Hey there guys! This week, Susane is here to answer some of the questions you had for her!
Why did you choose to write When It Happens from the point of view of both Sara and Tobey?
When I was younger, it seemed like every teen novel was written from the girl’s point of view. I would read books and the whole time I’d be dying to know what the boy was thinking, what he talked about with his friends, and all of his secrets. I promised myself that if I ever wrote a teen novel, I would write it from both perspectives, so readers could discover more of the story that would have been hidden to them otherwise. I love telling both sides of a story. As a reader, I think it’s fascinating to find out what the other side really is.
How do you plan out your books? Do you outline it, or just come up with it as you go along?
Planning the main plot of a book is an organic process for me. I have a notebook filled with ideas for future books that I’m constantly adding to, as well as individual notebooks for each book I’m writing. Sometimes I have these really intense dreams and key scenes will just come to me. Even as I’m dreaming, I understand which characters the scene relates to. It’s amazing what the subconscious works out while you’re sleeping!
It’s important for me to have a chapter outline so I know what the book is about and what’s generally going to happen with my characters. I find that if I don’t keep the scope of the story focused, chapters can easy become unraveled and tangential. While writing each scene, I ask myself, “How does this move the story forward?” If it doesn’t, that scene is probably not needed.
As I’m writing, I uncover deeper truths about my characters and discover interesting things that I may not have known before, which can lead to unexpected changes in plot. That’s part of the excitement of writing, when your character takes over the scene for you! So my chapter outline is constantly evolving, but the main direction of the story doesn’t waver.
Do you write full time?
Yes, and I love it! I was a high school science teacher for almost ten years here in New York City. When I started teaching, I never thought I’d resign. I loved my students and I love teaching. But the opportunity to be a full-time author is one I had to take. Also, I feel that I can reach more teens as a writer than a teacher, so it’s all good. I think it’s exciting to know that a person can have more than one career in life and that anything is possible.
I loved When It Happens! I could definitely see it as a movie! Do you think that will ever happen?
I hope so! That’s part of my creative visualization, like Sara practiced in When It Happens with her pink bubble wishes. When I was writing When It Happens, I saw the scenes like movie scenes playing in my mind, so I think the story has a very visual quality to it. And I get a lot of email from readers saying that they think it would rock as a movie.
Did you have any say in the covers of When It Happens and Take Me There? (I love them, by the
Authors don’t usually have any input on their cover designs, so it was awesome of my publisher to allow a consultation for both covers. I saw three mock-ups for the When It Happens cover and thought the tree idea was really cute. I was able to provide some feedback that was incorporated during changes in the design. For example, Tobey was originally wearing white sneakers, and I knew he would never wear those. I was like, “Tobey should really be wearing black Converse.” And now he is. It always bothers me when the characters on covers are so clearly not the characters in the book, so I really appreciated the chance to make the cover appear more authentic.
The Take Me There cover is phenomenal. It was designed by Sam Kim, who did an amazing job capturing the tone of the story and the look of the characters. I love the huge window and all of that natural light; it feels like positive energy is just radiating from the cover. My feedback was basically that the cover is gorgeous!
Was it hard to write from the perspective of a guy?
Not really. We’re all human, so we all have the same basic needs and wants. We all want to find someone to share our life with, someone who will get us in a way that no one else ever has. Someone who feels like home. So I just used the desire to find and be with a soul mate as the driving force behind Tobey’s actions.
Dialogue is a bit trickier, since boys and girls generally speak very differently. It was a challenge to keep Tobey’s voice distinct from Sara’s voice, since they have so much in common and share the same sense of humor. Sometimes they really do sound like the same person! But boy dialogue tends to be more condensed. Boys don’t usually sit around with their friends talking about feelings the way girls do. Since I was around kids all day as a teacher, I kind of developed a sense about boy speak, and now most of it comes naturally.
Can you tell us anything about your next book, Waiting For You?
Waiting For You has a boy-next-door theme going on. It’s about a girl who realizes that the one thing she’s been looking for has been right there all along. The book also deals with teen depression, sketchy online relationships, and a boyfriend who’s not exactly over his ex. So it’s packed with jealousy and emotional turmoil. But at the heart of the story is true love, which is my thing.
In Take Me There, a character gets a little too close to a teacher. Why did you decide to write about that sort of situation?
I’m glad you asked this question. There have been quite a few books recently that deal with intimate relationships between teachers and students, like Barry Lyga’s incredible Boy Toy. I wanted to show the scenario that is far more common, which involves a student having an intense crush on a teacher. So many students have crushes which never materialize in any real contact with their teachers, but the emotions involved are so overwhelming that sometimes kids think that there’s more going on than there actually is.
In Take Me There, Nicole is infatuated with Mr. Farrell and wants to take things to the next level. It’s not clear what Mr. Farrell is thinking, but it’s obvious that Nicole is obsessed with him. I feel that many teens can relate to this type of infatuation, so I wanted to connect with them by telling this story.
Are you like Sara from When It Happens in the sense that you are driven to succeed?
Definitely. I’m also super organized and into archival scrapbooking.
What's one thing you'd like your readers to know about you?
I rule at Pac-Man.
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