Spite and greed. I was visiting a library in Fort Wayne IN chatting with a friend on 15 March 2008. A girl came into the teen area looking for something to read. The teen librarian suggested one of my books. She read the back of it, then said “No. I only read vampire books." So, I decided to write one out of spite. The foundation of the book including key scenes, major characters, the central conflicts, and the "mythology" all came to me in the three hours it took to drive between Fort Wayne IN and Flint MI. The weird thing about it being March 15 is 3-15 is the number between science (3.14 for pie or 3-14 for Einstein's birthday) and 3-16 (Johns 3:16 is the most famous verse in the Christian Bible, and the cornerstone of that faith). So, it was really strange that this book about the place between faith and fact was conceived on 3-15. The greed part is simple. It’s hard to be writing in the YA world, see the vampire pie and not want a slice.
How did you come up with the idea of vampires collecting tears to survive instead of blood?
I don't recall the 'aha ' moment, but I know some things that certainly influenced it. A couple days before I came up with the idea I was at a class visit and watched this teen girl throw a huge crying fit, and it got me thinking how much tear-producing drama happens in a high school. In my first novel Things Change, I had a gimmick where the main character Johanna believes -- based on something her grandmother told her -- that every tear has a different taste. Also I’d noticed people sitting in cars in parking lots crying, which made the opening scene. But it was mostly wanting to do a vampire-like book that wasn't about blood sucking (or other fluids), and realizing the limited possibilities. From a metaphorical perspective, writers are tear collectors in some ways. We write books that cause readers to cry and that makes us feel good!
How much research do you do before starting a novel?
What impressed you most during your research?
How hard it is to create another world. I always joke the reason I don’t read fantasy let alone write it, is I have enough trouble understanding the rules of this universe without imagining another one. Also, even though it is not a pure vampire book, there are certain conventions and clichés of that genre you have to respect. So I had an original idea spun off of a very well known plot. But still I wanted to write about things in the teen experience, such as rumors and gossip, which makes a lot of this book a “realistic teen novel” with supernatural elements.
How do you develop your characters? Do you change them as the story grows?
This book went very quickly. I got it out of my head on paper / in the computer in six weeks. There was lots of polishing and rewriting after that, but the core story was there by May 2008. My process is very different from other YA writers in that I invite teens to read my stuff after a good first draft so I can get immediate feedback. I had about ten teens – all of them named in the acknowledgements - who provided ideas, asked questions, and one even supplied me with a poem that I needed one character to write.
Which author(s) have influenced your writing?
In the YA world, Chris Crutcher, Terry Davis, and Laurie Halse Anderson are some of my biggest influences. As mentioned for this book, the music of Van Morrison really helped set the mood for my writing. One of my biggest influences – don’t laugh – is R.L. Stine. Back in my former life, I wrote books about YA literature, including one called What’s So Scary About R.L. Stine. I read a lot of his work and have admiration for his storytelling skills.
Can you share a teaser with us?
This is a scene near the beginning of the book between Cassandra and “cute but clueless” Cody, her current – but not for much longer – boyfriend.
“Cody, don’t worry about that,” I whisper into his ear. “Don’t worry about anything.”
What’s next for you/What other projects are you working on?
I have a book that I’ve thought about for two years and then wrote in the past two weeks. Serious. I started writing it on May 22 and had a good first draft of 55,000 words done by June 1. It is called Clicked, and is back in the teen realistic genre, and I do mean realistic. As of this writing (6-15) my editor hasn’t seen it, so I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say if it published in its current form this book, it will be controversial. With a few for YA graphic scenes of oral sex (male on female), this book doesn’t push the envelope, it licks it. The book starts with a scene of a teenage boy named Carson in his bedroom on the computer on homecoming night. That word matters to him because his older sister Carrie ran away three years ago and has not been heard from since. After a while, well, he’s a teenage boy, in his bedroom, he’s alone, he’s on the computer, he clicks on one image, and sees his sister Carrie on a porn site.