Hi Alice! Welcome to For the Love of KidLit 🙂 In reading your bio, it’s obvious you’ve always loved the ocean! You wrote your Young Adult novel, Wavehouse, about surfing and your Middle Grade novel, Saving Grace, with a mermaid theme.
When you sit down to write, do you immediately know the age of your main character? Or do you draft until the voice/age of the character feels right?
I know the general age, usually. Things change so drastically for kids, I think in two year increments. So, when I start I might think: He’s going to be between 12-13, or she’s going to be around 16 or 17. When I’m writing for adults about adults, the age range is a little broader. Once I’m through the very start of a book project the age is set. Maybe even the birthday!
Voice is different. Voice is hopefully there consistently from the get go, as I see voice as the essence of the emotional nature of the character.
When writing Wavehouse, did you get out on your own surfboard when you needed to get inside of Anna Dugan’s head?
I would get on my surfboard whenever there were waves! That said, there were definitely times I channeled Anna when surfing, mostly when in larger surf. She’s a much better and braver surfer than I am. So when I thought about being her, I was better able to master some dicey overhead waves. I still think about her, even though the book is out!
You also write for adults. How does writing short stories compare to writing a full novel?
Time, mostly is the difference. I can finish a story in a month or so. A novel takes at least a year. To write a good story you have to think economically. You can only take a carry-on. No extra baggage. Because of this, it requires huge amounts of creative thinking and lots of letting go. A story writer has to ignore interesting tangents and lengthy descriptions. Get rid of inconsequential supporting characters. Save them for another story, or kiss those babies bye-bye. A novelist has more leeway. This makes many published novels—dare I say—overwritten and boring.
Novel writing is also very hard. Mainly, it takes MUCH longer. But I don’t think writing a brilliant novel is any more impressive than writing a brilliant story.
Where is your favorite place to write? Music or no music?
My favorite places to write are at my desk in Montauk and on the deck of the apartment I rent regularly during the winter in Rincon, Puerto Rico. My desk in Montauk faces a wall and is in a dark small room. The deck in Rincon looks out over a gorgeous cove and the ocean. They couldn’t be more different, yet they both manage to get the goods out of me.
I can’t listen to music when I write because as a former dancer, when I hear music I feel compelled to really listen to it and move around to it. I wish I could, it sounds like such a lovely thing to do, but alas!