Everyone has an identity crisis when they are 16 or 17 years old.
We write in ways that, we generally hope, reflect real life, or at least look familiar to humans. And in life, recurring themes are a recurring theme. We never quite conquer a pet vice or a relationship pattern or a communication habit. We're haunted by our particular demons.
My first published book, 'Story of a Girl', was the fourth book I wrote.
When a young reader tells you that they'd never finished a book outside of school until they read yours, or that they really needed to hear something that one of your characters says or thinks... that's just rewarding and humbling.
Family or love or romance, whatever it is, is not restricted to perfect people. If it were, it wouldn't exist. All of that comes out in my work in some way.
When my characters are questioning things, it's not me leading up to an answer; it's me asking those same questions and letting the characters' lives unfold and seeing where it takes them.
My first job is to write the characters as full and authentic people as well as I can.
My books have been translated into various languages and sold in other countries, but I never have any contact with the foreign publishers and am so disconnected from that process that it seems almost imaginary. With 'How to Save a Life', I worked closely with Usborne editors and have been involved in the publicity.
I wouldn't say I'm stuck in my adolescence, but I think, like a lot of people, I carry my teen years with me. I feel really in touch with those feelings, and how intense and complicated life seems in those years.
The characters are whole, real people to me that I'm getting to know, and since real people are all flawed, so are my characters, I hope.
I have no desire to go back to San Francisco.
I remember being in high school and listening to Vivaldi's 'Winter' and being so overwhelmed with emotion.
I'm so focused on trying to craft the story that I'm in my own little world with it and that process. The one reader I'm trying to please as I write is me, and I'm pretty difficult to please.
I was a 'learn by doing' writer - I never took any formal writing classes. So it took a long time to figure things out and find my voice.
One of my favorite authors is Robert Cormier. He was a devout Catholic and a very nice man, which might not be the impression you get from reading his books.
I grew up in San Francisco in the 1970s. We were part of a church that belonged to the California Jesus movement.
Readers want a story, not a pattern. It's the specifics of a story that make it really ping our various reader radars.
Making lists of favorite things is, for me, a task ridden with anxiety. What if I've accidentally excluded something I love? What if I discover something new tomorrow that I love even more?
I'm not really a plot writer - I'm more interested in the characters and sort of small events that propel the story forward.
It's hard to say when my interest in writing began, or how. My mother read to my sister and me every night, and we always loved playing make-believe games. I had a well-primed imagination. I didn't start thinking about writing as a serious pursuit, a career I could have, until after college.