Why did you want to be a writer?
When I was a kid, I always thought I'd be a musician or an artist. Then, when I was thirteen, I went to see the film Jurassic Park and afterwards, couldn't stop thinking about it. I decided to try writing a sequel (The Lost World hadn't been published then!) and a few days after I'd started it, the realisation hit me: I was going to be a novelist. It was a true lightbulb moment – everything I thought I knew about who I was and what I was going to do got turned on its head – and that excitement has never gone away. I love being a writer!
What would you have done if you couldn't be a writer?
Hmmm. I guess it would be something arty, but I really can't imagine wanting to do anything else, so I'm not sure!
Which writers have influenced you the most?
Wow, that's a hard one. Nearly every book I read influences me in some way. If I had to pick two authors, though, I guess I'd say Michael Crichton, for his tense, spare writing style and the way he uses science to make his stories so frighteningly plausible, and Stephen King for, well, being Stephen King. The guy is a master storyteller and an incredible writer, and On Writing is one of the best writing books I've ever read.
What is your favourite book?
I have loads of favourites, but books that have stood out for me in recent years are Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series and Julianna Baggott's Pure. I also love quirky books like The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall and Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. And then there's Stephen Chbosky's Perks of Being a Wallflower, anything by Sarah Dessen, John Green or SE Hinton, and childhood favourites like L.M. Montgomery's Emily of New Moon trilogy… you get the idea!
How many books did you write before ACID?
If you count the 'novels' I wrote when I first realised I wanted to be a writer, ten, over the course of about fourteen years (with school and art college and other bits of life in between). Once I realised I wanted to write YA, four. And the third one got me my fabulous agent, although in the end, it didn't sell.
What kept you writing through all the rejections, self-doubt etc?
As my husband and family will tell you, I'm ridiculously stubborn! I knew this was what I wanted to do and I kept telling myself that if I kept going, then one day I WOULD get published. That isn't to say that I didn't have some real low moments – moments where I was convinced it was never going to happen, that my writing would never be good enough. But what if I had given up, and the next book would've been the one that sold… only I'd never written it? I couldn't have lived with not knowing. So I kept writing, and hoping, and trying to get better.
How did you get an agent?
I wrote my first YA novel in 2003, and sent it out to publishers and agents, but luckily (because it was terrible), it didn't get taken on. I also managed to send it to a publisher who only published non-fiction. Doh! The next book I sent out, in 2007, was my third YA, a contemporary, and I did my research much more carefully this time. I made a list of agents who represented YA authors I admired, and London Independent Books, the third in the list, took it on. You can read a longer version of my how-I-got-my-agent story on my blog here.
How did you get published?
The submissions process was pretty terrifying – much more so than getting an agent. ACID was on sub for several months before it went to Random House. The day it went to their acquisitions meeting, I was a nervous wreck! And when my agent forwarded me the email from the commissioning editor saying they loved it and wanted to publish it, that was one of the best moments of my life. I screamed at my laptop screen so loudly I scared the Hound!
What is your writing process like?
I used to just dive in and start writing… and end up with a horrible mess I couldn't unravel. Then I went the other way and plotted rigidly, and ended up bored stiff with my stories before I'd written a single word. Now, I seem to have settled on a happy medium of some planning, some pantsing. I always spend time getting to know my world and characters before I start, too, although I rarely look at my notes once I've started the actual writing. I find first drafts quite hard, though – I much prefer the editing stage, when I'm making everything better!
Which book or books do you wish you'd written?
Right now, I have two: The Passage by Justin Cronin, for the richness of its world and the scope of its story (I'm SO excited that the sequel is out this year!), and Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, because it's so original and the writing is just gorgeous.
Both ACID and The Fearless have pretty open endings. Will there be sequels?!
I'd love to say yes, but at the moment, I'm not writing sequels to either book. Sorry! I do have ideas for them, though, so never say never…
What do you think of the YA scene at the moment?
I'm really excited about it and feel very privileged to be part of it – I'm so happy that this genre is finally getting the recognition it deserves. It's an amazing time to be a YA author!
If you were a character in a book, who would it be and why?
It would have to be Emily Byrd Starr in L.M. Montgomery's Emily of New Moon series. Violet eyes, black hair, psychic powers… oh, and she's a writer! (And did I mention she has violet eyes?)
And finally… is it true that G-Dog actually does all your writing?
What? Who told you that? It's lies, I tell you! All lies! *Prises laptop out of G-Dog's paws*