Describe your latest project.
Twenty Boy Summer is my first novel. The story follows best girlfriends Anna Reiley and Frankie Perino on a summer vacation in California one year after the sudden death of Frankie's older brother, Matt. It's the Perino family's first trip without him, and newly boy-crazy Frankie decides that 20 days in Zanzibar Bay is the perfect opportunity for inexperienced Anna to meet boys and have her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the fun, but there's something she hasn't told Frankie... she's already had her romance, and it was with Matt just before his tragic death last year.
With Twenty Boy Summer on the shelves, I've just finished up my second novel for publication by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in 2010, and am currently working on my third — another contemporary YA story.
Describe your most memorable teacher.
Mr. McMahon, senior year of high school. I had him for economics and sociology, and he was the only teacher who really got us. He was the kind of teacher who'd risk his job if it meant helping a kid in need, and he always encouraged us to have our own voices and opinions, even if those opinions ostracized us or got us into trouble. On the last day of classes, he brought each of us flowers to plant at home and played a few songs he'd picked out for us. He even printed out all of the lyrics for us to take. It meant so much to me that I never, ever forgot it, or him, and I think of him often, all these years later.
What is your favorite literary first line?
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. —Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted my parents to take me to Hollywood so I could be on The Flintstones. I seriously thought it was a viable career option. I mean, if Pebbles could do it, why not me?
Flintstones dreams dashed on account of my being three-dimensional, I moved on to writing, penning my debut book, "E. T. the Extra Terrestrial," when I was six. After a successful book tour through the first grade classes, I rushed home to beg my mother to find me a publisher. She told me that "E. T." was someone else's idea, and that if I really wanted to get published, I had to try writing my own stuff. After that, I wanted to be a writer!
Why do you write books for kids?
I write books about teens because I never really got over my own high school years. It was such a difficult time, but also an exciting time, filled with drama and die-for-you loyalty and love and craziness and a constant search for meaning. When I write young adult novels, I get to go back to those years, remembering some things as they happened while completely reinventing others. As I write, I hope that my stories resonate with readers and remind them that we're not alone; we're all struggling to figure it out and we all share some of the same pain, joy, fear, and love in this wonderful and messed up life. And though I write young adult novels, I don't like to think of it as writing for teens as much as writing about teens. I think a lot of adults enjoy YA novels because it connects us to those raw, intense times in our own personal histories. Books can carry us back there so quickly!
If you could choose, what would be your last meal?
That's easy — Indian food! I'd start with vegetable samosa, followed by navratan korma, saag paneer, and baingan bartha over jasmine rice, and a side of plain naan, with raspberry seltzer to drink. Actually, I get this meal often because we live down the block from a great Indian restaurant, and every time I eat it, I think, "Yum. If I ever had to choose my last meal, this would be it!" And then I say that out loud to my husband, just so he knows my last wishes. If the time comes, I don't want there to be any confusion on such a crucial final decision!
What three things would you bring to a desert island?
1) My favorite person in the world (Alex, my husband, who always makes me laugh)
2) An iPod loaded with my favorite books and music
3) Cherry-flavored lip balm
I wouldn't bring a journal because I'm sure I could fashion one out of palm leaves and driftwood or something. And hopefully we'd be able to find a fresh water source — that would be Alex's job. He'd also build us a hut and secure the perimeter to keep us safe from zombies. So between Alex, the iPod, and the lip balm, I'd be in pretty good shape.
If you could have lunch with a person of your choosing — living or dead, fictitious or real — who would it be?
I'd love to have lunch with Jack Kerouac. And if he couldn't make it, definitely Anais Nin. They are my absolute favorite authors, and whenever I'm stuck or in a slump, picking up Nin's diaries or any of Kerouac's novels revives and inspires me. If their books can do that, imagine lunch in person? (Faints at the thought of it!)