Did you always want to be a writer?
I always knew I wanted to tell stories, and I was always drawn to writing, because, as a shy kid, it felt like a natural way to express myself. I could be funny and goofy and outgoing on the page in ways I struggled to be in real life. Even as I got older and a little more confident, writing remained my solace, something I returned to again and again. But I still wondered if I could make a career out of it. It took many, many years to write my first novel and then to get an agent and a publisher. But I'm incredibly grateful that I now get to do this for a living.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
The best thing I ever did for my writing was to focus on my reading. The more you read, the more you'll figure out what kind of books you love and what about those books works best in your eyes. What do you most enjoy in your favorite books? Lots of dialogue? Pages of rich, vivid descriptions? A fast-paced, adventurous plot or a slower, contemplative one? All of your likes and dislikes can help you figure out how to structure your own stories.
Also, try to write as much as possible. Even a couple hundred words a day totally counts! Don't be dismayed if you hate everything you write at first (trust me; everyone does). Instead, take it as a sign that you just need to keep going. The more "bad" writing you produce, the closer you are to finding your voice, I promise. Patience is so necessary here.
And finally, don't forget to try to have fun! If writing is causing you a lot of heartache, step back, take a break, and read for a while instead. There's no getting around it: writing is a lot of hard work, but you are allowed to give yourself space when you need it. Take care of yourself above all things.
How did you get your agent?
Slush pile! I also did a lot of research to make sure I was focusing on agents who represented the type of book I wrote and who I felt would be a good match for my writing. Research really is invaluable in this process.
A few things I highly recommend if you're currently trying to find an agent: read about how to write a good query letter, read interviews with and blog posts by agents you're interested in, read books written by those agents' clients (you can find those clients on an agent's website!), and, of course, make you sure you have a polished, well-edited manuscript to send when someone you've queried asks to read it. Patience is, again, really important. In any stage of publishing, a lot of waiting is involved, so when you send your work out, be easy on yourself. Try not to refresh your e-mail too many times a day. Drink water, deep breaths, you've got this.
What's your writing process like?
Honestly, it changes all the time.
When I was first starting on the project that would become Seven Days of You, I threw myself into it, writing late into the night and in absolutely every window of time I could squeeze between work and seeing friends and taking care of my dog. But working on my next book has made me realize that this kind of obsessive schedule just isn't sustainable for me. I now set strict writing limits: I usually write for about four structured hours a day with a five-minute break every 25 minutes for my brain to reset. (You might be familiar with this method. It's called the Pomodoro Technique and it super works for me.)
When I say structured writing limits, this is what I mean: I sit at my desk and turn off my internet (and I mean absolutely no internet at all), and then I put my cell phone away so I don't get the urge to distract myself by sending text messages or finding out what my friends are up to. If I tell myself, I have "all day to write", I will honestly be very unproductive and stressed, and, when evening comes, I won't have much to show for my efforts. (Well, sometimes, I'll have cookies I've baked or recipes I've pinned to Pinterest, or, in the worst-case scenarios, a migraine...but that's not exactly what I was going for.) I've figured out that, if I give myself a time window with a clear end point, my productivity is much, much higher. And then I have the rest of the day to answer e-mail, take care of admin tasks, and, of course, daydream about my next project. (And maaaaybe bake some cookies....)
Where did you get the idea for Seven Days of You?
Like the main character, Sophia, I was raised between the States, Japan, and France. Some of the most vivid memories I have of all of these moves was how difficult it was to leave behind the places that had come to feel like home. I remember how intense the last few days always were: the stress of packing, how desperate I was to eat all my favorite foods and hang out with my friends, and how much I just wanted to hold on tightly to every second before I had to let them all go. That experience stuck with me long after the moves were over. Eventually, it occurred to me that there was a lot to explore in the experience of leaving your whole world behind, and I thought it might be interesting to watch a group of characters deal with that. And so I started to write the first (and, honestly, very bad) draft of Seven Days of You.
Why did you decide to set it in Japan?
For me, this story was always about Tokyo. Of all the moves I went through, leaving Tokyo when I was sixteen was the most difficult to get over. Even though I didn't have the dramatic, romantic week Sophia does, I was incredibly attached to the city in the same way she is. When this idea came to me, Tokyo instantly came with it. I wanted to try and capture my memories of the city and what it did (and still does) mean to me.
Will we get to see more of Sophia and Jamie's story?
Currently, there are no plans for a sequel. And, though I know some of you may be disappointed to hear this, I'm actually really happy with where I left Sophia and Jamie. I wanted to end their story with hope and promise for the future. After all, in many ways, their stories are beginning, not ending, with this week. But! That doesn't mean a sequel will never happen. I adored writing these characters, and they feel so real to me. So if an idea for a sequel ever comes to me, I might not be able to resist it.
What's next from you?
The Summer of Us will be published in June 2018 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in the U.S. and Orion Children's in the U.K. It's not a sequel to Seven Days of You, but it explores a lot of issues I touched on in Seven Days and wanted to the opportunity to dive in and explore more. Particularly: close-knit friend groups and how complicated and nourishing and important and messy they can be. It's also about train travel and gelato and falling in love in Prague, Paris, Barcelona. I can't wait to share more with you soon!