What was the last book that you read that you’d now recommend?
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna. It’s a cozy fantasy romance that’s perfect reading for the autumn/winter season.
Have you read any classics lately that you were reading for the first time?
It’s been quite a while since I’ve read any classics. Aside from Austen, they tend not to be my thing.
Do you re-read books? And if yes, what was your last re-read?
I used to re-read my favorites a few times a year, but lately, I don’t have time. My most reread-book, however, is Pride and Prejudice. I’ll never get tired of the warmth, wit, and slow evolution of Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship.
What are your go-to genres?
I’m especially fond of romantic fantasies or romance with a light paranormal touch. Witches are always welcome! I like lighter, fluffier romantic comedies with a heavy emphasis on comedy. After I’m caught up on my TBR, I’d like to start reading more cozy mysteries.
What is your favorite childhood book?
This is a tough one! I formed my whole personality around the books I read as a child. The ones that had the biggest impact were Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Walk Two Moonsby Sharon Creech, and Chasing Redbird by Sharon Creech. I was obsessed with Sharon Creech’s books.
What books are on your bedside table right now?
Do you bookmark or dogear your page in a book?
I bookmark to keep track of my current place in the book, but I dogear favorite passages. I sometimes underline and tab, too.
What is your ideal reading setting?
Reading in bed next to an open window while it rains, with a mug of hot chocolate on hand.
Tell us about your favorite indie bookstore?
I don’t get around to many indies (I live in a small town that isn’t close to any), so my experience with indies is mostly ordering books from them and having them shipped to my house. However, someday I’d love to visit Eagle Harbor Book Company on Bainbridge Island, WA, and The Ripped Bodice, in California.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Reading Anne Frank’s diary and realizing how much Anne’s perspective and accounting of her experiences shaped so many people’s knowledge of the Holocaust. It is the lens through which many young people around the world learn about that time period. She had no way of knowing that millions and millions of people would someday read her diary and what an important voice in history, and literature, she would become after her death.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
My family and I once made a two-day trip to Millersburg, Ohio, to visit the Victorian House Museum. It’s a 28-room Queen Anne mansion, and I’d planned to write a novel using that house as the inspiration. Unfortunately, my editor didn’t approve the book proposal, so I ended up not finishing that novel, but bits and pieces of that experience have found their way into my second and third novels. This fall, I’d like to drive to a ghost town where my fourth book is set and explore it.
Where do you get most of your writing and editing done?
I do the majority of my writing at my desk in my living room so that I can keep an eye on my kids while I work. I do most of my editing at my desk, but sometimes I have to lock myself in other rooms where it’s quiet if there’s a lot going on and I’m frazzled.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
I envision each writing session as a fuel gauge. I start my day with a full tank of fuel, and I keep going and going until my fuel’s depleted—usually once I’ve clocked about 3,000 words. As a result, I don’t feel energized during or exhausted afterward; I feel satisfied after having finished a productive session. I think that’s my dominant feeling about writing in general—it doesn’t make me feel happy, per se—it brings me satisfaction when I set out to bring a particular scene in my outline to life and successfully do so.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Too many to count! I have unpublished YA, unpublished category romance, and unpublished paranormal romance. Each one of them was great practice, and I regularly cannibalize my unpublished material, recycling characters, settings, and phrases.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I deliberately avoid reviews altogether. I never check Goodreads, Amazon, or anything like that, and I have my tagging settings restricted on Instagram so that accounts I’m not following can’t tag me in their posts. I didn’t want to have to do this because I enjoy communicating with readers and thanking them for reading my books, but it was getting to the point where scrolling through my notifications left me feeling ill because maybe the tag notification was going to show me something nice, or maybe I was going to click and find an essay detailing everything that a person hated about my book. Even in the glowing reviews, I ran the risk of accidentally reading comments below, where folks said, “Oh, I didn’t like this book at all!”
My mental health definitely suffered from this, and I felt very anxious about my books and less confident in my ability to write them. It soon became apparent that if I’m going to continue to write for the next however many years, I need to have firm boundaries and protect myself from absorbing too many opinions. I listen to feedback from my agent and editor, but I cannot listen to my readers’ feedback because it would overwhelm my brain, and these opinions often contradict each other: one person might say they liked the premise but hated the characters, and another might say the opposite.
It isn’t possible to please everyone, so I shut out all of the noise and write what I want to write. I don’t really like to read positive reviews, though, either! Reading about my characters and stories from a different point of view makes me feel strange for some reason. So I try to isolate myself from all of it, all the while grateful that people are picking up my books and expressing their opinions on them, no matter what those opinions might be. I am of the belief that reviews are for readers, not for authors.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
“It’ll happen! We’re going to be published someday.” There was a point in the querying process (endless submission and rejection) when I nearly gave up. I kept writing books and getting rejected, and it was right before I started working on what is now my debut novel, You Deserve Each Other, that I had a moment with myself, like, “What am I doing? Why do I keep subjecting myself to this?” The rollercoaster of hope and disappointment was very, very hard. I’m glad I stayed on the ride and didn’t give up.
When you’re not reading or writing, what are you doing?
When I’m not reading or writing, I’m usually running around after my children and keeping up with household tasks. To relax, I like digital painting, watching television, listening to music, hanging out with my family, and filling my Etsy cart with knickknacks.
What are your three favorite things right now?
The League of Gentlewomen Witches by India Holton, deep fried Oreos at the fair, and fairy lights. I’m in the process of redecorating my bedroom to make it Ultimate Cozy, so warm colors, fairy lights, and soft fabrics are all I think about lately.
Your favorite travel destination and why?
With the schedule that my family has, we never travel. I’d love to go to a beach sometime!
What’s your favorite meal and go-to drink order?
I could probably have a cheeseburger, fries, and a chocolate milkshake from Wendy’s twice a week for the rest of my life, and the only part of me that would get tired of it would be my arteries.
What six people, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party?
Lord Byron, Lucille Ball, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Harriet Tubman, and Ina Garten. Ina Garten is there because I’ll be a bad hostess, and she’ll direct the flow of conversation beautifully.
If a movie was made of your life, what genre would it be, who would play you?
It would be an animated Pixar holiday comedy in which I am voiced by Emma Thompson, and Tom Hanks provides narration.
What’s the last TV show or movie you watched that was really good?
I binge-watch Taskmaster all the time: it is my favorite-ever show and the only one that has ever made me laugh out loud, multiple times, every single episode. Some of those tasks have made me laugh so hard that I cried. I’m waiting impatiently for the next season to air.
You have to sing karaoke; what song do you pick?
“I Wrote this Song” by Patrick Star.
If you were being taken to a deserted island and could only bring one book, what would it be?
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. Now and always, that book is my favorite and I could read it over and over.