Interview by Carl Marsh - June 2015
You were born in Oklahoma, studied in Oklahoma, and now are back living in Oklahoma. So do you find by being at home, your writing style has improved?
I think that the thing that has most impacted my writing style has simply been time, and the practice/experience that comes with time. Certainly, being home around friends and family has helped me to be a happier person with a lot more support around me; and that in itself is very freeing and helps me to focus more on my work. But I don't think I write necessarily differently because of where I live. For the most part, I just write what I write and I don't think I could change it if I tried.
What makes Oklahoma so great?
People in Oklahoma are the nicest! I know most people probably say that about their home, but in my case, it is absolutely true!
I know your first novel was released in 2005, how hard was it to get that first book deal?
I get this question from readers (and aspiring writers) all the time, and the answer is pretty basic. Writing a book that was ready to be published was incredibly difficult. But once I had that book in hand, getting an agent and, later, a publishing deal was pretty straightforward. There is a system in place for new writers to find agents, and for those agents to submit manuscripts to potential publishers. The trick is writing a book that is ready for that stage of the process. And that can be very, very tricky.
Your latest novel All Fall Down, it is a bit of a change in direction to what you normally write, so can we expect you to touch upon different genres more?
In a way, I imagine that all of my books will be alike in some very key ways. They will all feature strong teen characters in situations that are usually reserved for (or expected of) adults. They will all contain a degree of action, romance and comedy. And they will all hopefully serve as a welcome escape from reality, and make readers happy for just a little while.
I have a lot of respect for writers who can write in multiple genres, but that doesn't feel natural to me. You are either right handed or left handed, in a way. I'm a action-adventure-romance-comedy-handed!
What advice can you offer to anyone considering writing a book, or is struggling at the moment?
To be writing a book is to be struggling with a book. I think many people start this process thinking that it won't be work. But that simply isn't the case. It should be difficult. You are supposed to struggle. To do this professionally is to have this be your “job”. Certainly, playing sports is fun. Playing sports at the professional level is hopefully fun too, but it also comes with pressure and expectations that the amateur athlete does not face. Writing professionally is exactly the same way.
Being a writer, you obviously will read and have read a lot of books, which one(s) stuck out for you, and why are they your favourite(s)?
My favourite book of all time is To Kill A Mockingbird. It was the first book that I ever loved, and is still my all-time favourite. It is a classic for a reason.
Why should people read more books?
I think people should find the things that bring them joy. And if that isn't reading, well, I see no shame in that. But I will say that I think a lot of non-readers just haven't yet found the genre/author/series, etc. that they love.
I'm the first to admit that I didn't fully enjoy picking up a book until I understood that it was okay to put down a book. I think a lot of people have it drilled into them in school and childhood that to not finish a book is to fail. That will obviously take the joy out of anything. Once I learned to set aside any book I wasn't enjoying reading, became something that I could love.
Of all the books you have written, which one gives you the biggest smile?
Oh, I don't play favourites. Each book has something in it that makes me smile and something in it (or some memory associated with it) that makes me want to cry. In a way, each book represents almost a year of my life.
If you were an animal, what would it be and why?
I think I'd want to be a border collie. My parents had one for years and she was the absolute smartest, sweetest, most beloved being on earth. She passed on a few years ago, and we all still miss her every day.