident school crush—while learning to control it. Lainey’s finally getting comfortable with her ability, and with Carter, when they uncover her true Sententia heritage. Now she has a real secret. Once it’s spilled, she’ll be forced to forget protecting secrets and start protecting herself.
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