As an author I love hearing from my readers. Here are some questions that pop up in interviews and emails fairly regularly. If you have a question, please check here first.
Books and Inspiration
Question: How did you become a writer?
I was one of those quiet girls with her nose constantly stuck in a book. I love living through a good story, experiencing and learning new things, and seeing things from new perspectives. I didn’t decide to write a book until I took a writing course in college and found I really enjoyed it. At that point I decided I would finish a book and try to get it published. It took me several years to accomplish that goal, but I love my career and I’m so glad I chose it.
Question: Why did you decide to write Steampunk?
The Steampunk elements of The Secret Order trilogy were a bit of an accident. I saw a picture of a clockwork raven on a website and my mind began to wander. I wondered who would invent such a thing and why. At that point the story of a secret society of inventors was born. I have a great deal of admiration for inventors and engineers and I wanted to celebrate that spirit of invention in a story that was fun and full of adventure.
Question: Is any part of your books taken from real life?
For The Secret Order trilogy, I did my best to set the book in true-to-life historical London. However, I have never been to London, so it took a lot of research as well as the input of a couple of London natives to get the story right. Consequently, not much of the story comes from my own experience. There is only one aspect of one scene that came from my real life. I’m horribly nervous on ladders. I went cave exploring once, and the only way out of the cave was to climb up this slippery and rickety ladder suspended over what looked like a bottomless pit. When I had my heroine Meg jauntily climbing down a ladder in the story, I personally freaked out a little at the thought, so I felt she should as well. It led to one of my favorite scenes in the book. For the record, that is the only fear Meg and I share. I’m afraid of blood, she’s not, and she seems to have a healthy fear of rodents, while I like having them as pets.
As for The Silver Gate, I wrote that story for my two children, who share many characteristics with the two main characters. Even though I was inspired by them, Elric and Wynn ended up becoming their own people. While Wynn has no real affection for fairy princesses, I guarantee you, my daughter would love to be one.
Question: What books or movies have inspired you?
The book that was the greatest influence on me was The Wizard of Oz, followed closely by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, A Wrinkle in Time, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I did not realize that I had chosen the same name, Meg, as the heroine of A Wrinkle in Time until after all the edits were done for my first book, but then I was delighted. I had wanted a name that sounded like it had a powerful spirit and knack for trouble. Clearly A Wrinkle in Time made an impression on me as a child. Two other scenes in Legacy of the Clockwork Key bear a resemblance to two of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride and The Goonies. I did not do this intentionally. In fact, it was my critique partner that pointed them out. Inspiration is a funny thing, and it is amazing how deeply certain things ingrain themselves in the subconscious.
Contacting You, Social Media, and the Internet
Question: Do you have a blog?
Sometimes one of the hardest lessons for me to learn is my own limitations. I tried having a blog once, and I figured out, I’m really not a good blogger at all. Writing long articles took me a long time, and I struggled with it. I guess I’m a short and sweet kind of person, and I prefer Twitter to blogging. I do enjoy visiting other people’s blogs and will gladly write guest blogs for bloggers who invite me, so long as my schedule permits it. Check the Resources page for detail on having me as a guest blogger on your site. I use the blog on my website purely for writing news, but I really enjoy conversing with readers through Twitter and Facebook.
Question: How do you feel about fan fiction?
Honestly? While I can’t officially endorse it, off the record, I love fan fiction. I say have at it, and have fun. Stay on cannon, go off cannon, get creative with my blessing. I cut my writing teeth doing fan fiction myself, and I think it is an excellent way to practice writing skills and to be a part of a writing community. Nothing could make me more proud than to know I’ve inspired someone to express themselves creatively. That said, I can’t read it. I have to keep my ideas for where I want to go with my characters, and what I want to do with them within my own head without other influences.
If you choose to write fan fiction, I only ask a couple of things. The first is to respect other writers. Please do not plagiarize in any way from other writers, published, or unpublished. I have seen first-hand some ugly things in the fan fiction universe. It is never okay to take someone else’s story and just switch things around a little or substitute in names. Fan fiction should be a fun way to express yourself, and taking someone else’s work and using it as your own will only lead to harm for all involved in the long run. Trust me, it is not worth it. The second thing I would like you to remember is if you choose to write fan fiction, please keep in mind that you are obliquely representing the fandom that you love. Be a good representation of that fandom. Treat all people with respect and care.
