YA Authors

Interview with Writer Lia Keyes

Lia Keyes was born in the basement of a house that no longer exists, in a part of London called World’s End. It’s no wonder she writes fantasy!

Lia is represented by Laura Rennert of AndreaBrown Literary Agency, is founder of The Sreampunk Writers Artists Guild, and Creative Strategist for the non-profit, VentanaSierra, founded by Ellen Hopkins.

Since this blog is about offering inspiration to writers, my first question for you is, do you have a favorite quote? If so, why is it your favorite?

Can I cheat and share a video of Ira Glass talking about the gap between your storytelling taste and your ability? Because I love that one and replay it often!

If you could go back in time, what piece of knowledge would you take back with you into the future?

Ooh, that is an interesting question! Early civilizations understood so much and it sometimes took us over a thousand years to rediscover the same knowledge—that we live in an atomic world, for one—but perhaps a simple appreciation for how to use time well is something we could learn from the past. Thanks to the marvels of modern technology we have more leisure time than ever before, but there is a persistent sense of unease in the rushed, materialistic society that has resulted; a loss of spirit and meaning and craftsmanship. So perhaps the knowledge that I’d bring back to the future is that building things of qualityin relationships, in what we contribute to the world, in what we take from it, and in what we leave behindis better than building disposable things in quantity. It’s a question of legacy. What kind of ancestor would you like to be?


Your specialty is fantasy. What bit of advice do you hear over and over about how to build a world of fantasy? Also, what’s one piece of advice you’ve heard on this subject that was rare and resonated with you?

Building an imaginary world that feels deep and unique is a huge task; you have to think about everything from geography to customs, trade, daily life, and social organization. There’s an amazing list of questions about this on the SFWA’s website.

But none of this is worth diddly squat if it’s just window dressing. During an interview on my blog with world-building guru Kevin Mowrer, he told me… 

“The thing that we all strive for in good storytelling is human authenticity. The world itself must be crafted to have meaning and metaphor that is aligned and contributing to all characters and themes in every way possible. The world births and shapes our characters.” 

That resonated deeply with me and informs every choice I make.

In your writing career, who’s had the biggest influence on you?  What did they do to inspire you to keep writing?

A tough question! Influence comes from so many quarters—from the books that carried me out of dark times and gave me hope for a better life, to my two children, who need proof that choosing a creative path doesn’t have to mean destitution, and my mentor, Ellen Hopkins, who offered me a home when I lost mine and demonstrates every day what it takes to be a successful professional writer.

If you could be any hero, real or make believe, who would it be and why?

If I’m being serious, the answer would be the incurably curious figures of history, who sought the truth of how the world works, despite religious or political oppression – Paracelsus, Galileo, yes, but really any seeker.

And if I’m being light-hearted, then Robin Hood, because he was unselfish, irreverent, merry, and valued his friends.
If you could pick a word to describe yourself, what would it be?

Scatter-brained. Wait, is that one word or two?

That quote by Kevin Mowrer is a powerful one, thank you, Lia! It was more than a pleasure to interview you, it was an honor! 

If you would like to find out more about Lia, please visit her website and check out all the wonderful things she has to say/share on Twitter.  

Interview with Author Kathleen Duey

Kathleen Duey has published over 90 books for children of all ages and for YA and adult readers. She has won many awards, including a National Book Award silver medal for Skin Hunger, the first book of her Resurrection of Magic trilogy. The Unicorn’s Secret, a series of books for young readers has won state reader awards and celebrates 12 years in print this year. Her fan mail is increasingly international and she is grateful for….everything.
Since this blog is about offering inspiration to writers, my first question for you is, do you have a favorite quote? If so, why is it your favorite?
“We write by the light of every book we have ever read.” ~Richard Peck 

Richard is a famous and brilliant writer and a lovely person who talked writing with me as though I were an equal when I was just a beginner. He still does, bless his heart.
In your career as a writer, who’s had the biggest influence on you?  What did they do to inspire you?
This is an impossible question for me to answer because I was a student of writing in fourth grade and I am still a student of writing. I’ve had the great privilege of meeting a few of the authors I grew up reading—and have since met many more authors whose work astounds me. So I have no “biggest” influence, but amazing writing always inspires me….by intimidating me, pushing me, daring me, proving to me that the people and places inside books can be as real as any other part of my life. Hundreds of authors have inspired me—by being inspired!!

