Describe your new book/project/work.
The Six Rules of Maybe is about a girl, Scarlet Hughes, who is always involving herself in the problems and messes of other people — her friends, her neighbors, her family members. When her sister (the beautiful and aloof Juliet) comes home pregnant and married to a sweet young guy whom she seems to have no real love for, everything changes. Scarlet finds herself falling hard for him, and now must look at her own life and her own needs for the first time. The book explores the snarls good people get into when they feel they need to rescue others. It asks: When is giving too much? When does helping others become an excuse for not claiming your life as your own?
Describe your most memorable teacher.
My most memorable teacher was Rich Campe, my third-grade teacher at Fairlands Elementary in Pleasanton, California. Rich was a bona fide Bay Area hippie. We tie-dyed curtains for our room and made our own film. We also did a lot of creative writing in his class. His remarks on my stories (which I'd write on purple notebook paper) were the sort of encouragement that could make you feel that maybe, possibly, you were on to something with the whole writing thing. Groovy! he'd scrawl at the top of the page. Far OUT! If anyone knows where Rich Campe is, please let me know so that I can heartily and sincerely thank him.
Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
I've always loved the final passage in the John Cheever story "The Country Husband," when Francis Weed is looking over his neighborhood as evening falls. He describes a few neighbors, as well as a cat ("sunk in spiritual and physical discomfort"), dressed in doll clothes, who runs past his wife as she's cutting the last of the roses in her garden. Finally, his dog:
The last to come is Jupiter. He prances through the tomato vines, holding in his generous mouth the remains of an evening slipper. Then it is dark; it is a night where kings in golden suits ride elephants over the mountains.
What was your favorite story as a child?
Oh, this is tough. How do you choose between Little Bear and Ramona the Pest and Wilbur the pig (whose fate devastated me for days)? Impossible. Still, I think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory offered the most vicarious, gleeful pleasure. As a little person who mostly tried hard to be good and follow the rules, I loved how those nasty brats finally got what they deserved, and how Charlie Bucket, with his shining, golden heart, was the one to triumph.
What is your idea of bliss?
A sunny day. A swimming pool. A tall, cold drink. And a really good book, of course. Ahh.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Aside from that brief period of time when I hoped to become Nancy Drew (another literary-related longing), I always wanted to be a writer. I was a book lover from the beginning. I loved, love, words and images and ideas, the ways a book can make you feel things deeply or help you understand something you never even knew there were words for. A book, words on a page, can make you cry. Or laugh out loud. Or challenge your old assumptions. It's rather amazing, when you stop to think about it. I long for books; I am utterly greedy about them. To make a living writing books &mash; what a privilege.
Why do you write for young adults?
Becoming a YA author was actually a lucky accident. The first book that I published, The Queen of Everything, was written as an adult book. I thought it was an adult book, anyway. When it was picked up by Simon & Schuster for the young adult market, I found myself here. This is the route for many YA writers, but I think most of us will agree that it is a happy and fortunate detour. I found myself in a great place, with these readers I love for their honesty and their true passion for books. Fate plucked me up, I'm sure, and set me down where I belonged. What's cool, too, is that because I didn't (and still don't) know how to write "a young adult book" (whatever that is) I have an audience that varies in age from 11 to 91. I hope my readers can also feel that I don't treat them as "teens" (a word that too often is used in some weird kind of quotation marks), but just as the fine people and kindred book lovers that they are to me.
Is there a maxim or philosophy that you live by?
Seek joy. (And read often.)