First off, how are you and how is your 2021 going?
Oh gosh, thank you for asking! I can’t complain. I’ve finally gotten the hang of Zoom and spend a lot of time bopping between group chats and writing and hanging out with my family, so I’ve been keeping busy. I also have a new pandemic ritual of drinking a decaf coconut tea and eating chocolate mug cake after dinner every night, which certainly improves one’s general state of being.
We’re super excited to be reading ‘You Have a Match’ for our March Zoella Book Club pick. Can you take us through the process of writing it?
I’m so excited you’re reading it!! It was a fun and unexpected process — I was working as a viral news editor at the time and saw so many stories about people finding half-siblings through DNA tests that I thought to myself, Wow, how strange would it be if you found a full-blooded sibling you didn’t know about? I hadn’t even sold my first book yet, so I tucked the idea away for probably a year before I showed it to my editor. After that I hit the ground running on plotting and writing it about two years ago, getting up super early in the morning and carving out time on weekends (I work as a digital media editor during the day). It was especially fun to write a book set in the Pacific Northwest, because I spent about half my childhood there, so it felt like a fun little fist-bump to my baby self!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to write YA fiction?
Oooh. A ton, but mostly just to write what makes you happy. I’ve often found that the things that make you happiest to write are the things people are going to want to read. You can really see the passion authors have for their work in any kind of YA, whether it’s a romance or a thriller or a family-focused book, and their love for it is often what takes it the extra mile and makes it all the more memorable.
Can you tell us about some of your other work and writing projects?
Yes yes! My debut novel, Tweet Cute, is about two classmates — overachieving Pepper, whose parents own a fast-food chain, and class clown Jack, whose family owns a beloved New York City deli — who end up in a Twitter feud over a stolen grilled cheese recipe without realizing they’re at war with each other. Shenanigans ensue, and there is a TON of dessert involved.
My next book will be about a loudmouthed Broadway hopeful named Millie who has to compete with her rival to land an internship to help her figure out which one of three potential women is the mom who left her with her dad at birth — it’s basically what happens when you squish ABBA and Broadway into a confetti cannon and set it loose. I’m super excited for it to come out.
What is the most satisfying part of writing a novel?
Almost certainly whenever someone says the names of my characters back to me. It never gets old. It’s so strange that a person you conceived of in your head can then exist in another person’s head, that they can have an understanding of them the same way you do. I think it means so much to me just because I’ve been writing fanfiction my whole life and considering other people’s characters, so it’s bewildering and super cool to think that anyone would think about mine.
What are some of your favourite recent reads?
Amelia Unabridged by Ashley Schumacher, Counting Down With You by Tashie Bhuiyan, and Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas were all books I TORE through recently.
How do you make time to both work and write for a living?
The funny thing is, because I’ve just always been writing, it doesn’t feel all that hard to make time. There are some weeks where I may have deadlines (usually self-imposed; I’ve been lucky to work with a team that gives me plenty of time to write!) that I’m more stressed than others. But I’ve been writing fanfiction since I was a little kid and my own fiction since I was a teenager; aside from running and singing, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do in my spare time, so the time I spend writing in my off-hours after work is just time I would have spent writing for free anyway. As for my actual job — I’m very lucky to be doing something I love (I work as a Shopping Editor for BuzzFeed) and something that feels very different from fiction writing, so I can easily switch between the two without ever feeling burnt out.
Fiction writing is slower and what I do during the day is much more fast-paced, which appeals to two different parts of me and is really just like *chef’s kiss* in terms of balance. I also just love the heck out of my coworkers — when I’m writing, my only coworker is my Baby Yoda plushie, and while he’s cute, he’s not particularly chatty during the day!
What are you currently working on?
My fourth book, which is my first young adult book that will be set in ~college~ — I’m so jazzed about it, it’s been a really fun opportunity to look back on what was a really fun and turbulent and defining time in my own life. I also have a ton of other ideas in the pipeline and have no idea what’ll happen with them yet, but I love to kick them around in my spare time since it’s my brain’s favorite thing to do.
Who are some of your favourite follows online?
Um, every bakery in New York. The Sprinkles Cupcakes, Ole & Steen, Magnolia Bakery, Chip City, Butterfield Market, Orwasher’s, Supermoon Bakehouse, Shortbread Society, Baked By Melissa, and Red Gate Bakery accounts are some forever faves. I also follow a lot of aesthetically pleasing businesses like My Oh My Supply Co (millennial lifestyle brand FULL of fun Disney-esque apparel) and Happenstance Candles (Taylor Swift-themed candles!) and Surprisingly Baked (cookies that take it to the next LEVEL) and Ideal Bookshelf (beautifully illustrated bookwares). Basically, if it’s cute or I can eat it, I WILL FOLLOW.
What does your perfect weekend look like?
Oooh. On Saturday I get up early and go for a loooong, long run around Central Park — I like to clock in between eight and ten miles. Then I’ll come home and make myself a very delicious brunch while watching something on the computer. For a few hours I’ll write or plot, and then I’ll venture out to whichever bakery has the dessert I’m most excited about that week (I have a lil’ ritual where I check the Instagrams of all my favourite places on Friday night and decide in advance). I’ll call my mom or one of my sisters and chat on my walk over. I’ll read in the park for a little while and wander back to my apartment for a glass of wine and sushi, and will intermittently watch a movie and write for the rest of the night. Sunday I’ll go for a shorter run just to wake myself up before going to a community theatre rehearsal — there’s a group called AfterWork Theater in New York I’m part of, and I can’t wait for us to start back up again once it’s safe. We’ll usually be there for a few hours to dance and sing our heads off, and then in the afternoon, we’ll get drinks and apps nearby, then spiral off to the subway to go home. I’ll set my life out for the coming weekday, probably eat a big ole mug cake, and go to bed early, because I am a millennial grandma.
What do you always carry with you?
My AirPods, but more specifically, the Goldfish cracker bag-shaped silicone case I put on them. The snack that smiles back!!
What would your last ever meal be?
Thank you for asking this, because I think about it a LOT. It would be a crusty sourdough roll cut in half and toasted with a bunch of butter and Jarlsberg cheese, two sunny side up eggs that are slightly burnt on the bottom, a side of mustard, some kind of fruit-flavoured yoghurt with granola, English Breakfast tea with sugar and half ‘n half, and some kind of chocolate dessert (I love Oreos and any kind of caramel or peanut-buttery chocolate bar). To be clear, this is the precise brunch that I eat after my long runs on Saturdays, and I will never not love it to pieces.
What is one positive piece of advice you could give to our audience?
I’ll steal it from my mom: “Run your own race.” It’s always going to be easy to try and hold other people’s lives up to yours as a measuring stick, particularly if they have something you want. But worrying about what other people have in life isn’t going to help you change anything about your own; sometimes you just have to keep your eyes on your own paper, work toward your goals in your own way, and trust the process. Better to achieve something your own way than to get it faster by trying to copy someone else, and never fully feeling like it’s your own.