If you could send your younger self one tweet, what would you say?

Start writing novels now!!  But don’t burn your poems. They aren’t that bad.  
If at all possible, could you pick one book that has deeply affected you? If so, what was it that moved you about it?
There are many books that have affected me but this was the first one: Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. She wrote it in 1877 when she was ill and dying. It became a best-seller, then a classic and still remains in print. Set in England, it’s a sad story of a horse’s life that includes all the cruelties of the times. Her story changed the way people looked at animals and inspired the first movement to end animal cruelty.  I read it in third grade. It was the first book that ever made me cry, the first book that made me realize stories could change hearts. 
When you are having moments when nothing seems to fit, how do you find what you are looking for and make a story come to life?
I often go outside carrying a shovel, a limb saw, and a digital recorder. I have an acre of land, a messy garden, overgrown trees and weeds. In the middle of physical work, almost always, the characters talk to me. I record the conversation. If I am stranded in a city at a conference, I walk, find a place to pace. Getting out of my head and into my body almost always works.

If you could pick a word to describe yourself, what would it be?

I collect words from old dictionaries and today I face an incredibly intricate scene in my book. So I hope to be a
flexuous writer.  **\FLEK-shoo-uhs\, adjective:  Full of bends or curves; sinuous.** 
Thank you, Kathleen! I love how you record your conversations with your characters, what a great idea! After this interview I’m off to purchase a digital recorder–genius! 
If you would like to find out more about Kathleen, please do visit her website and check out her fantastic blog

Interview with Author Karly Kirkpatrick

Karly Kirkpatrick is a YA author, avid reader, high school German and French teacher, and mother of a little artist. She has taken graduate classes in Writing and Publishing at DePaul University in Chicago and is beginning the screenwriting program at UCLA Extension. She lives in Elgin, Illinois with her husband, daughter, and two stinky Shih Tzus.
Since this blog is about offering inspiration to writers, my first question for you is, do you have a favorite quote? If so, why is it your favorite?
These are two that inspire me:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. ~Mark Twain

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined. ~Henry David Thoreau
Being the first child in the family, I’ve always been torn between my practical side and my creative side. When I read these, I feel more confident about pursuing my creative dreams. I think they sort of remind me that I can take risks and not always be the practical one.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given so far in your writing career?
So many things. It’s super important to make sure you keep reading as well as writing. It makes your writing better. Oh, and never take critiques personally!

Is there a professor/teacher that has left an impression on you in a big way?  If so, what did they do that was so different from the others?    
I had a lot of great teachers from kindergarten through grad school. Some of them influenced me not because they were my favorite, but because they saw something in me that I didn’t realize was there. A choir professor in college really wanted me to go back to school for vocal performance because she felt I was better than the people who were majoring at our school. I thought I was decent, but not that good. Another professor in grad school was really impressed by a paper I wrote in a Latin American Poly Sci class and wanted me to present it at a conference. I had always been a decent writer, but that made me proud that he thought I produced something so important that others should see it.
Between being a mommy, going to school, and writing full time, how do you manage your time so well?
Great question. I actually work full time and unfortunately can only write part time. I teach every day from 7-3, and try to fit in writing work during my lunch. Sometimes I write, or revise, or read manuscripts from my critique partners. If I’m on a tight deadline, I’ll try to write an hour in the evenings as well and on the weekend. But it’s all about balance. I try to do no more than an hour of writing or revising work a day, because otherwise things get a little crazy. I just have to know my limits. As a result, it takes me longer to write a book and to revise, but I’ve sort of got my pattern down. It makes it easier for me to make it all work. I also have days off and we’re off in the summer. This summer, after I get back from a couple European adventures, I plan to write like it’s my day job, for 3-4 hours at least per day on the weekdays. I have two books I need to write before school starts August 23rd!
If you could send your younger self one tweet, what would you say?
Dream bigger. Take more risks.

