TFW you’re procrastinating before starting a new novel…

There are few things more delicious than being in a midst of a novel you love working on. You know where you’re going, you’re reasonably confident about where you’ve been, and your characters are starting to feel like old friends.

And then there’s the moment you start a new novel, when all you have is a blank white void staring back at you.

It should be exciting, like the start of a road trip to anywhere. But for some writers, like me, it’s mostly terrifying. Like, what if, halfway through our trip, I realize the people I’ve brought along for the ride aren’t as cool or as fascinating as I thought they’d be and are actually super boring and also assholes who no one likes. Or, what if we thought we’d be seeing cool places and having life-changing conversations, but our trip is actually just an endless string of truck stops and quippy, circular dialogue. Will I have to sneak out a bathroom window when we stop at a diner and walk my ass to a bus station?

I’ve had an idea for a new book brewing for a while (several ideas, actually), but here’s a list of things I’ve done to avoid writing it.

1) Watched 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. If you haven’t watched it yet, I dare you to do so and play Spot Tom Everett Scott (aka Guy Patterson, my all-time favorite underrated movie character).

2) Started watching The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu. If you aren’t already watching this, what the frig is wrong with you? I know, I know. ANOTHER streaming service wants your money. But for this feminist masterpiece, they truly deserve it.

3) Listened to Podcasts. If you haven’t listened to S-Town, again, what the frig is wrong with you? Potentially hairy ethics aside, it’s phenomenally good and will probably change your life. I’ve also been enjoying Rabbits even though it scares me and also sometimes makes me want to grab the audio equivalent of a red pen. Like, guys, if you describe something unquestionably creepy, you don’t need to follow that up with, “It was pretty creepy.”

4) Worked on a YA Paranormal series I started a gazillion years ago with my BFF. I mean, this totally still counts as writing so whatever. And for those interested in MAD WORLD news (cough cough…Offbeat YA…cough cough), we’re working on book four (really for real I swear) and planning new editions of the first three with snazzy new covers drawn by Troy H. Gardner himself.

5) Emailed my agent. I ran the idea for my new novel by her, half expecting her to talk me out of it because it’s pretty out there. Instead, she asked me to write it immediately so she can read it. *rolls eyes* Damn literary agents being all supportive and shit.

6) Wrote this blog post. 

No more excuses. Time to gas up the car and take a trip with a bunch of fictional strangers who are hopefully not boring assholes. Wish me luck!

And let me know your tips for overcoming the blank page. So, you know, I have more things to read before I starting writing this new book…

How Did You Come Up With That?


Right around the time I sold THE ART OF ESCAPING, I decided to finally let my mom read it. She loved it (because of course—she’s my mom), but her reaction had some interesting layers. First, there was the sad and hilarious I had no idea you were so miserable in high school layer (my response: I think you already knew this and just blocked it out). Then, there was the inevitable question that writers tend to get from non-writers: How did you come up with that?

I think writers tend to avoid asking each other this question because we all like to believe that fiction is purely fiction and that our imaginations are so powerful we can build worlds in the blink of an eye. And some writers can probably do just that, but I know that I (and most of the writers I know) pull a great deal of inspiration from our actual lives and the things that we see, hear, and read. After rattling around in our heads and picking up lots of creative threads and tendrils, those inspirations might be unrecognizable by the time they hit the page. But I think, once in while, it’s useful to take stock of them. It’s kinda fascinating to see all the nitty gritty ways in which an idea can evolve once your brain decides to take it and make something new out of it.

Since I’m hoping people other than my mom will ask how I came up with some of the elements of THE ART OF ESCAPING, I decided to write a post on just a few of the inspirations.

Princess Tenko. When I was about five or six, I saw Japanese pop star and illusionist Princess Tenko perform a water tank escape on That’s Incredible (thanks to the wonders of YouTube, you can watch it here). I’m still not entirely sure why, but those images—particularly the shots of her peering out at the crowd while in the tank—seared themselves into my young brain. Even as a teenager and a twenty-something, they would randomly float up from the depths when I let my mind wander. So when I started thinking about a premise for my first solo novel, naturally escapology was one of the first things that came to mind. I also decided to loosely base one of my characters on Princess Tenko herself.

