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Finally, FAQ

You all have been very patient since it's taken me SOOOO long to answer the second half of the FAQ questions you sent in. But here they are, finally!  And most of them are going up on my website today, as well. Thanks so much. 

Do you get to have any input on what you want the book covers to look like?

I speak up if I think something looks wrong, and sometimes I throw out an idea at the early stages that a designer will use. For example, I suggested the Dramarama cover be a picture of a girl or girls in a theatrical dressing room, and the designer at Hyperion used that ideas. For The Treasure Map of Boys, which comes out Fall 09, I sent three ideas and they tell me they are using one: marshmallow snowmen. But all the over covers were initiated and designed by the publishing house.

I know you've mentioned in a few interviews that Disreputable History was a very difficult book to write.  How did the effort required for writing the book affect your feelings about the results? 

I feel very proud of that book and how hard I worked on it.  But I try to disassociate a book's reception from my own feeling about the work I've done on it.  So if reviewers hate a book, or if it doesn't sell, that doesn't affect what I think of my own contribution. It makes me sad, sure, because it's nice to be loved and get royalty checks – but I try to evaluate what I've done on different terms.

Of all your books, which one would you say you are most proud of?

Disreputable History.

Which one of your characters (main or supporting) would you say is most like you?

Ruby Oliver in The Boyfriend List books. But all of them are me in one way or another. Even Demi in Dramarama.

How often do you write in a writing group? Do you like writing in a group better than on your own?

I write with other people maybe twice a month on average. As I answer these questions I’m in a coffee house with four other writers banging away on laptops and sucking down java. However, we are not a group, in that we don't read each other's work or do any kind of a critique. We just keep each other company and talk shop now and then.

I love it, but I couldn't do it every day. I am a solitary animal. 

Is it easier for you to return to old characters-- like Roo and her gang-- or to make up new ones? And what is your process for "getting to know" new characters?

Returning to old characters is easier – except you have to manage them and their copious backstories. For example, Cricket and Heidi could just as well not be in the new Ruby Oliver book at all (The Treasure Map of Boys), but I couldn't cut them, because they'd  been important in the first two books.

Getting to know new characters: I don't have a process, really. I get a visual picture in my mind, very often a composite of a couple people I know, maybe mixed in with a film actor or something. I try and suss out what that character's issues and drives are. Then I start writing. People emerge through their actions and dialogue.

What is your opinion on third person vs. first person? In most of your books, you have written in first person, but you made a different choice when writing The Disreputable History of Frankie Laudau-Banks. What kinds of stories do you think lend themselves to third person/first person and why?

First person comes easily to me; I like experimenting with new voices. Switching to third person for Disreputable History was just a gut instinct, and I took some time at the beginning trying to find a voice for that omniscient narrator. But really it's just a gut choice.

Do you have any specific people who you write with or do you write solo?

I write fairly regularly with YA novelists Maureen Johnson, Scott Westerfeld and Libba Bray. Sometimes other people join us. But like I said above, mainly I'm a solitary beastie.

Who is your favorite character you've written, and who is your favorite character that one of your writer friends has written?

My favorite character by me is Lyle in Dramarama. I have a lot of love for Lyle.  As for a character in a novel by one of my writer friends, I'll go with Hassan in An Abundance of Katherines by John Green.  I would love to be friends with him.  He and Lyle are similar in some ways, actually.

Are there any foods you are particular about eating ONLY a certain brand/type, and that you can not possibly eat any other kind of that food? Or any food you eat in a particular way that might seem like an odd method to other people but to you is just right?

I try not to be rigid about food, even though I was a vegan for many years and am currently a vegetarian. I have preferred brands: Boca burger, Cheese Nips, Rao's tomato sauce. But no hard loyalties. Not even between Coke and Pepsi.

I like baby carrots with pepper jack cheese.  I like diet gingerale watered down.  I make a good salad with watermelon, feta and cilantro. Do those count as odd?

What is your LEAST favorite kind of book? I know, I know, like there could ever be a hated book. But still. Least fave?

I don't like tearjerkers much. If it catches me by surprise and I cry – fine. But I would never knowingly choose a book about a woman whose husband is riddled with cancer and she watches him die a slow and touching death as they come to terms with their marriage and the meaning of life.  Also, no books with abducted children, please. And no torture of small animals. I am too thin-skinned. I can't take it.

Who was your first crush and why?

A boy named Colin Cox in Kindergarten. He was dashing.

Do you have a favorite food?


Were you scared to take the SAT's?

Moderately scared. We didn't go to tutoring classes back in the olden days, though, so it wasn't built up as much as it is, now. I'm also one of those odd people who takes a perverse pleasure in filling in little boxes.

If you could be a writer and pursue another career of interest, what would it be?


What's your favorite comedy/action/romance movies of all time?

Very hard to pick just one. My inclination is to list, list, list. But here you go:

Comedy: Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Action: Fight Club

Romance:   Truly Madly Deeply

Where's your favorite vacation spot?

Martha's Vineyard.

 Are you tech-savvy?

When I want to be.  I can update my website and set up my computer.  My money and my calendar are computerized. My cell phone is not really my friend, though.

When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer?

At age 8. I wrote two or three novels that year.  But later, I got side-tracked by the theater and thought I wanted to be an actress – and then after that, a literature professor.  I began writing creatively in a serious way when I was 22.

What subject did you hate the most in high school?