How long did it take you to write ‘Savvy’?
The first draft of Savvy came very quickly—about four and a half months. I was working at the time and I’m a single mom, so I’m not even sure how it happened that fast. Once I found an agent and a publisher, I spent several more months in the revision and editing process. But start to finish, from the first sentence that popped into my head to the last line edit emailed back to my editor, the book took about nine months. I’m not sure I’ll ever achieve that kind of pace again!
Where did you get your inspiration for ‘Savvy’?
At first, I wanted to write a book about magical kids without ever using the word magic. I also wanted that ‘magic’ to reflect a sense of
How did you come up with the names for the characters?
Some of the names just popped straight into my head without any thought. Like Fish and Grandpa Bomba. Others, like Grandma Dollop and Mibs, took a little more thought—though, for different reasons. Basically, the names of the characters from the ‘savvy’ family tree are often unusual or reflect something about the character or their abilities. While the more every-day characters tend to have more every-day names. Mibs needed a name all her own, to stand out even from her family.
The process of naming characters has a magic all its own. Fish can’t go near water… but that didn’t even occur to me until later. Some might think Grandpa Bomba’s stories about creating the state of Idaho are “bombastic”—high-flown or inflated—but, like ‘Fish,’ I didn’t think it through that far. The name ‘Samson’ happened to be used in a song I was listening to a lot at that time. I liked the song and its mood so much, it inspired me to use the name. I could go on and on… I love names.
How long have you been writing in general?
I’ve been imagining stories since I was a kid. But I didn’t start writing them down until I could type. Before that happened, my handwriting simply couldn’t keep up with my ideas. I wrote my first novel-length story about eighteen years ago, but I didn’t begin to take my writing seriously until a few years ago.
Do you listen to music while you write? What kind?
Songs and music have always inspired story ideas and help me imagine characters and scenes, like “Samson” and “Fidelity” by Regina Spektor, both of which I listened to while writing Savvy. For my new book, I like the song “Torn Asunder” by Far Too Jones.
However, if I listen to music when I’m actually sitting and writing, it can’t have words or even shift in mood too dramatically. I can, however, use music as a tool to bring my mind into a creative space. It’s kind of Pavlovian, really. If I’ve played a piece of music on a loop for long enough while writing, if I later find myself struggling to find a creative spark, sometimes simply listening to that music again will help me. Certain soundtrack pieces really work well. Lately, a few of the things I’ve been looping are: “Tristan” from the Stardust soundtrack, “Rachel’s Song” from the Blade Runner soundtrack, and “Nothing Else Matters” performed by Apocalyptica (it’s a cello version of a Metallica song, actually). But those are just a few.
What is the fist thing you do when you get a new story idea?
The first thing I do is try to write down as many details about the idea as I can before it gets away. Ideas can be so slippery! Then I let myself imagine it for a while. I let myself form mental images and feelings around the idea without writing.
What are some of your favorite books?
Two of my recent favorites have been A Crooked Kind of Perfect, by Linda Urban, and Red Glass, by Laura Resau. I’m a big fan of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonrider books, Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series, and the novels of Diana Wynne Jones—those last were some of my favorites growing up. I’ve always loved fantasy, science fiction, mysteries, and adventures. But I also love books with a deep connection to the heart.
Who influenced you the most to write, and how?
Probably my daughter and her father… Her father first, because he is a writer and encouraged me to start writing when I still felt shy and silly about it, and he has never ceased in his encouragement over the years. And my daughter because she has always loved (and still loves) to hear stories. Aren’t the words: “Tell me a story…” the best inspiration ever?
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you bring with you, and why?
1) My family. (Can I count them as one “thing?”) Because I’m not sure I could live without them.
2) My friends. Same reason.
3) My agent. Because he’d find a way to answer all my questions, reassure me when I get nervous, and help sell the book I’ll write about my experiences on the island afterward.
Or a bottle of aspirin, SPF100 sunscreen, and mosquito netting.
Thank you so much for the terrific questions and for having me on your blog!
What a fun interview!
Fun stuff. I loved the questions and answers both and I think the idea to bring her agent along to the desert island was brilliant.
This really is a fun interview. I love hearing about the names in particular.
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