I was born in Flint, Michigan, a city infamous for its water crisis and murder rates. And since my parents gave up their rock band to join a church when I was four, I heard gunfire on Saturdays and brimstone on Sundays.
I learned all about following rules as I grew up. (And breaking them.) In '97, I found myself staring at the angry eyebrows of a woman expelling me from an extremely strict Baptist college because I, as a young woman, had stepped foot off campus without a chaperone. She didn't like the expression of my irritation that the freshman boys didn't have to procure the same.
With more than enough fodder for poetry and personal essays, I graduated with my BA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan in 2000, the same year I married a man who's clearly the better half of this whole. In 2004, I earned my master's in Secondary English Education to teach high-schoolers the stories with which I'd been enamored since I was in pigtails. (Ahh, Romeo and Juliet!)
I'm the mom to three little boys and a rescue pup who will steal your sandwich. I'm also a young adult author represented by Kari Sutherland with Bradford Literary Agency. My debut YA fantasy, GRAVEMAIDENS, will be published with Delacorte/ Random House on December 3, 2019, and I’m so excited about that, I’m jumping out of my skin. The sequel is forthcoming in '20. Gravemaidens recounts the tale of two sisters: Kammani, a 16-year-old healer's apprentice who wants to save the dying ruler of her city-state and Nanaea, Kammani’s little sister who will be buried alive as the ruler’s bride if he dies.
The problem? Nanaea wants the honor.
My sons say it's spooky, but cool.
Because I like tearing apart everyone else's writing along with my own, I'm the editor for Blue Ocean Brain, and am a recent addition to the Washington Post Talent Network. I've authored two test prep guides, ACT Strategy Smart, and Ace the ACT, both which are not boring.
I was the test prep expert for About.com for seven years, and have been published on sites like The Washington Post, Scholastic, MSN, Scary Mommy, Folks, Parent Map, and Sammiches and Psych Meds, too.
What jobs have you had? Housekeeper; ice cream scooper; Don Pablo's and Outback server; Y2K researcher (back when we thought the world was going to explode at midnight on January 1st, 2000); luxury apartment salesperson extraordinaire; middle school substitute teacher (hoo boy); high school teacher; writer; editor
What's the first book that made you cry? Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, who is still one of my favorite MG authors.
How long does it take you to write a book? Eleventy-million hours. Also, it depends on the type of book. I wrote ACT Strategy Smart in three months before edits, but it took me a full year to write Gravemaidens because of life and no deadlines. I’ve found, however, that on deadline I work faster. I wrote the first draft of the sequel to Gravemaidens in 42 days and the first draft of my YA Sci-fi work in progress, in 36 days.
What is the most difficult scene you've written in your latest book? My main character witnesses a woman getting the teeth bashed out of her head with a brick in Gravemaidens. It took me a week to write that scene because I kept having to force myself to write the accompanying sounds. Blech.
Which writer do you admire the most? Wow. It's really difficult to name just one, but if forced by sword point and a gangplank, I’m going to have to say Toni Morrison. She’s an all-around amazing author. Pulitzer prize-winner. Nobel prize-winner. Fought racism and misogyny despite everything thrown against her. She’s tough in her delivery of human truths. Remarkably so. But she crafts beauty with just as much ferocity.
If you weren't a writer, what would you be? Less anxious, for sure.
Where do you live? In Florida outside of Tampa.
Have you ever Googled yourself? You haven't? You should. You never know what's out there.
What's your favorite book? Soooooo manyyyyyy and for a multitude of different reasons. A few I love:
Pulitzers: Beloved, by Toni Morrison, The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
YA Fiction: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Giver by Lois Lowry, Legend by Marie Lu, An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh, Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli.
Got a favorite band? I love a wide range of music. Everything from Eminem to Jay Z to Maroon 5 to Elle King to Bishop Briggs. I don't write to music, though. White noise and white noise only.
Any favorite TV shows? Oh gosh, got a pen? The writing on The Good Wife is sneaky with the cliffhangers at the end of every show. I'm in love with WestWorld and The Handmaid's Tale. And of course, like the rest of the known world, I'm a This is Us FANATIC.
Favorite movies? Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Titanic. Braveheart. The Shawshank Redemption. Gladiator. Good Will Hunting. Slumdog Millionaire.
Can you do any cool tricks? I can roll my tongue three times. And I know most of the lyrics to "Mama Said Knock You Out" by LL Cool J. That's pretty much it. Oh! I can speak a little German, which comes in handy almost never.
What's something most people don't know about you? I sing all of the time when I'm home alone. If I try it in front of my kids, they tell me to be quiet. Also, even though I'm a serious extrovert (where's the party????), an ideal two hours would involve me sitting on my couch with a coffee, a blanket, and the next amazing YA novel.