Can you talk a little about other authors who’ve influenced you as a writer?
I write under the influence of Judy Blume, Terry McMillan, and Fyodor Dostoevsky. I admire Blume’s comic, breezy tone, McMillan’s excellent ear for dialogue and Dostoevsky’s deep, emotional resonance that jumps off the page.
When you started HOT GIRL, did you set out to write a book for young adults?
I’ve always thought of myself as an adult novelist, but one day, fellow writer, CJ Morales suggested that I write for teens, and her enthusiasm was so addictive, that I couldn’t resist the challenge. I put away an adult novel I was working on, and began creating my protagonist “Kate” from scratch.
Your narrator, Kate, is a fourteen-year-old who’s doing her best to figure out school, friendship, and family. What were you like when you were fourteen?
At the age of fourteen, I was funny, rebellious, and definitely headed down the wrong path. When I wasn’t on punishment for staying out late, or failing classes, I hung out with friends and we focused on making up dances for our own amusement and walking around the neighborhood in search of adventures. School was becoming a chore for me, and it showed in my report card.
HOT GIRL is your first published novel. What advice do you have for young people who want to be writers?
The best advice I can give is to study the craft of writing. Before I attended New York University for my degree in Creative Writing, I researched how to become a writer. By the time I entered college, I already understood plot, character development, climax, and denouement. I would also advise young people to pay attention in school because the formative years are important. My writing would be so much stronger if I had obtained a formal high school education instead of opting for an alternative school.
Do you ever get writers block? What do you do to overcome it?
Yes, I get writers block all the time. But I give myself deadlines and goals to reach so that I hold myself accountable. The truth is, no one is waiting for my work, so I have to push myself forward in the face of doubt. I’m also still trying to learn how to get something on the page instead of worrying about perfection so much that I’m staring at a blank page.