This week, Heather Duffy-Stone joins us this week to discuss writing and her new book, THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO TELL YOU (Flux, March 2009). Below, she talks about how her day job is a perfect fit for YA and how Friday Night Lights will just have to share their talent when the movie rights are sold.
1) What is your typical writing day like?
Oh how I wish there were such a thing! On a typical weekday I wake up between 5:30 and 6:00. On very good days I wake up at 5:00 and go to the gym… otherwise I eat some oatmeal, drink a lot of coffee and go to work. It takes me a little over an hour to get to and from school (I work as a high school counselor). A lot of times I write (by hand!) on the train, or read over pages. I work until 5:00 or 6:00… I try to write at least two nights a week when I am not grading papers or trying to have a life. Saturday morning I wake up and write, do laundry, drink too much coffee, and Sunday I write for 4 or 5 hours pretty diligently (this consists of writing in silence, reading paragraphs out loud, asking strangers for synonyms, and re-writing the same sentence a zillion times) at a favorite Park Slope coffee spot with my writing right hand, Darci M. Then I head to the upper west side and teach a writing workshop. That is more of my writing week I guess.
2) Why did you decide to write YA?
I didn’t mean to really, and yet I always did. These characters just came to me. And actually, when I wrote about them in another story a few years before I started THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO TELL YOU, the twins were in it, but they were only four. The story was about their mom. But I just started writing this and it just came out. And I work in a high school so I think the stories I telling were naturally influenced by this time in life, by wanting to write about high school and that in between. Now it feels like my voice fits here.
3) What is the biggest surprise you’ve experienced when it comes to book publishing?
Honestly? That I published a book at all!
4) Do you ever have any “dark days,” when you wonder why you’re a writer? What are those like, and how to you get through them?
No. I mean I really don’t. I love my other career too, as a high school counselor, and so that may help. But I love writing stories. I suppose I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t, or if there came a time when it was too draining, I’d take a break. The darkest days are when I feel like I don’t have enough time to write. When the story is just pushing out of me and I have to go to a meeting or be focused on my day job. I take a lot of notes onn those days, so I can store the ideas until I get to a place where I can write. And I dream about summer vacations– long, uninterrupted writing days!
5) Authors talk about “the call.” Usually, it has to deal with getting an agent or getting published or getting an accolade. What was the best “call” you ever received in terms of your writing, and how did it go down?
I just remember the first time I spoke to my editor about my book, this was before we’d even signed a contract. He had just read it (this was Andrew Karee, AMAZING Andrew Karre who used to be with Flux) and he called me one morning before work and I remember where I was sitting at my kitchen table, with a pen and pad to take notes, and he talked about my characters and my story in a way that made me think, wow. Someone gets this. This might actually go somewhere. I was dizzy with excitement when we hung up.
BONUS QUESTION: This week, we talked about who we’d cast as the leads in our books if Steven Spielberg ever came a’knockin’. Who would be your picks?
This question is amazing because I just did this– with my favorite TV show Friday Night Lights.
Nadio: Matt Saracen
Matthew Levitt: Landry
Jessica Marino: Tyra
Lace: Tami Taylor
Noelle: Noelle is the only problem. Lyla is too beautiful to be Noelle. But her coloring is right. Noelle, the very main character, is then left un-cast. Suggestions welcome! (The closest I have is Linda Cardellini of her Freaks & Geeks days)
Thank you so much for having me!!
Thank you, Heather! For more, visit her site.