Now, on to the good stuff:
1. Tell us about your most recent novel in 25 words or less.
In MAGIC AND THE MODERN GIRL, librarian-witch Jane Madison works a desperate spell to regain lost powers, turning her magical and personal lives upside down.
(Whew! That was harder than I thought it would be! And yes, "librarian-witch" IS one word. Why do you ask? And before I go any further, thank you, Brenda, for giving me the chance to chat here!)
2. What are you working on right now?
I'm hard at work on WHEN GOOD WISHES GO BAD, the second volume in the As You Wish series, about a wish-granting genie who always manages to complicate the lives of the people he's supposed to help. (The first volume in this new series, HOW NOT TO MAKE A WISH, will be in stores in October 2009.) I've drawn on my experience as a stage manager to tell these stories, which all take place in the emotion-charged world of small theater companies. GOOD WISHES involves guerilla gardening, true love, embezzlement, failed Valentines dreams, and the Peace Corps.
3. What is your favorite part of writing? Least favorite?
I love editing sections of my work that I've already written. I write a novel chapter by chapter, drafting about 5000 words at a time. When I finish my first draft, I read through it, making substantial changes (the skeleton stays the same, but the structure of every single sentence is twisted, tweaked, and turned on its head.) I love that stage -- playing with my own words. I often read bits out loud, looking for the rhythms of real speech, searching for the flow of true thought. (After the major edit of each chapter, I do another one or two read-throughs, for stylistic consistence, grammar, and spelling, but it's the first edit that I love most.)
My least favorite part of writing is creating first drafts. I find a million ways to distract myself before I settle in to write -- I answer interview questions (ahem!), I play online Boggle, I file my fingernails.... Once I get a hundred words on the screen, I can move forward without hesitation, but that first blank screen throws me every time.
4. How do you usually begin your stories -- with a character or with a plot?
I generally begin my stories with a character. I get to know her personality traits, the quirks that make her unique. Those traits often depend on the standard rules of her society, so I expand my knowledge of the story from character to world-building. (World-building, a staple of fantasy fiction, also applies to other genres. In MAGIC AND THE MODERN GIRL, for example, I create a realistic library with believable patron, um, challenges, to better illustrate my main character. Part of my goal as a writer is to make readers understand how actual libraries work.) Only after I know the general surroundings do I figure out the specific plot twists that will display that character best, that will lay out the structure of my world and all of its complications.
I outline my novels while I write, taking advantage of the software program Scrivener, to create files for each chapter. Generally, I stick with my character sketches and world-building close to 100% as I write, but my plot slips and slides, as I discover new ways to heighten the tension of the story (read: As I throw previously unplanned complications across my characters' paths!)
5. Do a quick character study on yourself: don't forget to add in the fun stuff, like favorite foods and things you love/hate!
I am a happily married (I met my husband on Match.com) full-time writer (after careers as a lawyer and a librarian) who is currently owned by two cats. While, as a kid, I wished that I had long, straight, blonde hair, I've learned to be satisfied with my shoulder- length dark brown waves. My eyes are an unremarkable brown, noteworthy only for the fact that I am legally blind (but my vision is corrected to 20/20 by contact lenses.)
I'm far more likely to be wearing jeans than a dress. While I might have remembered to put on a bit of blush and a dash of mascara this morning, I definitely forgot to add lipstick. On weekends, I sometimes stay in pajamas all day (adding slippers and a scarf in the winter -- I'm almost always cold.)
I am in love with most forms of cheese and nearly any hearty bread.
Not coincidentally, I am almost always counting points with Weight Watchers. (I can count to some shockingly high numbers...) I prefer dark chocolate to milk and tea to coffee. If tapioca were the only dessert on earth, I'd never eat dessert again. Mustard is the condiment of the devil.
My to-be-read pile is constantly threatening to collapse on top of me. Lately, I've been reading a lot of romance (I'm a judge for the Romance Writers of America RITA contest), and I'm learning about graphic novels. I wish that I had more time to keep up with mysteries and with literary fiction and with creative non-fiction, and, and, and....
I'm sure that I'm forgetting major character traits, but they'll reveal themselves as I continue to write the story of my life!
Brenda - thanks again for the chance to answer some questions! I'll keep an eye on comments and answer any more questions that people ask. (And I look forward to sending a signed copy of MAGIC AND THE MODERN GIRL to the one person that Brenda chooses, from everyone who posts in comments.) Happy Valentines Day!
Want to win a free copy of Mindy's book? Just leave a comment below and you're entered! Want extra entries? That can be arranged.... Blog about it for another entry. Become of follower of this blog for another entry, too.
The winner will be announced on February 26th.