author of The Accidental Bad Girl, out May 15, 2018
Author, I Never is a new segment in which I interview fellow authors about the writing process, breaking into the industry, and breaking rules. I ask some hopefully novel questions along with some of the old standards, and finish it up with a round of I Never to find out what cardinal writing rules we've broken.
Question the first: Maxine, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I think I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was eight years old. Throughout my childhood, I spent most of my intellectual energy doing two things: reading and coming up with elaborate narrative structures in my brain. My sister called them “thinks.” They weren’t exactly stories. They were scenarios, settings, quests, etc., where the basic lines were set up and I plugged in an endless variety of details. It was pretty complicated: I had a system where I’d use the words that people were speaking around me and fit them into descriptions of characters. At first, I didn’t think of it as writing. It was an addiction more than anyone else. But I was lucky enough to have supportive parents and a few wonderful teachers who recognized my talents with language. Soon it seemed like being a writer was the only thing I knew I could succeed at, although it took years to build up the confidence and courage to really try.
Question the second: What has been your proudest or most exciting moment as an author so far?
I think my proudest moment was during revisions. I had pacing problems in early drafts. Pacing was the hardest thing. And, for a long time, I couldn’t fix the pacing in BAD GIRL. There was a dead zone in the middle that I could never infuse with enough life or excitement. Finally I had no choice but to take the book apart, dismantle it completely, and essentially copy and paste the events of the story into a dramatic arc that made sense. It was like breaking twisted bones and re-setting them so that they could heal properly. It was terrifying. But it worked. It took courage and it worked. That was probably my proudest moment.
My most exciting moment was when my agent called to tell me I had an offer. It was my birthday actually.
What amazing timing! Question the third: At what point did you think to yourself "I've made it" or at what point do you think you'll feel that way?
I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I’ve “made it.” I don’t think that plateau where I’m “there” exists for me. And, probably, it shouldn’t. But drafting my second book has gone faster than the first. I’ve learned a lot about structure, motivation, and stakes. I have to believe I’ll keep learning. And that will be enough for me.
Question the fourth: Did any experienced authors or industry people mentor or give you helpful guidance on your journey to publication?
Yes! My parents are both authors, in adult non-fiction. And my sister at the time was working as a literary scout. They were all helpful. And a couple of agents gave me feedback early on that was invaluable, even if they didn’t end up representing me. I don’t know the etiquette of thanking them, but I’ll always be grateful.
That's so wonderful. Question the fifth: Have you ever had a time when you've felt like giving up?
On writing? No. I’ve been lucky. I’ve had a lot of creative friends and family who kept me motivated. On THE ACCIDENTAL BAD GIRL? Definitely. After I did a revise-and-resubmit for one of the aforementioned agents and she had declined, I had blown through a bunch of agents already. That made me feel like the book was dead. I did another round of submission essentially on a whim.
Question the sixth: What was the most inconvenient time or place you were struck by inspiration?
Probably at work, at my day job. At home, I usually have a notebook at hand. At work, what am I gonna do, open a Word document? I’ve tried to carry a notebook around, but I’m just too forgetful for that to work, and when I have, the notebooks become knocked around to the point of it no longer being pleasurable to write in them. I still don’t have a good system for preventing ideas being lost to the ether. It happens all the time.
Question the seventh: Can you give us a hint to help us find an "easter egg" or hidden item to look for in one of your books? Maybe an obscure clue if there's a mystery thread, or a reference you threw in to a favorite book or song?
There are a couple actually. Because I took a lot of inspiration from North by Northwest one of my main character’s names is a secret Hitchcock shout-out. My main character’s name is also a Hitchcock shout-out, but that’s made explicit. Also my husband makes a cameo.
I adore Hitchcock! I look forward to hunting for references. Okay! Time for the...
I Never Round
The basic rules of I Never, the kid friendly version- I state a generally established writing rule (or at least a norm). If you've broken that rule, state your guilt for the record.
I never made up a word in my manuscript, and stood by it during copyediting.
Yep. “Uncrumpled.” You will never convince me that shouldn’t be a word.
Love it. I never had an amazing idea right before bed, and decided sleep was more important.
Sigh. Yes. I’m a terrible sleeper, so when I’m really about to fall asleep, I can’t turn it down.
I never started a story with a character waking up, looking in the mirror, or in a bathtub.
Oh god. The first draft of BAD GIRL started with Kendall waking up.
I never worked on two manuscripts at once.
There’s way too much waiting in publishing for you to not have more than one project cooking. IMHO. At least for me, if I lose writing momentum, I’m terrified I’ll never get it back.
I never went several days or even weeks without writing.
I took two weeks off after I finished the first draft if BAD GIRL. But, like I said, I can’t afford to do that, really.
I never wrote "for a long moment."
Yeah, I’m pretty sure I have a few of those in BAD GIRL. Eek.
I never cheated during NaNoWriMo.
N/A. Never done NaNoWriMo!
Thank you so much for appearing in Author, I Never! When and where can we look for, preorder, or buy your next or most recent book, and where can we follow you on social media?
Thank you, Dana! My book’s on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34522711-the-accidental-bad-girl. And I tweet at https://twitter.com/MaxineGKaplan.
Bonus question: If your book had a theme song what would it be? Or alternatively is there any music you listened to a lot while writing it?
I listened to a lot of Carly Rae Jepsen and a lot of Garbage and Katy Perry.
Any particular albums or eras?
Late 90s Garbage, a lot of Roar, Emotion Side A and Side B.
DJ Spotify, what are your thoughts?