1. Where did you get the idea for writing Nightingale’s Nest?
When I first started writing for children, I wrote what I assumed were picture books: short, moody, quiet almost-poems that came from my deepest childhood memories. Even when I figured out they didn’t work as picture books, I couldn’t stop thinking about one or two of them in particular. Turns out, they were the seeds of my next two novels! I took the first one, called “The Treasure Nest,” wrapped it around one of my favorite, strange fairy tales (“The Nightingale” by Hans Christian Andersen), and it grew into Nightingale’s Nest.
2. Was writing Nightingale’s Nest easier or harder that Sinister Sweetness?
Both! Nightingale’s Nest seemed more organic – like I was uncovering a story that already existed, rather than creating something from scratch. I wrote it fairly quickly, and was more pleased with the first draft of it than I usually am! I had to change a lot more while revising Sinister Sweetness – although that one was great fun to write. Witches, candy all day long, a happy ending – what’s not to love?
The writing of Nightingale’s Nest was far more emotionally difficult to say the least. As I wrote, I felt more and more that the characters on the page were in a way – this may sound strange – my own children. I loved them. I still wonder what Little John and Gayle are up to these days…
3. Do you have a favorite character from your books?
Not yet! I may someday look back on my body of work and think “I liked that character best,” but right now I am in the thick of it. If I didn’t become utterly fascinated with each character (the good and the bad), then I don’t think I could spend the time needed to write and revise their stories for years and years.
4. Are you planning a sequel to Sinister Sweetness? (Please?!..)
Oh, thank you! It’s very gratifying to know a reader wants more of my stories, but right now, there are no sequel plans in the works.
If my publisher decides to ask for one, I DO have some ideas… but they are very dark and twisted and not quite ready to write. Anyway, I am having such a good time playing with other fairy tales and magical realism, it would be a while before I could get back to the world of Splendid Academy… and it might have to be a prequel, anyway. (I don’t want to give away the ending, but, um, there are a lot of characters no longer around by the end of SINISTER SWEETNESS. Who would the new main characters and villains be? Feel free to write me with your ideas!)
5. What project are you currently working on?
My third book, which should come out in early 2015! It’s got a working title of WISH GIRL, and it’s magical realism again, but more pronounced than NIGHTINGALE’S NEST. It’s about an introverted boy who moves to the countryside, near a valley that seems utterly magical. He meets a smart, bossy girl who may or may not make wishes come true…and also may need him to help her stay alive.
I’m still revising, so I don’t want to say too much, but I think readers who liked my first two books will like this one, too. It’s full of magic and danger and a pinch of tragedy, too.
6. I see you bake when you are stressed, what is your favorite thing the bake during these times?
Cookies! I’ve made my favorite four or five types of cookies so many times, I don’t even need the recipes anymore. I think the familiar act of baking cookies, and the immediate joy of sampling one or two (or twelve) helps make the stressful days less so.
7. What was your favorite childhood book as a kid?
I’d have to go with Pippi Longstocking. I slept upside down in my bed for a long time after I discovered these books – and spent the rest of my time daydreaming about breadfruit and tropical islands. I wanted to be Pippi, to be strong and unafraid to speak my mind, and to have a treasure chest full of gold coins I could hide for my friends to find. Oh, and a monkey.
8. What is your favorite book to read to your boys now as an adult? And is it the same as their favorite?
I adore this lovely picture book called Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran, about the imaginary, magical worlds children invent and populate, and how memories of those places stay with us until we are very old. It always makes me cry, and the boys have to help me read those last few pages out loud, but I love it more than anything.
My youngest loves Neil Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants, and my teenager still has a soft spot for The Velveteen Rabbit. (Maybe he likes watching his mom cry? That book is ridiculously hard to get through!)
9. What is your guilty pleasure reading?
I feel no guilt about reading – and I fiercely believe no one should! The thought that some genres or books are more worthy than others, and that the stories you may like are somehow shameful, is the sort of thing that turns reluctant readers away from books forever.
I proudly read tons of children’s books - from picture books to YA. I devour anything by Charlaine Harris, adore Neil Gaiman, immediately race out for the newest Robin McKinley… and I’ve been known to buy steamy romances in supermarket checkout lines, if they looked funny or had well-written first pages.
Here, let me step off my soapbox now…
10. Any final words?
Nitwit? Blubber? Oddment? Tweak!
(Sorry, I couldn’t help quoting Dumbledore.)
How about… Thank you! I love sharing my stories with you and your readers, and I feel incredibly lucky to have the chance to give some small insights into the writing process. I hope your 2014 is filled with amazing books and ideas, too.