The Weird and Wonderful City of Providence. When we were very silly twenty-somethings, my boyfriend (now husband) and I decided to move to Providence, Rhode Island. We left after a year because of the recession, which hit the Ocean State particularly hard, but we spent that year discovering many of Providence’s odd little secrets, such as hot weiners and grilled pizza. But it wasn’t all about food. Part of the reason I wanted to move to Providence in the first place was an abundance of local music and a collection of semi-secret venues where bands played. The venue where my MC cuts her teeth is fictional, but it was inspired by those semi-secret venues, as well as a fantastic little bar in Federal Hill called Lily Marlene’s, which looks like it’s hiding oodles of delicious little secrets.

My IRL BFF, Troy H. Gardner. Long before Troy and I decided to start writing YA fic together, we were weird teenagers growing up in a small town. I vividly recall him coming out to me, not just because it was a poignant moment, but also because, immediately after he told me, I stepped in a huge pile of dog poo. Such is life. The dynamic between my MC and her partner in crime (who’s really a second MC) is heavily inspired by the dynamic between Troy and me. We were both wary of people, but trusted each other almost immediately and stayed friends even as most of our other high school friends drifted away.

Awkward Conversation with a Guidance Counselor. In THE ART OF ESCAPING, my MC’s decision to become an escapologist is sparked by many things, including a guidance counselor telling her she needs to be more “well-rounded” if she’s going to appeal to a college admissions board. I had a very similar conversation with my high school guidance counselor who, of course, truly meant well. But it stuck with me because, at the time, it made me want to shove all of my textbooks into a shredder. I was working my ass off to get good grades and suddenly there’s some middle-aged dude telling me I need to do more if I really want to get into college. That said, I’m glad I ultimately took his advice because joining my school’s mock trial team was how I met the aforementioned Troy H. Gardner.

Breech Birth. My novel includes a diary entry about a breech birth, where the baby is delivered by a doctor who comforts the young mom by explaining that he’s also a farmer and has delivered hundreds of breech sheep and pigs. It’s pretty much a reiteration of my own birth, as described by my mom. This is the kind of stuff you can’t make up.

There you have it. What strange little nuggets have inspired your writing?

Some rather exciting news…

I didn’t write a post last month because I’ve been saving a delicious little tidbit of news. After much ado, handwringing, and more rounds of revisions than I care to count…MY BOOK SOLD! Cue wide-eyed expression of awe.

Now that it’s officially official, I’m so thrilled to announce that my rockstar agent Jennifer Chen Tran sold THE ART OF ESCAPING to Amberjack Publishing last month. It’s slated for release in June of 2018. I can’t wait to start working with Amberjack to make the novel the best it can be.

For those curious about the publishing process or currently dealing with the anxiety-provoking surrealness of being on submission, this book was on sub for close to a year. I got a lot of helpful feedback from the first round of editors who passed, which I used for some major revisions before the book went out to another round of editors. Because my revisions involved blowing up and basically rewriting the first third of the novel, I ran those chapters by pro-editor Tanya Gold (I highly recommend her, by the way), along with a few of my usual CPs/betas. I will have A LOT of people to thank in the acknowledgements for this one.

In other exciting news, I finished the first round of edits on my latest novel and sent it off to my agent last week. Hopefully I’ll be able to announce another deal in the nearish future.

My Fave Disney *Secrets*

I’m going to continue my listicle kick and use this post to celebrate my recent safari through the land of plucky princesses, green fairies, animatronic pirates, and excessively silly ears. Yes, I just spent ten days in the World of Diz, where my toddler shouted “Mick!” at every turn (no idea why she drops the E and Y—kids, man).

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5 Songs I Wish My Teen Self Could Hear

Last month, I tackled five songs that defined my teenhood. Many years have passed since I was a teenager and many things about me have evolved, including my taste in music. But somewhere in the depths of my psyche, teenage me is still hanging around, all pissed off and terrified and in awe of all the awesome things the world has to offer. Plenty of songs from my teenhood have the power to bring that teenage version of me to the surface. And, once in a while, I’ll hear a song that didn’t exist when I was a teen but has the inexplicable ability to do the same thing plus more. These songs not only make me feel like I’m fifteen again in the best possible way, they make me want to pluck teen me out of the past, stick a pair of headphones on her ears and say, “You need to listen to this.”

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