What books are on your night stand?
“Rough Around the Hedges” by Lish McBride and “Teach Your Own: The Indispensable Guide to Living and Learning With Children at Home” by John Holt and Pat Farenga. For family bedtime reading, we just started “Julie of the Wolves” by Jean Craighead George.
Do you write with an ideal reader in mind? Who is it?
Mostly I try to write books that I would enjoy reading myself. Sometimes I’ll think back to Teen Marissa and what sort of story would have captured my imagination, what sort of characters would have felt like friends, what plot twists would be exciting or romantic enough that I would have wanted to come back to that book again and again. Then I try to write that.
Your podcast is called “The Happy Writer.” Is there such a person?
Yes — me! It isn’t hyperbole. I love what I do. Of course there are days when writing can feel like a chore, or I’m struggling to make a particular plot twist work, or I have to review copy-edits (ugh). But more than a decade into this career, I would still rather spend my time writing than doing just about anything else. I started the podcast in part to help other writers find — if not joy in their writing, at least a sense of personal satisfaction and contentment, and to bring as much happiness into the writing journey as we can. It has a lot to do with perspective, which is something we can cultivate if we’re intentional about it.
What makes you, as a writer, happy?
Piecing together a bunch of random scenes until they become one coherent story, like building a complicated jigsaw puzzle. Or that moment when an elusive character finally starts to talk to me. Or writing “The End” on a project I’ve been working on for years. Or a thousand other things on top of that.
Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?
I mostly read young adult — I love the inherent optimism and boldness we see in so many Y.A. books, and I also love to know what my peers are coming up with. I also enjoy nonfiction on whatever topic I’m currently obsessed with (lately there have been a lot of home-schooling guides). As for what I avoid — I guess I don’t read a lot of thrillers, maybe because I’m too easily scared?
Who is your favorite literary hero or heroine?
Elizabeth Bennet from “Pride and Prejudice.” It’s incredible to me how a character created more than 200 years ago can still be so relatable. Hashtag life goals.
What’s a fictional love story that more readers should know about?
Why do fairy tales appeal to you?
When I was 5, I was given a book of fairy tales that included Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” which is when I realized that there was a lot more to these stories than Disney was telling me. I’ve been fascinated by fairy tales ever since. I love how a story can endure for hundreds or thousands of years, being constantly retold or adapted for each new generation, and yet maintain the same themes and messages at its core. Cinderella is an easy example. If you compare “Ye Xian” from ninth-century China to the Grimm Brothers’ “Aschenputtel” to Disney’s “Cinderella,” there are clear differences. And yet the heart of the tale remains the same, suggesting there is something universal and timeless that we relate to.
You began by writing fan fiction. Have you read fan fiction that draws on characters you’ve created?
Many years ago when I first heard there were Lunar Chronicles fanfics, I got really excited and searched them out on fanfiction.net. I think I read one short story from Prince Kai’s point of view. But coming from a fandom background, I know these stories are created for other fans, not the original creator, and I didn’t want any writers to feel like I might be lurking around the archives, ready to judge or critique their work. I haven’t read any fanfics inspired by my books since, but I still love knowing that they’re out there.
What’s been your most memorable experience on a book tour?
Years ago I remember meeting a young girl with dyslexia who had never managed to read a complete novel until she discovered “Cinder.” She went on to read the entire Lunar Chronicles, and by the time I met her, she had become a very avid reader. She started crying when we met, and I think it was the first time I realized that the books I’d written could mean a lot more to someone than just a few hours of entertainment.