Where do you get your ideas?

The short answer is that I get my ideas everywhere.

The long answer is that I never know when an idea is going to come to me, or where exactly it came from. It’s a mysterious process of taking in everything I can about life–from living, from listening, from watching, from reading–and waiting to see what takes hold.

What is it like to be a writer?

It’s an occasionally wonderful, frequently agonizing, usually messy way to live. I will encourage my children not to become writers, because I would like them to have regular paychecks, and health insurance.

What does your typical writing day look like?

It’s kind of embarrassing to admit, but I usually start my workday writing in bed. After seeing my kids and husband off, I go back to bed with a cup of black tea and a piece of toast, and I read and answer email to get myself rolling. I also usually check the New York Times website and Facebook, and maybe The Onion, because these are such fun ways to procrastinate. Usually by 9am or so, I’m ready to get down to business and write. Sometimes I get sick of the bedroom and migrate outside with my laptop or into the office to work, but I find desks to just be, so, well…uncomfortable? I seriously get my best work done sitting in bed with my hot pink MacBook.

I usually write until about noon or 1PM, and then I grab my bored, sad-eyed dog and take him for a run. Sometimes I come back home and write a bit more if I didn’t accomplish what I wanted in the morning. Other times I do household chores, take care of business-type stuff, or run errands. If I’m close to a deadline, I’ll discard most of the other stuff (except for the dog jog) and just write all day until my fingers bleed.

What should my college major be if I want to be a writer?

The great thing about writing is that people from all walks of life can do it. Whether you have a college education or not doesn’t especially matter in determining your success in writing, though you should definitely go to college if you have the chance! It’s a great experience for all sorts of reasons aside from whether or not it will help you get published.

I majored in English with a concentration in literature, because I wanted to read as much great writing as I could before I tried to write seriously. Lots of aspiring writers study creative writing in college, but unless you enjoy writing workshops, you might consider other majors that educate you about the wider world. Writing workshops can be a wonderful way to get some writing done and focus on one’s craft, but they can also be kind of inbred and destructive of one’s unique talents, so don’t ever feel like they are the sole path to a writing career.

So what do you really love? That is one way to guide your choice of college majors.

Will I get rich if I sell a novel?

Probably not. Also, the desire to earn boatloads of cash is probably the worst reason in the world to do anything, and is an especially terrible reason to write a novel. Writing, like other artistic pursuits such as painting and making music, is generally an unstable way to earn a living, so please don’t go into it for the money. Write a novel because you can’t do anything else.

Can you send me some free books?

No, I’m sorry. I wish I could. See the above response about writer=poor to understand why.

Have you written any other books besides your young adult novels?

I’ve also written some romance novels for adults under another name. They were really fun to write.

Can you read the book I’ve written and tell me what you think of it?

No, I’m sorry but I am always drowning in more responsibilities than I can handle, as most of us are. I totally recommend finding a critique partner or group from whom you can get feedback about your work.

What do you do when you get writer’s block?

I panic. Eventually, after wasting lots of time, I recall the lessons I’ve learned over many years of writing. I try switching gears, writing on paper if I’ve been typing (sometimes handwriting is great for brainstorming!), changing settings from home to a coffee house, drinking lots of coffee, telling myself I absolutely cannot write anything for a few days, or trying to write a scene from much later in the book. Sometimes, if I’m stuck on, say, chapter 3, writing a later scene, or better yet the ending of the novel, can really help me get unstuck.