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Diane was kind enough to answer all my prying questions. Thanks!
Why do you write in your genre? What draws you to it?
I definitely believe in the motto, “Write with door closed, revise with the door open.” When I write a first draft, I don’t think about genre at all. My focus is on the story. If I am moved by the characters and the situations they are in, I’m doing my job. When I begin revising and refining my work, I think more about audience, so that’s when genre enters the picture. The result is that my first novel is YA, but my current project is for adults, and if it were categorized it would most likely be considered women’s literature. I write things I would like to read. I read YA novels, for fun and to find things my students might like (I’m a high school English teacher), and I read contemporary fiction with strong female characters. As a reader my tastes are diverse; I like realistic fiction, but I also have enjoyed some historical fiction, fantasy, and sci-fi, so who knows what my next project will be! Actually, I’d love to write historical fiction, but I don’t have time right now for the necessary research.
Name one thing you learned from your protagonist.
I learned a lot from Lizzie, the narrator and protagonist of Watch Me Disappear. Lizzie is a lot like me. Although the situation she’s in of starting over at a new school is nothing I ever experienced, a lot of the situations Lizzie and her friends encounter are loosely constructed from my own memories of high school. I think the biggest thing I learned from Lizzie is more of a reminder than a lesson. Adults often criticize teenagers for being self-centered or dramatic or lacking perspective, but writing from Lizzie’s point of view helped me remember what it felt like to be 17 and gave me a lot of empathy for teenagers today. Instead of trivializing teenagers’ concerns and experiences, adults, especially those (like me) working with kids, should be sensitive to them.
Any odd or interesting writing quirks, habits, or superstitions?
I’m woefully unquirky in my writing habits. I wish I had more quirks. They make for great storytelling. Recently, I have returned to pen and paper for first drafts. I used to do all my writing at the computer, but for the past year or so, I found myself more and more drawn to writing longhand. It started for the practical reason that I developed pretty bad carpal tunnel syndrome. I had no choice but to move away from my computer. Now, even though I have Dragon Dictation software and an ergonomically correct keyboard, I have found that I just prefer to write on paper. It’s freeing not to be tethered to a computer, not to have the lure of the internet one click away, not to have that annoying cursing blinking, blinking, blinking as I struggle to find the right word.
Plotter or pantser?
Both! First drafts, I wing it. I usually start with a character and a situation and just see what happens. Once I have a completed draft, I map it out, reshape it, and see if there are better ways to organize it. Before jumping into my second draft, I do a detailed outline. I don’t always follow that outline 100%, but I do like to have a guide.
Look to your right – what’s sitting there?
My bookshelf. How appropriate, right? I have a little office in my house. It’s just big enough for my child’s sized desk, an arm chair with my alma mater’s crest (Yay, Mount Holyoke!), two small bookshelves, and a filing cabinet. About two years ago, I got a Kindle and fell in love with it, so I don’t buy a lot of physical books these days, which is for the best, because my shelves are overflowing. The top shelf of my bookcase is devoted to signed copies, which I recently began collecting. My most prized signed titles are AFFLICTION by Russell Banks, BRIGHT’S PASSAGE by Josh Ritter, UNFAMILIAR FISHES by Sarah Vowell, and SOURCE by Mark Doty.
Anything new coming up from you? What?
I’m working on my next novel. Right now I’m on the third draft, which I hope is the last. For me, the process of drafting and revising is long and messy. My first book took 6 years to complete. I’m hoping this one will be faster. I started this one during National Novel Writing Month in 2009, and I think I’ll have it ready next summer. It’s much more complex than Watch Me Disappear, with three point-of-view characters who form a tension-filled love triangle. I still have not decided on a title, but right now I’m calling it WORK OF ART (IN PROGRESS).
Do you have a question for our readers?
I would love to know what your readers’ favorite literary love triangles are, and also what their favorite books set in high school are!
Thanks so much for hosting me!
Lizzie Richard’s father has moved the family around every few years to advance his career, so she has never had a chance to develop the kind of “BFF” relationships she thinks most kids have. She’s bracing herself for another lonely year at her third high school when her new neighbor Maura gets sick of watching her little brother when she could be partying. Thanks to Maura’s plotting, Lizzie becomes everyone’s new favorite babysitter. Seeing her opportunity, Lizzie breaks her strict parents’ rules and uses Maura’s computer to create a secret Email address and Facebook account. She is quickly friended by Missy, a fellow transfer student as eager for a friend as she is. Things are looking up for Lizzie until Maura’s ex-boyfriend Paul sets his eye on Missy. Caught between her new best friend and the neighbor whose friendship promises instant popularity, Lizzie doesn’t know what to do—because she’s fallen for Paul, too.
“He’s won the high average award the past three years, so unless someone can knock him down this year, he’ll be valedictorian.”
“Him?” I ask. The kid in question looks like some kind of wide-eyed farm boy, not like a valedictorian. He is tan and athletic-looking, but there is nothing cocky in his walk or his expression. If I had to guess just based on appearances, I would say he is probably of average intelligence at best but great with big animals like cows and horses. It is hard to picture him acing a calculus exam.
“Yep. His name is Hunter Groves. Valedictorian and star of the soccer team.”
“No kidding,” I say.
“He’s a nice kid,” Wes adds. “Usually the number one guy is a serious geek, but Hunter’s ok.”
I either hate Hunter Groves or love him. Maybe I am even madly in love with him. It may be shallow, but the guy of my dreams is both hot and smart, and he’s genuine enough to fall for me despite my mere average appearance. I know it’s a double standard to want a guy with looks and brains and maybe even athletic talent, and simultaneously to want people not to judge me by my looks and lack of athletic talent, but there it is. I guess I’m not a good person. And anyway, whatever dream guy I have in my mind, real boys intimidate me completely, and I steer clear of them. The good-looking jocks use their arrogance to compensate for their dull minds, and the really smart guys usually have the people skills of lab rats. There I go again, proving myself to be superficial and judgmental, but I’m just calling it like I see it. The point is, if Hunter Groves is the smart, athletic, nice guy Wes says he is, maybe dreams do come true.
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