author of The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig, out October 2, 2018
Author, I Never is a 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: Don, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. I’ve even got a little book I wrote when I was 11, that I PUT A COPYRIGHT ON. (Yeah, I was already concerned with copyright infringement). I think I decided I wanted to be a writer for a career my junior year in high school. I was sitting in the back of my parents’ car heading to a swim meet and it hit me: I just want to be a writer.
That’s pretty hilarious. The copyrighting, not the lifelong dream. Question the second: What has been your proudest or most exciting moment as an author so far?
I’ve had a bunch. Probably sitting in the audience on opening night of my first professional play production. That was unbelievably exciting and nerve-wracking.
That does sound pretty amazing. 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 was teaching middle school, and I could check my play sales during the day online. This was in September 24th, 2007 – (cause I wrote it down, cause I’m that big of a nerd) – and I made $900 in one day, which was more than my weekly salary as a teacher. Suddenly I realized that I could make a living as a writer, and that was super exciting. It would be another 5 years before I was finally able to quit my day job, but that was the day I realized it was a possibility.
That sounds like an incredible feeling. Question the fourth: Did any experienced authors or industry people mentor or give you helpful guidance on your journey to publication?
Absolutely, yes. After my job teaching middle school, I got a job as a visiting professor at a small liberal arts college. Jennifer Finney Boylan was a guest professor that first time, and she had just published a Middle Grade book. At that point I started thinking about writing novels – she helped me with my query letter, and eventually introduced me to my agent. (And then she wrote a lovely blurb for my published book many years later!)
I love hearing those stories! Question the fifth: Have you ever had a time when you've felt like giving up?
Honestly, no. I really haven’t. I’ve been pretty laser-focused on being a writer since I was 16 or so – (I used to tell my friends I couldn’t hang out with them because I needed to work on my novel), and I’ve had a nice mixture of support and success along the way. It took me five books to sell my first novel, but I never felt like giving up because I was having so much success as a playwright (which helped pay all the bills, so it felt like I was playing with house money).
That always helps! Question the sixth: What was the most inconvenient time or place you were struck by inspiration?
Everywhere. My brain is never able to take a vacation. I was in Hawai’i for vacation with my kids, and I used to sneak out of the hotel room in the middle of the night to go work on a book.
Question the seventh: Can you give us 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?
Oh boy. I put a lot of “real things” in there that poke fun at my friends from high school. I mean, I even described the actual clothes they wore. So all the “easter eggs” are in jokes with my old friends.
That’s so fun! Okay, it’s 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.
I never had an amazing idea right before bed, and decided sleep was more important.
No – I’ll usually write it if I have the idea.
Power through! I never started a story with a character waking up, looking in the mirror, or in a bathtub.
Yes! My first short story – a kid woke up, had a depressing day, and then jumped in the river at the end. It was so deep.
I never worked on two manuscripts at once.
Yes! I’m doing this right now.
Plus this interview. I never went several days or even weeks without writing.
Yes! But I feel REALLY bad if I go for more than a few days without writing. I start thinking of myself as lazy and worthless.
You are neither! I never wrote "for a long moment."
I never cheated during NaNoWriMo.
I’ve never won NaNoWriMo!
Maybe you would have if you’d cheated. 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?
The book is up for pre-order on all the usual places.
Bonus question: If your book had a theme song, what would it be?
“Still Hurting” by Jason Robert Brown, from the musical THE LAST FIVE YEARS.
DJ Spotify, are you still…?