Author of "The Immortalists" & "The Anatomy of Dreams"
As a child, what did you dream of becoming when you grew up?
A writer! Though I also loved other forms of the arts, theater and dance especially.
How did your friends/family react when you told them you wanted to be a writer?
My family has always been supportive, which I don't take for granted--I know how lucky I am, and that many artists have a different experience.
Which novels/works confirmed that you wanted to be a writer?
Ooh, so many! I was a huge reader as a kid/teen and I think all of the fantastic YA that was available in the 90s got into my bloodstream--A Wrinkle in Time, The Giver, Harry Potter, His Dark Materials, and much more.
What aspects of your job do you like best/least?
Best: Having the opportunity to do what I love for a living. That's a huge gift and I often can't believe it.
Least: Probably the pressure and anxiety I feel to succeed, but that's largely of my own making! Oh, and I've done a LOT of travel--which is also a gift and a luxury--but it's made it harder to sink back into my creative cave to focus on the next book.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Read, write, revise, repeat.
How do you handle criticism when it comes your way?
I'm still working on it. The ideal is to take criticism in with grace and curiosity, weighing whether or not it resonates. But of course, that's easier said than done, and we live in a culture that is very opinion-driven, so at a certain point, I think you (I!) have to turn off the computer/phone and not take quite so much in. The sheer volume and breadth of opinions can be paralyzing. I'm always trying to find a balance between learning from other people's thoughts and trusting my vision/instincts.
How do you bounce back from a defeat?
I try to look at what went wrong and why. Speaking specifically about rejection in the writing world--it is inevitable. I've received hundreds of rejections throughout my career, from ten years ago to a few weeks ago! Quite literally, you will not be successful if you stop when you experience rejection, because we all do. So I think tenacity is important, but also a willingness to learn and grow.
What books could you read over and over again?
Two things come to mind: The Golden Compass, and any short story by Alice Munro.
What do you most value in others?
Compassion, loyalty, self-awareness.
How do you define success?
The ability to do what I'm passionate about and make an impact through it.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Be patient. I know you're really bad at it, but try harder.
What is your biggest guilty pleasure?
Really trashy reality TV. And Cheez-Its.
Describe yourself in 5 words:
Passionate, perceptive, empathetic, creative, motivated. (I guess those are all positive words. I could throw a few negatives in there, too! Impatient, obsessive, prone to losing my phone/wallet/keys...)
Which living person do you admire most?
What do you wish to achieve in the following decade?
Stable artistic success (ha! Does such a thing exist?) and strong relationships.
When was the last time you took a leap of faith?
In waiting to sell The Immortalists to a publisher until I'd finished it, passing up the opportunity to secure a modest deal when I was halfway through in the hope of finding a publisher who was more invested.
Any advice for those wanting to become writers/live their best lives?
Writing is hard. So is living! Be gentle with yourself and with others, if you can.
Any last words?
Thanks so much for having me!
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