Question: Can I contact you on Facebook or Twitter? How about email?
Please do! I really like Twitter, and I tend to post more random things there, as well as hold conversations with people. I try to keep my Facebook page more focused on news, events, and sharing cool links to fan-inspired art and pictures.
For email, go to the Contact page of my website. I gladly answer letters, even though it might take me a while to respond. I do my best to respond to every letter I receive. I’m afraid I don’t have enough time to fill out personal interviews for school projects, though. I’m happy to answer questions from readers in general.
Question: I have a drawing/playlist/costume I’d like to share with you. How can I send a picture to you?
I love seeing what my readers come up with creatively, from cool Steampunk costumes, to awesome playlists. If you have anything you’d like to share, capture it somehow in digital form put it up somewhere on the web, and then send me an email with the link. Let me know what it is, and so long as it is not violating any copyrights or shows something that is not appropriate for a PG audience, I’ll share it with the rest of my fans. If you give me permission, I can post it in a fan gallery in the future.
Question: I wrote a book, could you read it for me?
Unfortunately I am unable to read unpublished work that has not been given to me by my editor at this time. The best advice I can give to writers who are looking for someone to read for them is to get involved with writer’s organizations and communities online. I would not be published today without the early encouragement and support of fellow writers I met through online communities. They can be a great resource for writers of any genre.
Question: I would like to have you come to my school or to do a Skype interview with you for my class. How can I arrange this?
I’m happy to do as many school and library visits as my schedule permits, but I’m also a mother of two small children, so my ability to travel can be limited. I am always excited to speak with classes through Skype or a similar program. If you would like to arrange one of these events, please see the Resources page of my website for more details.
Question: What music (genre, artist, etc.) inspires you to write?
Every time I answer this question, it makes me feel bad because I feel like I should be listening to something. I don’t listen to any music while I’m writing. Sometimes certain songs I hear will remind me of characters, but I’m a purely visual learner. It takes all of my concentration to listen to anything, music or speech. I find when I listen to any music with lyrics while I’m writing, I lose my train of thought, then start typing the lyrics. Sometimes I can write to movie scores. I love the scores to Lord of the Rings, Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean and Jurassic Park. However, they don’t tend to inspire what I’m writing. I usually find myself daydreaming about the movie when I listen, so they can also be distracting. The best soundtrack for me is none at all, I’m afraid.
Because of this, I love when fans put together playlists for my books, because I’m a bit hopeless at it.
Question: What is your favorite thing to snack on while writing?
I’m intolerant of caffeine, so the writer staples of chocolate and coffee don’t work for me. I tend to snack on baby peeled carrots while writing. When I’m in a less healthy mood, I love Haribo Gummy Bears and Jelly Bellies.
Question: What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I’m a huge fan of Dancing With the Stars, and it is one of the few television shows I make time for in my busy schedule. I not-so-secretly harbor fantasies of being on the show one day. I also like playing video games, taking care of my butterfly garden, and hanging out with my horse.
Question: What is your favorite book?
That is an extremely difficult question for me to answer because I like so many different books for different reasons. When I’m reading for fun, I like to read historical romances. If I have to be serious, I’m a big fan of Hamlet, Frankenstein, Yertle The Turtle, and Where The Sidewalk Ends. But the only books that have ever inspired me to dress up and go to a midnight release were the ones in the Harry Potter series.
Question: How do I get an agent or get published?
Luckily, we are in an exciting time for writers. There are more options than ever before. The best advice I can give you is to connect with other writers online and follow agents and editors in your genre on Twitter or through their blogs. Many dispense immeasurable advice on the process of becoming a published author. However, the first thing you have to do is write a book.
Question: How can I make my writing better?
The best way to improve your writing is to keep writing and seek out the company of other writers. Find or form critique groups. Get involved with writers organizations, and then attend writer’s conventions and workshops. Writing tends to be a solitary business, but the best way to learn is to learn from the experience of others.
Question: I have this great idea! If I tell it to you, will you turn it into a book?
I’m sorry, but I just can’t do that. If you have a great idea, there is no better writer for that idea than you. You should write it, and see where it takes you.