You asked, I answered! 18 questions to satisfy the young adult in you.
(I'm going to try to keep the information here as updated as possible.)
Why do all the main characters' names begin with the letter D? Did you plan that?
Actually, I did not. I was only looking for the names that would fit my characters best. I chose Danielle first. Someone once asked me, long before I started the series, if my name was Danielle. They said I looked like someone they used to know with that name. Danielle was always meant to be a version of myself and so I chose it both because I liked the sound and someone had made the comparison.
Dexter came along second. I made a note about the name and which character should have it and I forgot where I'd written it! But it turned out to be a really good thing because I remembered the name and gave it to a different character and I think it ended up suiting him better ;)
Damien was the last name of the three main ones I settled on. I was browsing kid names online for about ever, and then I landed on Damien. After narrowing down my options I stood by that one. Never second guessed myself afterward.
When did you write the first novel?
I started it when I was 14 but didn't get farther than the third chapter or so until I was 15. Then I hit a really good stride and things fell into place both story-wise and time-wise. That was November/December of 2008.
How long does it take you to write a novel, now that you've written four?
When I really get into it, when I've planned out what I want, about two full months. Of course, that doesn't include planning and the editing/revision when I'm done. Planning can take a long time. I spent over a year planning before I felt ready to dive into The Zartia Series and completely committed. I never set out with the intention to write novel, of any particular kind - I mean, I thought the idea was cool but didn't know if I could do it - but that's what it grew to be after a lot of thought. Actually, it grew to be a whole series, haha.
What triggered your writing The Zartia Series - and how did you come up with that name?
It actually didn't take long to come with the name. I spent a very small part of an evening contemplating it. I knew I wanted something unique that there was no association with. A word that didn't yet exist. So I played around with a few different words until it just clicked. 'Zartia' felt right.
I had a crazy idea, out of the blue, after a reading workshop freshman year of high school. It was the first Friday of the school year, of my high school career. It's so crazy that there was one thought that changed how I would spend most of my free time over the next several years.
How personal is your writing - specifically, The Zartia Series?
There are parts that are super personal, but nothing straight from my life. This isn't a memoir or biography in the slightest. It really is a work of fiction; it all comes from my head. That clarified, Zartia was always meant as my escape from my personal life. Things were seldom easy growing up and I used my writing, The Zartia Series usually, as a means of escape and freedom. In Zartia, anything could happen. Zartia was all mine, and mine alone.
Do you prefer writing novels, or poetry?
Both equally, for different reasons. Novels are longer and you can develop connections in different ways. Poetry, for me, is much shorter, a page, and I use it to say something quickly and efficiently. They are separate forms and I utilize them for different effects.
Who inspires you?
There isn't really a person or group of people who inspire me. Most of the time, I am inspired by what I see happening, by what I observe.
What's the most difficult aspect of writing a novel?
Making the time to write and not shirking my responsibility to the creative calling when it comes. But more importantly, often we create that creative atmosphere rather than it coming to us out of the blue.
Did you always want to write?
No, but I always enjoyed telling stories. Really, that's all my writing is, my telling stories just on paper rather than vocally. I remember being five and narrating my own life, from third person perspective, silently to myself. Even back then I knew I was weird.
What is your best accomplishment?
I don't think I have one. I think it's yet to come.
What kind of literature do you read?
I read loads of YA. Young adult is kind of my life. It has been since before I became a teen. I even make a point to watch teen-targeted tv shows. The Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars, that sort of stuff. I mean, I'm quite obsessed with teens and their lifestyles and I am a consumer of the same products. I think one of the worst things that can happen is an adult trying to write for the YA audience but forgetting to tune into what life is like for teens now. In ten years, I hope to still be just as in touch with teens as I am today. Seriously, I think teens are our future and we need to keep the connection with them strong.
Outside of YA I read what I have to for classes and an occasional fictional adult novel (genres and authors vary greatly so I have to generalize). Oh, and news. I read news a lot these days. It's a recent thing for me. But not like newspapers, because I feel they aren't streamlined enough to my tastes, so I subscribed my email to various sources so I can hear about exactly what I'm interested in. The internet is fabulous. :)
Do you outline?
Actually, I recently found out J.K. Rowling outlined. I know that's not what this is about, but hold on a sec. The thing is, she had these pretty detailed outlines and I happened to see a picture of one on the internet. I was super shocked to discover that our outlines are really not that much different. I divide mine by month and character and a bit about what's going on in the scene, or about what I'm aiming for. So yes, I outline, but only for novels. Never for short stories or poems. Those I just kind of sit down and do.
Your personal life is very interesting. Would you ever write an autobiography?
I get this question a bit more than I'm comfortable with, because my life is a treasure chest of secrets. If I open the box, wouldn't everyone see them all? But maybe not. It crosses my mind once in a while. Maybe. I'll let you know if I do. There certianly is a part of me that would have a lot to say about my life and those that have featured in it.
Has anyone ever called you obsessed with your writing and do/have you consider(ed) yourself obsessed?
To the former, yes. A friend of mine once did. I don't consider myself obsessed, but if I'm passionately writing about something that spans a lot of time then yes, it does pervade a great deal of my ordinary, non-writing-based life. I see things in context of my project and not just as occurances. Sure, they are just occurances, but I consider how that happening in my project could impact the story, if that makes sense. Life and writing collide.
Am I obsessed? I consider writing my occupation. But I think I'm really only obsessed when I'm solely focused on what I'm writing and when I'm shutting the world out. Maybe two or three hours at a time with a poem. Segments of the day when I'm writing a novel. But I'm not totally absorbed with a project at any point otherwise. That would drive me nuts - I need breaks too!
What's your favorite part of a book?
The middle. The beginning and end, essentially, will vary very little. What you do with all the space in-between is what will define you as a writer.
Which parts are hardest/easiest to write?
This question is similiar to #8, but it's not quite the same and I have a different answer.
I find emotion to be easier. Emotions drive things and make plot progress. But the in-between parts, like where you transition from one scene to the next, those can be the hardest. How do I make this flow just right? How do I get from here to there without really allowing a reader to break away from the story and stop reading? I'll want a pause, but I don't want to be a bore. It may create a stopping point for you, but I want you to be ready to jump right back in as soon as you have some more free time.
What are your major themes?
First, let me say that I did not begin The Zartia Series with any specific themes in mind, and what you might get out of the series could be very different from what I say here. That's perfectly okay.
Not everything is black and white, in fact, seldom anything is! My characters end up in situations where no decision is necessarily the right one but they still have to pick a path to pursue. Life's not easy and I don't make those decisions easy for my characters either. Dexter has the worst luck in this because he's always kind of in a hard spot in one way or another, specifically, romantically speaking. He's trying to follow his heart, but his head may say another, and his friends all have their own opinions too that revolve as time passes. So he has all these voices and suggestions about him and there's not a clear path set out for him. He kinda bumbles along as best he can. And I think that's what makes him such a controversial character in that people either love him or hate him and want him out of the series. But he's not really a good guy or a bad one. He's really just trying to figure it out and work it out in his favor. And that's not to say he's self-centered (because we all think of our own interests just a little bit, don't we?) but he's got an idea what he's after and he's always just enough stubborn.
Do you believe in happily ever after?
I do, but not for myself. I don't know that I'll ever get all that I want. I think it's possible, and that plenty of people get what they want in life, but I wouldn't bet that all my hopes and aspirations will work out. So that's the thing, isn't it? We look for the happy ending in books, but sometimes the most satisfying thing is when it doesn't end on that picture-perfect note. Some of the best stories encompass both our daily lives and our dreams.