Monday, September 21, 2009

Interview with Mary Pearson!

Today, we have an interview with the amazing Mary Pearson. Mary has won the SCBWI Golden Kite award and honor, YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, Kirkus Best Young Adult Books, and much more. She has agreed to share some of her wisdom and experience with us, so let's just get right to it, shall we?

What was the inspiration behind THE MILES BETWEEN?
After writing two very heavy books, I simply wanted to write something that was fun. Combine that with a certain fascination with coincidence and the unlikely ones I have encountered and the wheels began turning. I thought what if there was a girl who was obsessed with coincidence? What if one particular day in her life had bunched up with all the wrong events? I think we’ve all experienced that before. We’ve had a whole day, or a week, or month of bad luck where someone consoles us saying, “oh, when it rains, it pours,” or, “it always comes in threes.” But that doesn’t make us feel much better. It still sucks.

And then I thought, couldn’t it work the other way too? We always notice when everything goes wrong, but what if everything went right? At least for one day. And from there the story took off.

It was a fun adventure for me listening to my characters, and being in awe right along with them, as the day is turned on its ear. Of course, even though I set off writing this to have a rollicking outrageous time, my serious side was bound to kick in too. Destiny turned out to be a very complicated and conflicted character–a much darker side to her than I expected--and through her and the other characters, I did explore fairness, or the lack of it, which is central to the story.

How long did it take to get from the initial idea to a completed novel?
I began The Miles Between in the autumn of 2006 and delivered final edits to my editor in August of 2008, so it was completed shy of just 2 years, but the completed first draft took about a year and a half–my fastest ever. However, I think the simmering of the idea had been going on for years, wanting to explore the unlikely and unexplainable.

Your last three books have been written in present tense (successfully, I might add, and that’s no easy feat). Has this become your tense of choice, or does it depend on the story? How did you decide on present tense for MILES BETWEEN?
I honestly do not consciously think about which tense or pov I am going to use when I begin a book. I listen to the voice of the character and go from there. Sometimes part way in I will look at the story and ask myself, what would it read like in another tense or pov, and perhaps even tinker with it, but generally the voice is already there in stone and I do not change it. I think for MILES, because part of the story is told through flashbacks, the present and past tenses support each other. I think if it were all past tense it would have a flatter feel to it.

I know there is some controversy regarding tense. I think if you generally read a certain type of tense, another one can feel foreign to you. I don’t think one is better or worse than the other–just different. I’ve heard some people say they have a hard time with the logic of present tense which I really can’t understand. Omniscient viewpoint, which you don’t see as much anymore, has a long tradition in books, and to me that is the most illogical tense of all. What narrator can possibly be inside of every character’s head? Literature styles are always changing–it is natural and right that they evolve or we would still be reading literature in the form of epic poems.

How is your career different now from when your first book was published?
WAY busier, and I have many more distractions and obligations. But it all comes back to the writing eventually, and in many ways that is still much the same. Every book feels like a first, and really it is. Each character and their story requires a unique approach. So finding my way through a story is still an exciting, uncertain, and often bumpy process, just as it was with my first book.

What are you working on now?
I’m not ready to talk about it yet, but I think fans of The Adoration of Jenna Fox will be surprised. That’s all I can say right now.

Ooooo!! I'm insanely curious now! :)
Do you work on one project at a time, or multiple?
I work on one project at a time. Recently I attempted to work on two projects at once and failed almost instantly. The problem is in my down time, like when I am walking or driving, etc. Amazingly, this is really where a lot of writing gets done. The down times are where the surprises happen and I hear dialogue or see scenes or characters, and that sends me racing back to my keyboard. Unfortunately, I can only “hear” one story at a time. I guess my subconscious refuses to do double-time.

What does your writing space look like?
Right now it looks like my patio. : ) Seriously, I have been writing my current manuscript almost exclusively on my laptop out on my patio. It gives me some distance from the “business” of writing in my office. And I just plain like being outdoors. When the weather turns, I may go back to some of my local hangouts, like coffee shops, to get that distance.

How much do you read, and what are you reading now?
Like most writers, I read a lot. My TBR pile is huge. I just finished Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins and When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, and now I’m digging into a non-fiction book, Writers Workshop in a Book, which is a series of essays by various authors from the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. I love reading about how other authors approach their writing.

Thanks so much for sharing this interview, Mary!

For a chance to win a copy of MILES BETWEEN, go here. To read my stellar review of her book, go here. To see more of what Mary is up to, check out her website,


Angela Ackerman said...

Recently I attempted to work on two projects at once and failed almost instantly.

Me too--I just can't do it! Great interview--thanks so much!

Unknown said...

*fangirl squee*

I LOVE MARY PEARSON!!! Really, I do! ADORATION was one of my favorite books published recently, and I'm chomping at the bit for this next one. Yay Mary Pearson!!!

Tabitha said...

Angela - I'm the same way, too. I can work on multiple projects, but I can only write one at a time. The other projects must be in the idea/planning stages, or else I fail miserably! :)

Beth - I loved ADORATION too, and MILES BETWEEN is just as good. Since I've got four copies to give away, that increases your chances of winning one! :)

Sherrie Petersen said...

Thanks for this interview!

I've tried working on multiple projects, too, and I can't. The characters are so different. I can't split myself that way.

Hoping to win, hoping to win :)

PJ Hoover said...

Fantastic interview! I especially love the present tense Q&A. It worked so well in Jenna Fox.

C.R. Evers said...

Wow! awesome interview. I'm impressed!

Anonymous said...

Looks like I have lots of company in the "one project at a time" category. Solvang Sherrie, I was just up your way in Santa Ynez. So pretty up there. Tabitha, thanks for the great interview questions.

Casey Something said...

What a great interview! I don't seem to work well on more than one project either.

Can't wait to read THE MILES BETWEEN!