Tag, I’m It!

I was tagged by my dear friend Anika Denise, author of PIGS LOVE POTATOES, BELLA AND STELLA COME HOME, and BAKING DAY AT GRANDMA’S (Philomel, Fall, 2014) to join the #WritingProcessBlogTour, where writers answer questions about their writing process. You can read Anika’s post here.


I’m working on my second YA psychological thriller for Farrar, Straus & Giroux/Macmillan. CELLOPHANE (working title) is set in an abandoned rock quarry, and is told from the point of view of a boy who loses the love of his life, and becomes obsessed with finding out how and why she died. Think THEN AGAIN, MAYBE I WON’T meets I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER meets THE VIRGIN SUICIDES. Yep, all three.


I would say my novels are not what they first seem. AFTER THE WOODS is not an abduction story: it’s a story about sacrifice and survival. CELLOPHANE isn’t a story about death, but salvation.


I’m obsessed with suspense and love dissecting the ways writers create it. There are such different ways to do it, and I want to experiment with all of them. Think of Messud lacing “Dear Reader”-style clues throughout THE WOMAN UPSTAIRS. Or Quindlen lulling us with the ordinariness of one family’s life, then slapping us with the horrific (and totally credible) climax of EVERY LAST ONE. Or Wroblewski sustaining anxiety over 608 pages of THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE. I want my readers’ nerves pricked, their breaths made shallow. I want them to read themselves into exhaustion because they can’t put my books down. Because as a reader, I love when these things happen to me.


I always start with a question I find interesting. Before writing AFTER THE WOODS, I wondered, would you risk your life to save your best friend? And then, I considered its inversion: would you risk your best friend’s life to save yourself? Julia and Liv emerged from thinking about the kinds of girls who would do each, and the plot grew from there.

On a practical note, I write a skeletal first draft that I plot out on Scrivener notecards, and build from there. During the first draft, I do some weird, keening stuff to make the words flow. Check out my profile on the Fearless Fifteener website for more on my witchy moves.

Next up: Two writers I admire hugelyJen Brooks, my Freshman Fifteen sister, and Adam Renn Olenn. Jen is a former high school teacher and track and field coach. Her debut novel, IN A WORLD JUST RIGHT, will release from Simon and Schuster BFYR in spring 2015. Adam is a two-time Grub Street scholarship winner and Bread Loaf contributor. His story THE OLDEST MAN IN TOWN was anthologized for the 2012 edition of Best New England Crime Stories, and his story CORONATION was in the 2011 edition, and was a finalist for the Derringer award for short fiction.

Jen BrooksARO-whiskey-priest

Literary Thrillers, YA Debuts in 2016, YA Thrillers
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One Response to Tag, I’m It!

  1. Anika Denise says:

    Can’t wait to hold your debut novel in my hot little hands! Thanks for giving us a keyhole into your writing process and sharing those “witchy moves.” xo

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