1. What (or who) gives you inspiration?
Curiosity is one of my strongest traits, and I'd say my curiosity gives me inspiration. I write, in general, to explore ideas, and see where they take me. For example, in my latest book, The Universes Inside the Lighthouse. I've always been fascinated with the idea that there must—absolutely must—be intelligent life on other planets. But I'm pretty certain that we'll never meet them (and fairly certain they're not here on Earth, but who knows?!). Nonetheless, I'm curious. What is life on other planets like? What would it be like to travel and meet those other beings? What might their worlds be like? In writing a book about this topic, I got to make up the answers for myself. It's not the same as finding out the "truth," but still I had a great time imagining the possibilities.
2. Who’s your favorite author?
I admire so many authors for so many reasons! Barbara Kingsolver is an amazing writer. Jodi Picoult is a fascinating storyteller. But as far as Best In Show, I'd have to go with J.K. Rowling. I love the Harry Potter books—but the thing is, they're not just books. Do you know what I mean? It's a world, a world that Rowling gave us a window into. It feels so unbelievably real ... like it must actually be real somewhere in the multiverse. Her ability to create something so magical (no pun intended) and vivid and engaging, that struck a chord with millions of people—or is it billions yet?—is amazing. Plus, I've heard and read some of her talks, and I really appreciate a lot of what she has to say in her speeches as well, of course, as in her books. For example:
“Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.”
"It is our choices...that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
3. Do you have a long term series planned for Charlie and Emma?
I do! I'm working on the next book right now. I absolutely love this series and these characters. They're still a little new to me yet, so they still surprise me from time to time, and I'm not quite sure where we're going. When everything is possible, that opens things up to pretty much everything! But I am working to create some sort of arc. At first I had in mind a series sort of like Nancy Drew, where every book is standalone. The more I work on ideas for the story, though, the more I'm not sure that's feasible. Because of the nature of exploring the universes, the characters learn more and more all the time. I can't just take them back to not knowing how to travel through space and time, at the beginning of every book. So, a more cohesive storyline is becoming more likely, though it'll probably have elements both of continuing plot, and standalone plot in each book.
4. The elevator between worlds is a unique and fascinating concept. Can you share, at least a hint, of what led you to this idea?
The elevator was one of those ideas that just come just fully formed, actually. I suppose the part of my brain that has watched a lot of Doctor Who got involved somehow, the idea that you step in something box-like and it transports you to anywhere and everywhere. And as I thought about the idea of universes being "layered" on one another, the idea that you could travel through them like an elevator, at a thin spot, just seemed to make sense. Note, however, that in the next book we'll discover that there's more to universes than we just thought. ;) It's all quite complex. And since the scientists don't all agree—every other day, it seems, there's a new hypothesis out there about the universes—who's to say I'm not right?
5. Describe the perfect writing environment.
I wish I could say I can listen to music when I'm writing, but I can't. My brain is very single-task. Music, even instrumental, is too dynamic for me to listen to while I'm trying to create new ideas. So, when I write, the music is off. Other than that, I'm pretty flexible. Right now I'm on the couch with my laptop on my lap. Often I'll wake up in the morning and just pull my laptop right onto my bed and start writing before I even turn the light on. (I do not recommend any of these methods ergonomically!) I also love to go to my favorite Happy Hour place, where they know me very well, and sit at my favorite table in the corner, looking out over the Puget Sound, sip a lemon drop, and let the creative juices flow. In fact, when I'm really stuck, that's one of my best and favorite methods to get unstuck. Although when I go there, I don't take my laptop—the lemon drop would get the keys sticky. :) Anyway, for me, the main ingredient is quiet. Beyond that, writing really is just a matter of sitting down and writing. As they say, you can't edit a blank page. Even if what you write is complete rubbish, you still can edit rubbish better than you can edit a blank page. So just write something, start there!
6. What’s your favorite part of writing?
There are so many things I love about writing, but one of my favorite things is probably figuring out the backstory of the characters. When I sit with pen and paper (I always create new ideas with pen and paper, and then do the actual writing on the computer), and think about the characters, it really does feel sometimes like they're speaking to me, opening up their lives to me, introducing themselves to me. So much of the backstory never makes it into the book, but knowing the little things about the characters makes me happy. Like, for Universes (all my books have way-too-long titles, so I have to shorten them!), I know how all the main characters' parents met, where they went to school, and so on. Knowing these things makes the characters so real that I just feel like I'm telling stories someone else told me, not creating something entirely new.
Having said that, I also love creating something entirely new. I love that when I'm done, I have a story that I would love to read. I do wish there were some way I could go back and read my own stories objectively, for the first time, to see if I'd actually like them. The more books I write, the better I like them, I think. It's fun to create whole worlds and have them feel real to me, and more fun when people tell me the worlds are real to them. I ran into someone the other day who told me she reads my Wishing Rock books over and over. That's insane! And amazing! To know I've created something that is meaningful in some way to other people is the most fantastic feeling.
I could go on, really. So much I love about writing. What I don't love: naming characters. They won't let me rest until I have the right names for them, but at the same time they don't tell me their names easily. And everyone needs to have a name, even if I don't use it in the book. First name, middle name, last name, and then there's also all the place names—which has become exponentially more difficult now that I'm writing about other planets and universes. I don't want the names to be so weird that they throw the reader out of the story, but I want them to have some alien flavor. Thank goodness for parallel Earths, where I can give people Earth names!
7. What is your ultimate writing goal/dream?
I have a lot of goals ... which is the ultimate goal? Well, I'd love to make a good living as a writer. I'm sure that will happen. Fingers crossed it's soon! I would love to see my Wishing Rock series made into a TV show. I think it would do better for TV than a movie. It's very Northern Exposure-esque, or a little like the current show Cedar Cove, with maybe a little more spice. I could see the Balky Point Adventures (my current YA sci-fi series, which starts with Universes) becoming something bigger in some way. But mostly, finances aside, I'd love to just have the opportunity to continue to explore ideas through writing. It makes me come alive. When I'm not writing, I get edgy. Writing keeps me sane. Well, as sane as I get, anyway.