1. When naming your characters, do you give any thought to the actual meaning?
I do! Well, maybe not the literal meaning of the name, but definitely the “feel” and popularity of the name at the time period of the novel. For example, in A Criminal Magic, Joan and Alex were both popular names in the 1920s. I also thought that “Joan” sounded tough, no-nonsense, and powerful, while “Alex” sounded like the name of someone a little softer, maybe even more complicated (at least to me). In my first book, City of Savages, I named the mother in the novel Sarah, what I consider to be a strong but also sort of “everywoman” name, while the sisters were named Sky (a dreamer, soulful, contemplative) and “Phee” for Phoenix (strong-willed, brave, and a girl literally born during the end of the world).
2. What is your main character’s favorite song?
Joan and Alex both love jazz, but I think Joan would be more into female blues singers (like Bessie Smith) and Alex would prefer the traditionally popular numbers from Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong.
3. Any recent works that you admire?
I’d love to mention a team of female authors called the Freshman Fifteens – it’s an incredible group of writers and an awesome list of 2015 young adult debuts: check out our website at http://freshmanfifteens.com. In the adult fiction sphere, I absolutely positively loved Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies – the characters felt like friends by the end.
4. If you could co-write a book with any author, who would it be?
While it would be seriously intimidating, I might pick someone prolific in the young adult realm, like Judy Blume, or in the fantasy realm, like Neil Gaiman – I just think it would be such an awesome opportunity to learn from them.
I think I’m one of those people that “write what they know,” but I take what I know and try to disguise it really well J. For instance, when I started my first novel City of Savages, I had just moved back to New York from LA, and I was working at a large law firm, with tight deadlines, demanding bosses, and long hours. I found myself needing a way to channel all of my frustration, and soon I began daydreaming about a very different version of New York: a Central Park that actually was a prison, life-or-death subway rides, city rituals that were extremely cutthroat and savage… a couple of months later, I had the beginnings of City of Savages.
During my writing of A Criminal Magic, I was at a very different place in my life, and this time the stress was more internal and subtle. I had gotten a two-book deal with Simon & Schuster, which I was thrilled about, but I was terrified over not being able to write more than one novel, over being a hack, over not measuring up in the writing world . . . and slowly but surely, the “magic” in the story became a loose analogy for writing, and I found ways to use that metaphor to explore the amazing (as well as dangerous and debilitating) aspects of the writing and publishing world. I think the exercise ended up making the magic system in the novel more textured, and personally ended up being really cathartic!