If you could pick a word to describe yourself, what would it be?
Insane??? Okay, maybe just hardworking.
 Thank you, Karly! Some really great advice! 
If you would would like to contact Karly, read her blog, or find out about upcoming releases, go to http://www.karlykirkpatrick.com.

Interview with Author Lisa Yee

Lisa Yee is the author of BOBBY VS. GIRLS (ACCIDENTALLY) which has been named a Top 100 Books to Read and Share by the NY Public Library. Also in 2009, her YA novel, ABSOLUTELY MAYBE, debuted. Both are published by Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic. Other books include the MILLICENT MIN trilogy and the American Girl novel, GOOD LUCK, IVY.
She has been a journalist, written for television, and penned lyrics for jingles. Her superb collection of Winnie-the-Poohs (second largest in America) now resides in the White River, Canada Pooh Museum. And she can spike her hair in less than 5 seconds.

Since this blog is about offering inspiration to writers and artists, my first question for you is, do you have a favorite quote? If so, why is it your favorite?
I don’t have an absolute favorite quote, but I do like a lot of what Anne Lamott has to say in her must-have book for writers, BIRD BY BIRD. For example, she says,
“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.”
I’m a great believer in terrible writing. I know mine is . . . at least when I begin. When you give yourself permission to be awful, the writing can flow – and you can always (and I do) revise it later.
In your writing career, who’s had the biggest influence on you? What did they do to inspire you to keep writing?
My editor Arthur Levine has had the most influence on my career. He pulled me out of the slush pile, and has always believed in me.
If you could be any hero, real or make believe, who would it be and why?
I’d love to be a hero to my children. Supermom!
Lisa you are so funny on many levels!! Who do you think inspired you to become the funny woman you are today?
I never knew I was funny until I won the Sid Fleischman Humor Award. I guess, I tend to look sideways at the world. That is, I look beyond the obvious, and that’s when humor reveals itself to me.
How would you define your road to success; straight, twisting, full of hills, a mountain, muddy, or lumpy?
Full of hills, peaks and valleys, but a great ride.
If you could pick one word to describe yourself, what would it be?
Thank you Lisa Yee for bringing joy and laughter to so many.  You’re an amazing fun-filled author/person and I’d definitely have to say that you ARE Supermom!

If you’d like to find out more about Lisa Yee please check out her phenomenal website here.  Also don’t forget to visit her blog that’s sure to bring you a ton of laughs and maybe some big money with her current 75-ish Annual Bodacious book contest.  The contest is awesome.  Check out my bodacious entry below and enter today.

Interview with Author Cynthia Leitich Smith

Cynthia Leitich Smith is the author of YA Gothic fantasies, including TANTALIZE (2007, 2008), ETERNAL (2009, 2010), and BLESSED (2011) from Candlewick and Listening Library, Walker (UK), Walker Australia and New Zealand. TANTALIZE is also available from Editions Intervista (France).  Her most recent short stories are “Cat Calls,” which appears in SIDESHOW: TEN ORIGINAL TALES OF FREAKS, ILLUSIONISTS AND OTHER MATTERS ODD AND MAGICAL, edited by Deborah Noyes (2009) from Candlewick and “The Wrath of Dawn,” co-authored by Greg Leitich Smith, which appear in GEEKTASTIC: STORIES FROM THE NERD HERD, edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci (2009) from Little, Brown.

If you could pick one character that you’ve created that you feel you relate to the most, which one would it be and why?
I would likely relate most to Kieren Morales from TANTALIZE and the upcoming graphic novel TANTALIZE: KIEREN’S STORY. He’s a serious reader with aspirations of being a writer and he excels academically. He’s also family oriented, loyal, and takes commitment very much to heart.
During your writing career, what piece of advice have you given most to writers?
I tell people to celebrate every victory, no matter how small. The writing life comes with its share of rejection, angst, and uncertainty. So it’s best to fill your days with cheer, to surround yourself with good friends and create great memories. They’ll sustain you through the rest.
How would you define your road to success, straight, twisting, full of hills, a mountain, muddy, or lumpy?

