The Heartbreakers is her first novel; the second in the series is called The Crushes, The Friends, third in the series is due out this summer. Teen fiction writer talks about writing…

I’ve read The Heartbreakers & The Crushes and am eagerly awaiting the third book, The Friends.
The characters have grown on me, and I’m looking forward to finding out what they’re up to in the next installment. I’d like to ask you a few questions about writing and publishing.
How did you come up with the idea for The Heartbreakers?

I went through a really bad breakup when I was working on my degree at Pepperdine. Breakups have always been hard for me—even when I was in high school I tended to take them so much more seriously than the other person who was breaking up with me.

I feel very deeply and as a result of that I tend to get really sad when I’m about to separate from someone. The end just seems so final to me. Since I was studying psychology, I knew that crying and begging a guy back that didn’t want you anymore was emotional suicide. My friends were sick of hearing about my breakup, so I decided to write a story about what I was feeling and going through.

I created the breakup code. I followed my own breakup code to help me get over my Ex. I figured there must be other girls going through what I was going through, so I decided to write a book about surviving a breakup while empowering yourself as you get over it.

Was it developed in one of your writing classes?

No, Heartbreakers was not developed in a writing class, but at Pepperdine.

How do you come up with new ideas for your stories?

I come up with ideas from life. People inspire me all the time. As a journalist, I have the pleasure of meeting new people on a daily basis. I love talking with people and listening to their stories and what they’ve gone through.

Do you research your settings and characters?

Yes, I came up with Birch Falls, Connecticut because I love the east coast. I knew that I planned to go to school in Boston to get my M.F.A. so I thought it would be cool to create a climate where the girls were in a cold environment close to Boston while they were going through these breakups.

Are any of your characters based on people you known or have known in real life?

Yes and no. All the girls and boys in Heartbreakers are fictional. I do pick names from real life of people that I know. I may use a trait or two of someone from my real life. An example: Kelly loves Will but Will loves Will. I knew a friend in high school who loved this guy and the ground that he walked upon. While this particular guy liked her as well, he didn’t seem to LOVE her the way she loved him. Do not get me wrong, he liked her, but she loved him.

I was a good friend of this guy and a good friend of this girl. She would have me get on the phone with the two of them so that they could just talk, so I got to see up close how much she liked him but his feelings were not as strong for her.

So I created Kelly as a girl that was into a guy that wasn’t really that into her but still liked her in some way (which is how I perceived their relationship when I was in high school). I also based Sydney and Kelly off of me with my friend.

Off page: prior to the book opening, Sydney uses Kelly to get Drew to notice her. My friend did this with a good friend of mine in high school. She used me to get close to my friend because she had a crush on him. So I guess, I do take situations from my real life and exaggerate them to fit into a fictional novel that I hope my readers will enjoy.

In The Heartbreakers, you use many narrators to tell your story.
Why did you decide to use that technique?

I wanted to create a book about four different girls but I also wanted these four girls to be going through the same thing. I wanted to show that even though the girls are different the pain is the same when you break up with someone.

I wanted the book to end empowering with the girls getting over these breakups and not letting these breakups destroy them as so many of us do.

I created four different girls so that the reader could find themselves in at least one of them. Sydney, Kelly, Raven and Alexia are all extensions of me. I have been each of those girls at different times in my life and with different boys. It was important to me that my reader be able to identify with at least one of these girls and one of their storylines, so I figured out of four girls, the reader would root for at least one of them.

You are not a teen anymore.
Is it hard to recapture the voice of teens when you use them as a narrators for your stories?

I have actually found my calling here. I don’t find it hard to do at all. It is like I never left my teen years. I have so many friends who tell me that I should grow up. I find it easier to relate to teens than I do adults, so I guess I’m lucky in that I’m still a teen at heart with a teen voice.

You currently work as a newspaper reporter. Do you find it difficult to switch back and forth between the style of writing required by reporting (spare and to-the-point) and the descriptive story-telling required of fiction writing?

I don’t find it difficult because I have trained in these two different areas. I started out like most writers writing short stories and plays for my family and friends, but I never thought I would write a book or get one published.

I knew that I loved writing and people so I majored in journalism in college. I think that if I didn’t have training in both areas, then it would be hard for me to do.

Since I started out as a newspaper reporter, I’m used to the inverted pyramid, get the facts and report what you see and leave your voice out. But, my training in the M.F.A. writing program helps me to shed that and focus on descriptions and creating a world that my readers want to read about.

All writers should get formal training in writing in the genre or field that they write in.

We’ve all heard the stories about how difficult is to get published.
How long did it take you to get The Heartbreakers published?

I was lucky with my Heartbreakers Book Series. It got published in two months on three sample chapters. I’m the exception to the rule. Most writers must write a full book before a publisher will pick them up.

How many different publishing houses did you send it to?

I have a Cinderella story here because we only sent it to Scholastic and my editor bought it right away on just three sample chapters and an outline.

Do you have other novels that you’ve written and sent to publishing houses that have not been published?

Yes, every writer does. I have several books that I hope to get published one day.

Is getting published a difficult thing when you are not in New York – where your publisher, Point is located?

It’s not about where you live. It’s about how well-written your manuscript is.
I think it is more important that your agent live in New York and not you.

Do you have a literary agent? If so, how did you get him/her?

Yes! I was referred to my current agent by a friend who writes books.

How important do you think it is to have an agent?

It depends on who you are. There are no set rules in publishing. Each person’s story is different and unique. I know some writers who hate agents and do not feel they need one. I advise writers to have an agent. Do your research before signing with one.

Teen novels are very popular right now – they’re front and center on display in the bookstores. Do you think that popularity makes it easier or more difficult to get published – as everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon to write for teens, including many popular adult novelists like James Patterson, Robert B. Parker, Sherman Alexie, Michael Chabon and Nick Hornby?

I think this popularity makes it easier to get published as publishers are looking for the next big teen thing. I also think that this popularity makes it more competitive and harder for a new writer to break into the publishing arena.

What do you like to read?

I love to read romance books. I was a big teen romance reader and I still am.

What is your favorite book?

Upstate by Kalisha Buckhanon and Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin.

The third book in your series, The Friends is due out in December.
Do you have any other new projects in the works?

Yes! I’m working on a spin-off from Heartbreakers—.