Today's interview is a bit unique - a first for me. I've never actually read any of this author's books! However, I am a subscriber to and follower of her blog Go Teen Writers, as well as a member of its Facebook community. Being the face of a large part of the teen writing community, I felt like I ought to invite her to the party. I do plan to read her books eventually... meanwhile, her blog is above inspiring and awesome.
Hi Stephanie! Welcome to my blog! Let's start off with some generic questions.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing stories in 1st grade as part of my school curriculum and fell in love with it. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to be a writer. As I grew up, I was always writing stories and pursued it as a profession. Sometimes I wanted to be a writer and a teacher or a writer and a veterinarian, but writing was always going to be in the picture.
Who or what has had the most influence on you as a writer?
Oh gosh, it’s tough to pick just one thing. My parents are both readers, and they really encouraged me to pursue it. And then I married a man who believed in me as well and who was willing to do things like support me financially while I wrote full time for 2 years before we had kids. There’s no way I’d be where I am now if I hadn’t had parents and a husband who helped me to prioritize and respect my dream.
How much research do you usually put into your books?
It depends on the book. Because I write contemporaries, I don’t have to do the insane amount of research that my historical writer friends do, but it’s still important that I get my facts straight. Like in my book that’s releasing this spring, The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet, my main character lives in Visalia, California. I lived there as a little girl, but I was never a high school student there. I spent a lot of time on Google Streetview and exchanging emails with my childhood best friend who graduated from Redwood High School.
Ooo, I love Google Maps. I don't know where a lot of writers today would be without it.
Do you base events or people in your books off of your life, or your friends' and family's lives?
Sometimes I do, though typically I use it as a springboard to something “better.” I’ve found that when I rip something out of my life and plunk it down in fiction, I don’t go nearly as deep with it as I do the other scenes. I don’t think through what the other characters are motivated by nearly as well as I do when I’m writing other completely made-up scenes.
I just recently saw your blog post about that, ironically.
What do you do when you're not writing?
I’m home with my two kids. McKenna is 5 and Connor is 2½. They keep me humble and give me a great excuse to dress up like a princess or play car crash. It’s great.
What was the biggest obstacle to getting published for the first time, and how did you overcome it?
Well … that’s a tough one to answer. The first time, it honestly happened very quickly for me. Practically as soon as my writing became close to publishable, an agent signed me, and a few months later I had a contract for the Skylar Hoyt series.
Honestly, it still kinda baffles me how that all came about. While I had worked hard for several years to improve my craft, the getting published part wasn’t too tricky. I don’t know why. I know lots of amazing authors who can’t seem to find an agent, and I know lots of amazing writers with agents who can’t seem to find a home with a publishing house.
In light of all that, I think going to writers’ conferences was what made the biggest difference for me. I never got anywhere with query letters, but when I attended conferences I not only learned a ton, but I was able to meet face-to-face with writers and industry professionals. It made a big difference for me.
What is your writing process? Do you write regularly at certain times or just when inspiration hits?
I write regularly at certain times … but mostly because if I didn’t schedule it, it wouldn’t happen. My time would get eaten up with laundry or putting away lunch dishes or something.
When my kids are napping, I write or work on writing related stuff (like marketing or Go Teen Writers). And the grandparents come over and hang out with the kids a couple mornings a week so I can have a chunk of time to get stuff done.
What keeps you motivated?
That I love it so much. I mean, these days I get reader mail, which is super encouraging and which I appreciate greatly. But it’s never taken much to motivate me to write. Even if I never had another book published, I would keep writing stories.
Are there any books you wish you'd written?
Well, aside from the obvious like Hunger Games or Harry Potter or something? There are definitely book ideas that I’m jealous of. I adore the concepts of both The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Ann Brashares and The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot. So simple and relatable, yet so easy to pitch in one sentences! And I have title envy everytime I look at my copy of Carolyn Mackler’s The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things.
Haha, honestly I've read the first two and wasn't a big fan. Well, okay, the first Pants book or two was really good; I just didn't like the later ones. Everyone has a different opinion, though. To each her own!
What inspired the Go Teen Writers website? How did it all start?
Practically the day my debut, Me, Just Different, hit shelves, I was receiving emails from teen writers, asking for advice. I’ve never thought of myself as a teacher, but I really enjoyed talking to them about writing. When I created the blog, I did it with my teen writer self in mind, and I did it in hopes of passing on knowledge that I know would have helped me.
What was your favorite book or author as a teen? What's your favorite now?
I went to a college prep high school and was in a rather demanding AP English class, so I honestly didn’t read a ton of non-assigned stuff in high school. (I spent free time writing instead.) We read a ton of great books though. My favorites were The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. My senior year we read the classic writing book Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. It was a life changing experience for me.
If you could only share one piece of advice from GTW with aspiring teen authors, what would it be?
I think everything on Go Teen Writers really boils down to if you love writing and want to be published, respect your dream and your stories enough to do it WELL. Avoid the temptation to take shortcuts with your writing, or with getting your books out there. Being successful requires patience and endurance. And good writing friends!
Thanks for stopping by, Stephanie!
Stephanie Morrill is a twenty-something living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. Her only talents are reading, writing, and drinking coffee, so career options were somewhat limited. Fortunately she discovered a passion for young adult novels and has been writing them ever since.
Stephanie is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and is currently working on other young adult projects. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers on her blog, www.GoTeenWriters.com. To connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out www.StephanieMorrill.com.