An upward slope punctuated by the occasional soaring rock wall.

What encouraged you to begin your phenomenal blog, Cynsations? What has surprised you the most about it? 

My original thought was simply that, because of its diary-like structure, I could use the blog to augment the main website with time-sensitive news—special events, award announcements, etc.—that I would otherwise have to post and then later take down from the base site.

Over time, it has become something of a news, conversations, and inspiration resource for children’s-YA writers, illustrators, young readers, and the folks who connect books to them.

I’m most surprised by the size of the audience and that readers so often tell me that it’s such a reflection of my personality. The vast majority of the content is comprised by posts about and sometimes by other people.
Unless I have breaking news, like a book release or contract, information about me per se is pretty much limited to a “more personally” section of my weekly giveaway and link round-ups.
However, I guess my sensibility comes through in my choice of topics, folks to feature, and links to highlight.
You’re an avid reader! Could you recommend a few of your favorite new releases?
The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee (Candlewick)
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (HarperCollins)
Saving Maddie by Varian Johnson (Delacorte)
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger (Amulet)
What are you working on now?
I’ve just finished my final revision of BLESSED and reviewing Ming Doyle’s fabulous sketches for TANTALIZE: KIEREN’S STORY (Candlewick, Feb. 2011), a graphic novel.
So I’m shifting my attention back to a fourth prose novel set in my Gothic fantasy universe and the graphic novel adaptation of ETERNAL.

I’ve also been laying the promotional groundwork for an upcoming children’s book release, HOLLER LOUDLY, illustrated by Barry Gott, which will be available from Dutton this November.
What do you do when you’re not reading, writing, or blogging?

I’m on the faculty of the Vermont College MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, so at the moment, I’m working with five graduate students on their creative and critical writing.  I also do a great deal of public speaking. I’m just home from giving the keynote address at the New England SCBWI conference in Fitchburg, Massachusetts and preparing to leave next for the Florida SCBWI in Orlando at Disney World.
If you could pick one word to describe yourself, what would it be?
It was such a pleasure interviewing you Cynthia!  You have gone above and beyond to help writers reach their dreams with your fabulous blog and extraordinary teaching skills.  Thank you for being such a great example for so many to follow!  
If you would like to find out more about Cynthia you should check out her great website and blog.  She also has the best book trailers that are sure to make you want to pick up the books below.  They are irresistible reads! 

Interview with Author/Agent Mandy Hubbard

Mandy Hubbard is the author of Prada & Prejudice, You Wish, and five other to-be-published novels for teens. She is also a literary agent for D4EO Literary, where she represents authors of middle grade and teen fiction. She is currently living happily ever after with her husband and young daughter in Enumclaw, Washington.

Since this blog is about offering inspiration to writers and artist, my first question for you is, do you have a favorite quote? 

The first quote that really helped me was, 

“Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.” – Henry Van Dyke.
I pinned it above my computer in 2005, when I first started querying. That way if I ever felt “not good enough,” I could look up at it and realize that it’s okay if I’m not the very best, that I still have a place somewhere, and my voice deserves to be heard.

What’s your favorite piece of advice you like to give writers trying to follow in your footsteps?
My blog’s tag line is: “A published author is an amateur who didn’t quit. Don’t quit.”
That pretty much sums it up. I put that tag line up sometime in 2007 or 2008, before I got my deal, and it’s stayed there ever since.
Your book Prada and Prejudice has been flying off the shelves. It is now in its fifth printing, this is a huge accomplishment. Congratulations! When you first started writing it, did you have moments of self-doubt? If so, how did you keep going?
Thank you! And yes, of course, I think we all have doubts from time to time. Prada & Prejudice weathered so many rejections and revisions I wanted to hurl it out the window more than a time or two. But at the end of the day, I still believed in the story. Luckily, my agent did too, so we just kept trying and trying and trying, and eventually it worked out.
There’s no secret or tip I can give you to make it easier, or make the rejections sting a little less. Just remember they are part of this business—forever more–and if you view them as an inevitable part of things, it gets easier. Because even after the deal, there will be someone on amazon tearing your novel apart, or one of the chains will decide not to carry it at all… you just have to have a thick skin and believe in yourself above all else.
What did you want to be growing up? Now that you’re an author/agent did this come as a surprise?

