Ultimate YA

Ultimate YA is an organization that promotes young adult literature (YA lit) and reading. We feature one YA lit author per month. Each feature includes a short bio of the author, as well as fun facts and an interview. 

In addition to our features, we post quotes and memes of the week that relate to books, writing, and/or reading. We also post anything else that we find interesting regarding reading and writing.

Are you interested in being a guest blogger? If so email ChinLin at chinlinpan@ultimateya.com.

If you are an author and would like to be featured, send an email to lizmiller@ultimateya.com. If approved, then pay here for the feature.
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1.)  Why did you choose write books for young adults?

I think there are a couple of answers to this question. The first is that I have a friend who was a YA editor and who really encouraged me to write YA. That’s probably what started me writing YA. But every time I sign a new contract (or I should say right BEFORE I sign a new contract), I ask myself if I still want to write for teenagers or if there’s a different readership I’m interested in (little kids, adults). Each time I ask the question I give a resounding yes. I love writing for teens. Their struggles feel so real to me, and my own teen years were so fraught. Adult life can’t compare to the drama of high school (thankfully).

2.)  What is your favorite book?  Your favorite author?

My favorite adult author is probably Jane Austen or Virginia Woolf (it changes every few months). My favorite teen author is Norma Klein. A lot of her stuff is out of print, but two of her books were really important to me when I was younger. One is “It’s Okay if You Don’t Love Me” and the other is “Love is One of the Choices.” Her heroines are very 1970s girls—smart, feminist, curious, determined. Even the scared or shy ones usually make cool choices. I love that.  

3.)  With which characters in your stories do you identify yourself most?

I feel a tremendous kinship with my main characters—Lucy’s struggles with her stepmother in “If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where’s My Prince?” are very resonant for me. And “The Breakup Bible” kind of distills every awful breakup I’ve ever had, so I feel for Jennifer in that book. At the same time, now that I’m a mom, I definitely feel for the mothers in the books. Their kids are SOOOO hard to parent sometimes. It’s fun to sympathize with different characters at different stages of my life.  

4.)  Some authors work during the day. Some at night. What is your typical writing day schedule?

During the summer, I get up, buy a bagel and something for lunch and head off to work at the student-faculty resource center at my school. The second I get there, I eat all the food I bought for the day. Then I get down to work. During the school year, when I’m also teaching, I write whenever I have a minute. Also in the afternoons of the days I don’t have classes.  

5.)  What advice can you give to an aspiring writer?

Write a book you would want to read!

6.)  How much of your personal life to you tend to bring to your stories?

The emotional lives of all of my main characters is completely factual—their insecurities, hopes and dreams are or were mine. But none of the things that happen to them happen to me. So the feelings are real but the plots are invented.  

7.)  What do you do when you encounter the dreaded writer’s block?

Oh god, writer’s block is the WORST. Usually when that happens I reach out. To friends who are writers, to my former editors, to my current editor. I need to talk out my problems to solve them, either live or in emails. My friend and former editor Helen always laughs when she gets a panicked email from me because it usually has the problem I’m struggling with solved. (Like, I’ll write, “Do you think the character should steal a car? Maybe she should steal a car. But I don’t know.  What do you think?” Then Helen will call me back to offer advice and I’ll say, “You know what? I think I’m going to have the character steal a car!”) Often just the act of writing down the problem and sending it to someone helps me solve it.  

8.)  How long did it take for you to get published? How difficult was the road to getting published?

My road to getting published was embarrassingly easy, which has nothing to do with the quality of my work and everything to do with having a close friend in the industry. I had a dinner with my friend Helen, she said, “Write me a YA novel!” and I wrote her one and she published it. Along the way, there was a lot of support and encouragement from friends and family, but Helen gets most of the credit for my career.