Sister Elaine Peters, my Grade 6 teacher, was the first teacher to suggest that I was „meant to work with words.” She handed me a thin book of creative writing exercises with the instructions to „get started.” This was paired with weekly out-of-classroom time where I hung out in the library—directly across the hall from my classroom—and wrote or read. That, to me, was the starting point for much of where I am today.
What were some of your childhood ambitions? Did you always want to be a writer, or did your writing career come as a surprise?
I was in sixth grade when I decided I wanted to write, but over time I’d heard how impossible it was to be successful at it. Since I also wanted to be a teacher and a mother, I came up with a „master plan” that involved teaching first and trying to start writing later once my children were older. I pretty much kept to this plan, except I started writing about a decade sooner than I’d first planned. Along the way, there were other things that have tempted me—anthropology, archeology, photography— but at the bottom of my heart, it’s always been about words. Maybe later I’ll pick up a few more degrees, so I can explore those options too.
What’s been your most memorable moment as an author thus far?
My writing journey the past year has been amazing. It’s hard to pick just one. However, this is my favourite right now: on my pre-release tour, I had a dinner in Chicago with teens, teachers and librarians who’d read Wicked Lovely. I brought my first copy of my first book to that first book signing with readers—and they autographed it for me. That might be one of the coolest things that’s ever happened to me.
What’s your writing routine?
I’m not sure I have a proper routine. I cue up music that sets the mood of the text (I keep playlists for my novels), and then I re-read bits of the text and dive into revisions or drafting more chapters. I pause and get more tea or nibble some fruit or bread. I read some more. When I work, I tend to write one character’s thread at a time (the novels have 3 characters sharing narrative duty) so as to keep the voices distinct. When I get stuck, I work out, hike, go roaming with my camera, meditate, visit a museum–do something to give my mind space to process. Then I go back to my desk.
Do you have a favorite place to write?
I pretty much only write at my desk, music blaring from speakers or headphones, feet propped on the file cabinet beside the desk, tea in reach, and my setting photos all tacked up on the giant board behind the desk. Of course, my theory of writing is that writing is more than the actual act of putting the words on the screen/paper. I hike, roam with my camera, explore museums, work out, soak in bubble baths: these are all activities that encourage my muse to dance. They are as much a part of the process as those hours when my fingers are on the keys. Writing isn’t just a single action: it’s a state of being.
Fill in the blank: I can’t write without _______.
Ms Muse, the creative spirit, whatever name one assigns it. The rest of it is all insignificant if my muse isn’t nourished (hence the need to read, hike, take photos, roam museums, et al). For me, without inspiration, without passion, there’s no point in trying to write.
Do you have other jobs, or do you write full-time? What are some of the jobs you’ve held in the past? Can you identify any ways in which previous jobs have helped you become a better writer?
For the past 12 years, I taught university lit and composition. This year I’m only writing (and missing the classroom terribly). Teaching is one of the coolest jobs. I was paid to read and talk about books. It’s a wonderful thing. I met new interesting people every semester; I discovered new things in my freshman composition essays (a type of fishing called „noodling” ranks as one of the most unusual). I interacted with readers who saw texts in new ways, not always, but often enough that I was regularly enthralled by old literature and new readers.
Was there a particular inspiration behind the writing of this book?
I suppose if one looks at any text there’s a series of inspirations whether the authors intends it or not. My conscious inspirations were my love of folklore, my desire to write a strong female character, and my belief that life and happiness are merely about making choices until the path you need is the one you find. Sometimes the happy-ever-after we dream of isn’t the one we get. Sometimes life takes away some of the choices. But I believe that as long we can keep acting, keep pursuing volition, we can create a happy-ever-after of our own. Having fate–or anything else–steal our choices is not acceptable, but it’s also not the only path there is.
Do you have a favorite character in your book? What did you enjoy about creating this character? Was he/she based on anyone you know?
I don’t play favourites: I love all of my characters. However, there is one character in the book with a real-world counterpart— Grams (Elena Foy, Aislinn’s grandmother). Grams is based, in part, on my own grandmother— Marjorie Marr. My grandmother was the most amazing woman I’ve ever met. She was brilliant, tough, clever, and never stopped learning about the world. I wouldn’t be the person I am without having had her influence on my life.
Grams also has the surname of my grandfather’s (John Marr) mother. The rest of the characters are not consciously based on anyone, but Grams is my homage to my grandparents and their histories.