Book Title: Pretty Crooked
Length: 368 pages
Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins
Release Date: March 13, 2012
Have you always been a writer? If not, when and why did you start?
Always! Since at least the age of 9. I have journal entries that talk about my dreams of getting published. Somehow, I just always knew. I figured out that I wanted to write fiction in college, and YA, specifically, about six years ago.
How did the idea for Pretty Crooked come to you?
I was really captivated by the story of Colton Harris-Moore, a.k.a. the Barefoot Bandit, who has become an inspiration for Willa Fox’s adventures. That, and of course, Robin Hood. My amazing editor, Claudia Gabel, and I developed the concept together.
Do you have a particular writing schedule or routine? Could you briefly describe it?
If I’m in the middle of a draft, I write every day, and usually in the morning if I can swing it, because that’s when my brain works best. My day job is freelance writing, so sometimes there are deadlines to work around. Typically, I might wake up at 6:30 or 7 am, work on a manuscript for two to three hours, then devote the rest of the day to my other work, with a break for exercise and/or errands. Evenings I will focus on promotional activities. I usually work on my novels during the weekends, too. Lately, there are not enough hours in the day!
Where do you write? Why?
During the week, I work from my desk in my office. I’m lucky to have a dedicated room, since I work from home. On weekends or the occasional afternoon, I take my laptop to my special lucky coffee shop. Now and then I will try a new one, but this particular one is independently owned, has incredible house-roasted coffee, and always seems to play the exact music I love. Sometimes I run into other writer friends there. Plus, all of the baristas inspire me with their fashion sense.
What is the hardest part of drafting for you?
Um, drafting itself. I love revising—for me, that’s where all the creativity and excitement come in. The first draft is usually tougher so I am learning to get through it quicker. Sometimes it just feels like a slog to get ideas that are already living in my head on paper. I find that when I go in for subsequent drafts, the process feels a lot more spontaneous and invigorating.
How did you originally come to be published? (long road or short?)
I would say I had a medium road. Though I studied writing in college and graduate school I didn’t really get super-serious about writing YA and trying to be published until about five or six years ago. I wrote one book and queried agents with it. I got about 12 rejections that were heart-wrenching yet mostly encouraging so I took this as a sign and went back to the drawing board. I wrote a second book about a girls’ rock camp called JUNE OF ROCK, queried and quickly landed my agent. Then we submitted it to editors and it just didn’t sell. This was majorly disappointing, but again, I got great feedback about my writing style and voice. Ultimately the unsellable book led me to my editor, Claudia Gabel, and the genesis of PRETTY CROOKED, so it all worked out in an unexpected way. And in the meantime, I self-published JUNE OF ROCK as an ebook to Kindle and Nook. I hope readers who enjoy PRETTY CROOKED will discover it, too.
How do you handle criticism/rejection/bad reviews?
I kind of take it hard, in that I ruminate on the criticism and can often see the point of view of the critic (see above). I don’t get angry, though. If it’s a valid point, it usually just makes me work harder. At first, before PRETTY CROOKED actually came out, I read all my reviews because I was so thrilled that anyone was reading my work. Now, I don’t let myself go there. I have come to see that readers bring so much of their own expectation to books that it’s easy to disappoint them. And that disappoints me! Bottom line is the book is out there, it’s done, and there’s nothing I can do at this point to change it. I firmly believe that people are entitled to their opinions, though, and I’m truly thankful for bloggers and reviewers, no matter what they think of my book!
What is one part of writing craft every aspiring author ought to thoroughly understand?
It’s never right the first time. Let me repeat: It’s. Never. Right. The. First. Time.
Do you read other authors’ books while you have a work in progress? Why or why not?
I do, but it’s not always YA or anything similar to what I write, per se. Just getting lost in the flow of someone else’s words can be useful to refresh the brain after a long day of writing. I try to read at least a little bit every day, no matter what.
What is the most rewarding part of writing?
I would say it’s that magical feeling when a novel starts to come together and become more than the sum of its parts, almost like dough in a food processor. At that point, the world of the story develops its own logic. Usually this is in the third draft or so.
Are any of the characters or MC modeled after real people?
In PRETTY CROOKED, they’re not really modeled after anyone in particular, though as I said there’s a bit of Colton Harris-Moore in Willa Fox.
What has been your favorite part of the book launch?
By far, it’s definitely meeting teen readers, whether it’s in schools or libraries or bookstores. I really love to talk to teens.
PBJ or ham & cheese? PBJ, for sheez.
Coffee or tea? Coffee, though right now I’m heading into the iced tea season.
Summer or Winter? Winter! Philly summer is godawful.
Typing or longhand? Typing.
Which comes first: plot or character? Character.
Emails or letters? Letters. I wish I wrote more of them.
Coke or Pepsi? Neither. I’m not into soda.
Sugary or salty treats? Both? Oh gosh, if I had to pick, then sugary.
Dogs or cats? Cats. I just lost my little guy. L
Indoors or outdoors? Outdoors.
Beer or wine? Wine.
Mac or PC? Mac all the way.
Outline or fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants? I am a recent convert to the church of the outline.
So many thanks to Elisa Ludwig for granting this interview! It was so much fun to get to know her, her writing process, and PRETTY CROOKED so much better.