I wanted to be a veterinarian for pretty much as long as I can remember. I grew up on a dairy surrounded by animals, so it made sense.
Well, until I “assisted” one of the vets that stopped by weekly, while he performed surgery. About the time he was pulling the stomach out of the cow, I almost passed out. I remember saying, “it’s getting dark around the edges…” and then rushing away on wobbly legs. I ran into him last summer (more than 10 years later!) and he looked right at me and said, “It’s getting dark around the edges!” I couldn’t believe he remembered.
Needless to say, being a vet wasn’t in the cards.
I kind of stumbled into the writing thing in 2003, but it’s become an overwhelming passion. I can’t get enough!
Who has been the biggest influence on you in your writing career? What have they done to encourage you?

I thanked Lauren Barnholdt in my acknowledgments for Prada & Prejudice. Any time something happened that I didn’t understand or that just frustrated the heck out of me, I’d email her, and she was always around to help. Other than her, my critique partner, Cyn Balog, has been absolutely instrumental in this journey. We met before either of us had agents or publishing deals, and now we have 11 books between us. Every curve and hill on this road has been shared with her!
If you could pick one word to describe yourself, what would it be?

I guess I would pick tenacious. Dictionary.com describes it as persistent or stubborn. I’m one of those two.

WOW!  Thank you Mandy.  If you would like to find out more about Mandy Hubbard please visit her site here

   And congratulations Mandy on, You Wish hitting shelves everywhere August 5th, 201o!     

Interview with Author Kelly Davio

Kelly Davio is the author of Burn This House, forthcoming from Red Hen Press. She’s also Managing Ed. at The Los Angeles Review, and a reader for Fifth Wednesdays Journal
Since this blog is about offering inspiration to writers and artist, my first question for you is, do you have a favorite quote?

I’m not a writer who meditates on quotes too often—my walls are too covered in sticky notes with plot points or stray lines or phrases that I haven’t got anywhere to hang them! But whenever I am feeling listless in my writing, I imagine Tim Gunn of Project Runway standing over my desk. He tells me either “make it work,” “edit, edit, edit,” “talk to me,” or “it looks like pterodactyl from a gay Jurassic Park.” Okay, maybe not the last one, but I always find his simple, straightforward advice useful. What better inspiration is there than being told to get your butt in gear, to turn a disastrous project around, or to better communicate a concept that just isn’t working? I also think it’s a good idea not to take ourselves too seriously as writers, and who can help but have a good chuckle when thinking of oneself being scolded by Tim Gunn in a tasteful suit?

What road did you take as a writer toward publication? Would you define it as, straight, twisting, full of hills, or a mountain?

I think the best way to describe my road to publication would be to say I’ve been on a slow but continually upward climb. I haven’t taken many detours in my writing career; I’ve pretty much always known writing is what I wanted to do with my life.

But I credit the steady, upward progression of that road to taking the path of literary citizenship—of putting time and energy into the literary world before trying to take any benefit back out. There are likely hundreds of first poetry collections out there that are stronger than mine, and that are worthy of publication. The fact that my collection was accepted by a fantastic press like Red Hen is due, I really believe, to the fact that I’ve invested myself in the literary world by giving what I can as an editor and a promoter of other writers. Being a good poet is not enough to build a career in poetry; one has to be an invested, active member of one’s community.

If I can give any advice to other poets out there, it’s this: make service to the literary community a priority. Show up to arts events. Buy books. Support organizations that need your talent, your manual labor, or your time. Share what you know with others by teaching or mentoring, or by reviewing and interviewing. You’ll strengthen the arts community and build rapport and connection in the literary world. Only good things can come of it.

If you could go back in time when you first began writing, what piece of knowledge would you take back with you into the future?

