1)What was the favorite part of writing, The Debutante?
I grew up in the South (Richmond, Virginia) but am still figuring out what it means to be “Southern.” It was fun for me to explore this world that I grew up in and love through the eyes of an outsider. I got to have fun with all those clichés that are clichés for a reason -- I did know a guy whose truck honked the tune to “Dixie;” a lot of my friends do have double names; believe it or not, people do eat fried okra (and if prepared incorrectly it does taste approximately like snot). But Annie also found some larger stereotypes flipped on their heads. Not every Southern girl is a prim and proper belle.
2)Which character can you most relate to and why?
I definitely relate to Annie. I can be very sarcastic and handle difficult situations with humor. I have a hard time when I feel other people are trying to define me or fit me into a box. I’ve felt like a fish out of water before. (Really, who hasn't? No really, if you've never felt like a fish out of water, message me because you're like a rare new species.) But Annie and I are different in ways too. I'm more open to change than Annie is at the beginning of the book. I found myself disagreeing with her sometimes, even if I could understand where she was coming from. I'd be a pain in the butt too if my parents had moved me my senior year!
3)Do you have any advice for future writers?
Write:) Even if you feel like what you’re writing is bullhonky, keep writing. Don’t be discouraged if you want to rip up your first draft, burn the pieces, and bury the ashes. Sometimes I do too. No one has perfect first drafts. And I mean no one (except maybe Shakespeare, but he was a freak of nature). Also, learn how to be a critical reader. By that I mean, learn how to dissect a book and see larger patterns and choices that the author’s made, not just the words on the page. Try asking yourself occasionally as you're reading, Why did the writer use this word instead of this one? Why did he/she write from this character's point of view? Why did the author start or end the story where he/she did? It will become second nature to notice those kinds of things, and it will help you in your own writing.
4)Were you ever a debutante?
Actually I wasn’t, although many of my friends from high school and college were. They were my “research” for the book. (One of the reasons I love writing: talking with your friends is considered research.) In Richmond, the debutantes come out their junior year of college rather than their senior year of high school. (This is becoming more common.) Like Annie, I thought it wasn’t really “my thing.” I decided to take a semester abroad instead. I don’t regret that decision for a minute (hello, I spent a semester in England, Greece, and Italy -- awesome!) but looking back, I do think I would have had fun had I done it.
5)Any plans for a sequel, new book, etc.?
No plans for a sequel to The Debutante. I’m pretty happy where I left my characters -- although never say never. But my new book, The Lost Summer, comes out in July!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Can you tell I'm excited?) Here's the "blurb":
"I died one summer, or I almost did. Part of me did. I don't say that to be dramatic, only because it's true."
For the past nine years, Helena Waite has been returning to summer camp at Southpoint. Every year the camp and its familiar routines, landmarks, and people have welcomed her back like a long-lost family member. But this year she is returning not as a camper, but as a counselor, while her best friend, Katie Bell remains behind. All too quickly, Helena discovers that the innocent world of campfires, singalongs, and field days have been pushed aside for late night pranks on the boys' camp, skinny dipping in the lake, and stolen kisses in the hayloft. As she struggles to define herself in this new world, Helena begins to lose sight of what made camp special and the friendships that have sustained her for so many years. And when Ransome, her longtime crush, becomes a romantic reality, life gets even more confusing.
6)Who was your inspiration for becoming a writer?
I don’t know that anyone in particular inspired me to become a writer (other than my parents, who always supported me in whatever I wanted to do). I’ve just always felt most natural expressing myself with the written word. I am so much better on the page than I am in person, trust me;) But there are many writers who have inspired me and who I admire. I think Judy Blume is the coooolest. Right now I really like John Green and Sarah Dessen. And in the adult world I love Tom Wolfe, Anne Lamott, David Sedaris, Christopher Buckley, Donna Tartt, Lee Smith. I like everything, I guess!