Without further ado:
Pitch Personal Effects in 140 characters
After his brother dies in Iraq, Matt makes a discovery that rocks his world. He risks everything to find out the truth and starts to grow up
If you had to give your book a "____ meets _____" pitch, what two (or three! or four!) books/films/shows would Personal Effects be a meeting of? (Yes, I gave her more than 140 characters to answer this one!)
Oh, wow...you know, I have no idea. The Great Santini would probably be in the mix, and maybe elements of Jellicoe Road, but there are other, missing ingredients, and neither of these are dead on...
What inspired Personal Effects?
I wrote the scene that’s now CH 2, this really angry kid post-fight. I wrote the rest of the 1st draft to find out why he was so angry.
What should readers walk away with from Personal Effects?
A satisfying reading experience. I hope they get sucked into Matt’s world and only think about it in relation to their own lives later.
How would you describe Matt?
Angry, scared, filled w/grief, and with little understanding of how truly good he is or who he could be. (Shauna wants me to add clueless)
Who or what do you write for?
The story. It’s always about the story, and the characters, for me.
What was your most influential read as a teenager?
Forever by Judy Blume. It was the first book I had to sneak, and it taught me I could read anything I wanted, it was my choice.
Who are your top three writing influences?
Writers are like grapes, always absorbing stuff. Each vintage/book has diff. notes. For PE prob Pat Conroy, Kevin Brooks, E. Lockhart
Who do you believe is breaking ground in YA right now?
Hmm… “breaking ground” to me signifies risk-taking. No Crystal Stair by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson is intriguing, a documentary novel.
What's the best writing advice you ever received?
You can’t revise a blank page.
What's your best writing advice to give?
Don’t judge your characters. (And you can’t revise a blank page -- I believe in passing on good advice).
What is your writing routine?
I write when the story is flowing, and read/research/experiment when not. When it’s really flowing, I sink in deep & ignore the world.
What gets you jazzed to write?
A character w/something to say. I think about people, stories a lot...But I get jazzed to write when a character starts talking
Do you have a writing soundtrack? Care to share a bit?
I don’t write to music, but if I need to stay awake or shut off part of my brain, I’ll put on TV/a Movie I know so well I mostly ignore it.
What's next for you?
Keep on writing. Keep on reading. Right now I’m working on another contemporary, realistic novel-this one with a female POV character.
Favorite ice cream?
Cherry vanilla or something w/swirls, chunks & crunchy bits. And IMO ice cream always tastes better after a day at the beach
(Highlight from here on down to see the spoiler question/answer portion)
TJ's sexuality is at the center of the story. Why?
Surprising how readers’ experiences vary - IMO TJ’s sexuality isn’t at center. It’s Matt’s journey, provoked by the existence of a secret.
TJ's death occurs before the repeal of don't ask, don't tell. Would this change him? The story?
Had TJ been out, he & Matt would’ve had a deeper, closer relationship. Matt would’ve grown from that experience, would’ve grieved differently
This is speculating, but go with me: how would TJ celebrate the repeal, if at all?
At home: w/a kiss, officially moving in w/Curtis, changing his forms, etc. If repealed while he was deployed: privately, in his heart.
Same question, but this time I'm putting it on Matt. How would he feel about the repeal?
If repealed after PE? Matt would be angry & sad all over again, this time for his brother & Curtis. But, hopefully, no one would get punched