Describe your latest project.
My first book, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, is a post-apocalyptic young adult novel about a young girl named Mary growing up generations after an apocalypse in a village surrounded by fences protecting them from the Unconsecrated ? zombie-like creatures inhabiting the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Cut off from the rest of the world and told they are the last survivors of the Return, every part of her life is controlled by the religious order called the Sisterhood. As Mary starts to fall in love with someone she shouldn't, she learns the extent of the Sisterhood's power and starts to discover more of their darkest secrets. When the security of the fences is threatened and her world is thrown into chaos, Mary must decide what she's willing to risk to find out if there's life beyond the Forest.
I've just finished writing a sequel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth and am starting work on my third book for Delacorte Press.
What is your favorite breakfast cereal?
All of them. I'm being serious. I love cereal and can eat it for almost every meal if allowed. Growing up, we weren't allowed to have sugary cereal and could only have one type of cereal at a time. I distinctly remember graduating from college and having my first job and going grocery shopping, staring at all the cereals lined on the shelves and trying to choose just one. And then, it was like a choir of angels and a heavenly light appeared, and I realized ? not only could I buy more than one box of cereal, they could all be sugary cereals!! It was one of those moments when I learned how cool it is to be a grown-up!
What was your favorite story as a child?
One year, for my birthday, my dad made me a homemade book-on-tape of Robert Lawson's Rabbit Hill. He read the entire book onto a tape, and for years I used to listen to it every night before going to bed. I think I probably have that book memorized and I definitely look at moles, rabbits, and mice differently because of it. Every now and again, my dad will say something in a voice that reminds me of the tape, and it always brings back such great memories.
What is your idea of bliss?
Warmth and a book! I love to curl up on the couch in the winter in front of the fire with a cat cuddled against me and read. And there's nothing better than going to the beach, settling into the sand, and reading under the sun! Total bliss!!
Share an interesting experience you've had with one of your readers.
One of the best experiences I've had with a reader was also one of my first. It was my first time speaking to a class at school, and one of the students asked me how I felt about another YA book that's extraordinarily popular right now. As part of my answer, I talked about how cool it is that such a book could get so many people reading who otherwise might not, and how awesome it is that the book has made more people fall in love with reading. Sometimes, all it takes is that one book to turn you into a reader. (I know that's what happened with me!) Another student raised her hand and said, "Your book did that for me ? it turned me into a reader." I was totally speechless. It's the best compliment anyone could have ever given me.
Tell us about your pets.
Currently we have two fat cats and a dog. My cat, Sam, is a total mama's boy and likes to curl up in the sink at any and all occasions (regardless of whether the faucet is turned on or not). My fiancé's cat is a calico named Skunkoon because she looks like a cross between a skunk and a raccoon. She's definitely one of those "sit on your chest and steal your breath at night" kind of cats. Our dog is a purebred American (aka: a mutt) named Jake. He has the body of a lab and the markings of a Rottweiler. I lost the battle over him being allowed on the furniture, and while he takes up an inordinate amount of space on the bed, he is excellent at warming toes!
Name the best Simpsons episode of all time, and explain why it's the best.
There are so many Simpsons episodes I love, and I'm pretty well known among my friends and family for fantastically misquoting shows. (Yay for Google to make sure I can get them right now!) But whenever I think of The Simpsons, I think of the one where they find a bear in Springfield and overreact by setting up a bear patrol. This sparks the following conversation between Homer and Lisa:
Homer: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a charm!
Lisa: That's specious reasoning, Dad.
Homer: Thank you, dear.
Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
Homer: Oh, how does it work?
Lisa: It doesn't work.
Lisa: It's just a stupid rock.
Lisa: But I don't see any tigers around, do you?
Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.
First, I developed an unreasonable love of the word specious after this episode. Second, I love how Homer has no idea what Lisa is saying (as usual), but he still thinks that she's complimenting him. (If only we could all go through life with the unflagging belief that everyone around us supported us!) And finally, being a recovering lawyer, I just love the indisputable logic of it, 'cause Homer does kind of have a point!
What's your favorite holiday and why?
I love pretty much all holidays, but my favorite is Christmas. Not just because it is the longest vacation of the year and has the most presents, but also because of the traditions. They say that southerners do something once and it becomes a tradition, and I think that holds true with my family, because we have a ton of traditions around the holidays. One of them is that on Christmas Eve, after hanging stockings and reciting 'Twas the Night before Christmas (which one of us invariably had to memorize for school), my two sisters and I would all sleep in the same room. This meant lots of staying up late, bubbling with excitement, and lots of early mornings where they would sneak to see the tree but wouldn't allow me, as the youngest, to go. Now I get to go spend Christmas with my sister and her kids and pass on the same traditions.