I came up with the idea while working on my last book, The Unspoken, which is about a group of teens who are haunted by their childhood memories of growing up in a cult and now must face a horrifying prophecy—that they will die from their worst fear. The main character, Allison, is epileptic, and during her seizures, she has these visions of terrible crimes before they happen. Her visions made me think about nightmares and the power they can have over us—to make us scream, break out in a sweat, and, in some cases, sleepwalk. I thought it would be kind of cool to write something about sleepwalking—as if it were a disease that could infect people and make them do things.
How does Sleepless differ from your other works?
Unlike The Unspoken, which is told from Allison’s point of view, I decided to have the two main characters, Emma and Jake, narrate Sleepless. Each chapter alternates between them, so we get different perspectives on each of them (as they’re falling in love), on their other friends, and on this epidemic of sleepwalking that is causing teens to kill each other.
How do you go about researching your novels?
Two ways: books and travel. For Sleepless, I started out by researching and reading about sleep disorders, voodoo, and mesmerism—all of these things are part of the mystery in the book. Once I start any project, I also discover things that I need to research along the way. Sometimes a character has a hobby or interest that I don’t know a lot about, and that inspires me to learn more. I also like to travel, so I want to visit the places I write about. This wasn’t too difficult for Sleepless. I was living in Sea Cliff at the time, and I thought it would be a great setting for the book. The store Mystic Dreams, where Ms. Dupré reads tarot cards, is based on a real place called Dreams East on Main Street. I also lived a block away from the towering, yellow Victorian house where Dr. Beecher lives and where the teens discover what’s behind the murders in town.
What impressed you most during your research?
There are a lot of paintings in Sleepless (which are part of the mystery), so my research involved studying these paintings—learning about the history of each one and about the myths and stories they tell, etc.
Do you have a novel outlined pretty much in its entirety when you start writing, or does the plot take shape as you write?
I always have an outline when I start, and sometimes, it’s pretty detailed. But in my experience, writing takes on a life of its own at some point. My characters always take me in directions that I don’t expect, which changes things. That is part of the fun!
What books have most influenced your life?
This is a difficult question because I discover new books all the time that inspire me and help me see the world in new ways. I love reading anything I can get my hands on. I’ve always been a big fan of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories, and right now, I’m really enjoying Lisa McMann’s series—Wake and Fade.
Are you working on any other projects that you would like to share with readers?
Right now, I’m working on something a little different—a book called The Philosophy of Horror. It’s a collection of essays about horror books and films and television shows, about why people like to be scared. It’s coming out a few months after Sleepless. I’m also brainstorming some ideas for my next teen horror novel.