I’d give myself this advice: don’t just read a lot, read around. As an aspiring writer in undergrad, I had my nose stuck in T.S. Eliot full-time. Because I wasn’t reading anything contemporary, I was limiting my understanding of what poetry sounded like, talked about, or even looked like on the page. I made an old man of myself in many ways. Now I realize the value of reading many different kinds of poems; even reading poems I dislike is not a waste of time. I can learn as much about the craft from poems I hate as I can from poems I love.

If you could be any super hero, who would it be and why?

Spiderman, definitely. Speed, agility, spider-sense, strength—all attributes I sorely lack in my real life! I’m one clumsy lady. It’s a good thing writing doesn’t involve a lot of wall-scaling and quick reflex.

When you are done working for the day and your brain feels like a slushy, how do you rejuvenate it and get writing?

I’m a big believer in powering through the slush-brained parts of the writing life by getting words on paper without an end product in mind. Telling myself “I don’t need to write my magnum opus today, I just need to write something” can be very freeing. Sometimes I produce some great ideas when I just throw material out onto the page. Sometimes I write a lot of tripe. But at least I’ve done something—I try never to allow myself to give into being blocked.

I also take a lot of inspiration from other art forms. I love to watch dance and listen to music, and I’m a huge sucker for an art film (I took a great deal of inspiration for my current novel in poems, Jacob Wrestling, from watching David Lynch movies). Seeing and hearing others working at the top of their games replenishes my enthusiasm for my own work; I’m like the little kid watching her big brother do a backdive, saying “I want to do that, too!”

Could you tell us a little bit about your new book, Burn This House and what inspired you to write it?

I had a rather unusual, isolated upbringing, not having attended school until I was a teenager. My young personality was a product of the extremely conservative religious culture in which I grew up without benefit of peers, community, or classmates. When I left my home and my roots, I oscillated quite wildly between trying to establish my own beliefs, views, and opinions and my old life, still feeling a great deal of guilt and a tug toward the way in which I was raised.

Burn This House is, in many ways, about looking at the world from the perspective of being a free-swinging pendulum. It’s about being pulled in opposing directions, and about identifying what’s sad, joyous, threatening, and often quite funny about our being-in-the-world.

Writing a collection of what I suppose are metaphysical poems was never really my intention. I embarked on the project of the book by simply writing poems that flowed one to another. But we all have our own inescapable obsessions, and they have a pernicious way of working themselves onto the page, whatever our designs may be.

If you could pick one word to describe yourself, what would it be?

Earnest. It may sound silly, but in any project I undertake, I’m wholehearted in my approach. I don’t take my teaching, my editing, my writing, or my relationships lightly; whatever I’m doing at any given moment is the most important thing in the world.

Kelly, you were such a pleasure to interview, thank you! If you would like to find out more about Kelly Davio please visit her outstanding website/blog here, www.kellydavio.com Also if you are looking for a great read, keep an eye out for, Burn This House hitting shelves 2013!

Interview with Author and Rock Star, Natalie Standiford

Natalie Standiford is the author of a phenomenal new book, How To Say Goodbye In Robot. She’s also the bass player in a band called, Ruffian and in an all-YA-author-band called Tiger Beat. Natalie also has quite the editorial eye and was assistant editor for the children’s Book department of Random House for three years. Recently, How To Say Goodbye In Robot has been getting nothing but rave reviews and is soaring into the hands of young adult readers everywhere.

Since this blog is about offering inspiration to writers and artist, my first question for you is, do you have a favorite quote? If so, why is it your favorite?

At first I thought “I don’t know any inspirational writing quotes,” and then I thought of three. But I’ll choose just one:

My purpose as a writer is to loot my life to the very walls. –Thomas Wolfe

I don’t consider my work to be particularly autobiographical, but when I’m writing I’m constantly scrambling for details to make my fiction come alive, and those details usually come from something I’ve lived, felt or observed. I like to say that a story is a monster that eats details, and you have to keep feeding it to make it grow and keep it moving forward. And sometimes I feel as if I am looting my life to feed the story. But I kind of like that, because it means that everything in my life is useful to me somehow, even the most boring and mundane parts.

