I’m always happy to hear from you at [email protected] if you have other questions, though I can’t promise to answer them. One must preserve a sense of mystery, as if one could be anyone at any moment, or perhaps no one at all. I can narrow it down this far, at least:
Where were you born? Lubbock, Texas–though I grew up in Western Springs, IL (a suburb of Chicago).
Where do you live now? Brooklyn, New York.
What’s your favorite book? It depends on what I’m in the mood for. Here are just a few of my many all-time favorites: Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild, The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, Nation by Terry Pratchett, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis, Bandbox by Thomas Mallon, and (newest addition!) Funny Girl by Nick Hornby.
What’s your favorite movie? His Girl Friday. (See: this.)
What’s your favorite band? The White Stripes.
What’s your writing process? It changes constantly, but for The Cost of All Things, I wrote an entire first draft by hand, and then fleshed it out and wove together the different narratives in Microsoft Word. Since then, I’ve gotten into Scrivener, and I think it would’ve been really handy for The Cost of All Things. I like writing by hand first because it slows me down and forces me to think. For some reason I’m less likely to want to waste my time writing something lazy or not-quite-right if it’s by hand.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author? Read, read, read. Read everything. And don’t be afraid to write for yourself and no one else. I found that it was impossible for me to figure out what kind of writer I wanted to be if I was thinking about an eventual reader. Write what you enjoy writing, what thrills you. And give yourself permission to just try it out for a while without expecting to wow readers.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an editor? Read, read, read. Also watch, and think. The more you can analyze what makes a good story–no matter where that story comes from–the better you’ll be at reacting to new work. Reading manuscripts is not the same as reading a finished book. You have to be able to view the story as plastic and unformed. You have to be able to articulate–kindly! and with empathy!–where the story has holes or needs reinforcement or rethinking.
Oh but you probably want practical career advice. 1) It doesn’t matter what your major is, though English is good because you read a lot, and you really do have to read a lot and love to read (see above). 2) Publishing is an apprenticeship business so you have to be ready and willing to take several years to learn the trade as an assistant. 3) Before getting to that point most people find an internship at a publishing house or an agency. This requires money, since these positions are typically unpaid or lowly-paid, and in New York, which is terribly expensive. This leads to a lot of institutional inequality in the industry because the only people who can afford entry into the career have independent resources. But if you don’t, look for grants from your college or places like WNDB. Hopefully this will change in the coming years. 4) Keep reading, so that when you meet people in the position to offer you a job, you will be able to converse about the books in the current marketplace–what you like and why you like it.
Will you read my novel and edit it? Or publish it? As an editor at Abrams I can only consider acquiring agented manuscripts for publication. (Tell your agent to send your manuscript my way!) I’m not currently freelance editing.
Will you come to my school or library and talk about writing and publishing? Sure! Email me at [email protected] for rates and availability. I can do small workshops with young writers or large talks for a more general audience.
What are you writing next? The Last Best Story came out in August 2018. Next… who knows?