To say I'm thrilled about Girl Unmoored is putting it mildly. Jennifer Gooch Hummer was one of my writing students in my UCLA online class, and she knocked me out at the first sentence. But not only is she a brilliant writer, she's an incredible friend, a wildly innovative jewelry-maker, and I can't imagine my world without her in it. Thank you, Jennifer (with hugs.)
I'm always interested in process, so tell me what sparked the writing of Girl Unmoored for you?
Apron knocked on my head when I was ten years old. I don’t have any idea where her name came from. But I found a notebook and started “A Girl Named Apron” which, sadly, had no plot. She kind of just stared at me through my computer screen, waiting. Years later, I met my friend Mike. My Mike had a great voice and whipped his blonde hair around just like the Mike in the book. He was also warm and funny and had the best laugh. His friends started getting sick, and then he did too. I lost my friend. But he left me Apron’s story. I took it (this tiny spark of a thing) to an on-line writing class at UCLA. The writing instructor was kind and encouraging to everyone. But when she sent me an email with these words: Your characters are breathing on the page, my life snapped into place. This teacher, known to wear red cowboy boots at her readings, steamrolled Apron’s story out of me chapter by chapter. She’s been my friend ever since.
You're being published by the impressive and innovative Fiction Studio Books, which is by invitation only. Can you tell me how the whole experience feels different than traditional publishing for you?
I wish I could, but I’d say - give or take five or six of them - I was rejected by every traditional publisher on the planet. Besides the normal vaulted door facing a debut author, I had another hurdle: no clear genre, the kiss of death in traditional publishing. Apron is thirteen, not a vampire, and surrounded by broken adults. YA publishers thought it was too Adult, Adult publishers thought it was too YA. And so it went. Lou Aronica was the first publisher to see this situation as a plus instead of a problem. Fiction Studio Books doesn’t try to fit into the old model of publishing. I couldn’t feel luckier to be with them.
What's your writing process like? Do you write everyday? Do you use an outline or are you more a seat-of-your-pen kind of writer?
The blank page is my mortal enemy. When I am writing a first draft I write four pages a day. In a rewrite, the same four-page rule applies, but at least my mortal enemy has gone off to torture someone else. I have three daughters, a very nice husband and an overly attached dog. So any time that I am not helping/feeding/listening/driving/walking at least one of them is precious and must be used wisely. I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve taken my laptop everywhere from soccer games to swim meets, with a few dog-grooming appointments in there too.
What's obsessing you now?
The Hunger Games ring tone. It’s everywhere. My daughters have it programmed for their texts, calls, emails, alarms, and reminders. It punctuates my every sentence. Enhances my every demand (which makes me sound that good kind of scary). And welcomes me into every room. Alas, I have been forbidden from actually reading the books. My daughters are getting smarter on me. I’m an emotional wreck when it comes to all things kid, baby and suffering. I can cry over an infant’s lost sock. The Hunger Games, they say, will make me sad enough to turn mean on them (a strange but true phenomenon for me). “Perhaps you are right,” I say, nodding along with those four ominous tones.
What question didn't I ask that I should have?
Have you read The Hunger Games yet?