What inspired you to write, How To Say Goodbye In Robot?

I went to a high school reunion and heard a strange story about someone who’d been in my class, and I realized that in spite of having gone to school with that person for eight years or so, I hardly knew him. It made me think about misunderstood people and the secrets they keep, and that was the genesis of Jonah. I created Beatrice as an outsider who comes in and observes a tightly-knit, closed world, which was what school sometimes felt like to me. Because she’s an outsider, she can see things in Jonah that no one else notices.

You create such vivid and real characters. How do you do it?

Thank you! It surprises me when people say that, but I’m glad you think so. When I’m writing I have no way of knowing how readers will respond to the characters, and I just hope they don’t seem completely unreal. I try to make everything about them as specific as possible. I try to see and feel the world of the story through their eyes. Also, to invoke another of my favorite quotations about writing (from Friedrich Hebbel, a 19th century German playwright): “In a good play, everyone is right.”

In real life there’s no narrator telling us who is right and who is wrong; everyone thinks he or she is right. People speak and behave with the conviction that their point of view is the truth. I try to keep that in mind as I create my characters, especially secondary characters. Every character has his or her side of the story, and I try to suggest that, even if I’m writing from only one character’s point of view. A character may hurt people, but no one is an all-out villain and everyone’s motives are sympathetic or at least understandable.

I find it captivating that you are in an all-YA-author-band. How do you encourage one another? Do you all critique each other’s manuscripts as well?

We don’t critique each other’s manuscripts (at least not so far), but we do love to read each other’s books when they come out. Libba, Dan, and Barney are all very generous good souls, so just being around them is encouraging. And we do talk a little shop during breaks in rehearsal. But one of the best things about being in a band is that we’re not writing—we’re working together, dancing and singing and playing and getting away from our desks and out of our own heads for a while.

When you’re creating music or literature, have you ever had moments of self doubt and wanted to give up? If so, what kept your thoughts positive?

I have constant self doubt. I think everyone does, at least sometimes. I’m not as hard on myself about music—it’s not my profession, I’m just doing it for fun—but with writing it’s impossible to transfer the vision in your head to the page without losing something. Often you gain unexpected things too, but my books never turn out quite the way I first imagined them, and that can be disappointing. And of course frustrating things happen to everyone in publishing—bad reviews, rejections, canceled contracts, and so on.

I sometimes wonder what has kept me from giving up. I think it’s some unconscious drive. I just really want to write, even though it’s hard. I don’t know how to do anything else. I get discouraged a lot, but then I forget about it and forge on. And when I feel low, I comfort myself with the knowledge that everything I experience, good and bad, is useful. When something bad happens to me, I tell myself, “Someday you’ll use this in a story and that’s how you’ll triumph over it.”

What did you want to be growing up? Now that you’re an author/musician did this come as a surprise?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was little. Not a musician so much—I dutifully took violin lessons as a child, but it was pretty clear that no amount of practice would lead me to Carnegie Hall. (I would have loved to be some kind of singer/go-go dancer, though.) In high school I considered being a journalist, a lawyer (my mother’s idea, because, as she liked to point out, I loved to argue), or a translator, but only if writing fiction didn’t work out. I’m glad I’m not a lawyer. Legalese makes my eyes glaze over.

What motivates you the most in life?

I like to set goals for myself—small, medium, and large—and go after them. I love having deadlines and meeting them. I’m somewhat motivated by fear—if I don’t finish this in time, my life will be ruined! I work myself into a state of anxiety a lot. Not that it’s healthy, but it helps me get things done.

But in the larger sense, what motivates me most is that I love my work. I love that my job requires so much reading and writing, the things I enjoy most. And writing can sometimes feel like a form of problem-solving. When you find an answer, it’s very satisfying.

If you could pick one word to describe yourself, what would it be?


Thank you Natalie!  I know many of your fans will enjoy getting to know you better (me being one of them!) If you would like to find out more about Natalie Standiford please visit her site at, www.nataliestandiford.com