Q. From your first thoughts about writing Don’t Even Think About It to your last revision, what concept or character changed the most? —SUSANE COLASANTI (Susane is the author of seven teen novels. She is thinking that visits to the nurse’s office aren’t what they used to be.)
A. The most radical change in my book was the point of view. When I outlined the novel, it was all from Olivia’s perspective. But some early readers—hi, Jess Rothenberg!—suggested that the book might be better served by showing multiple points of view. So that’s what I did.
Q. Hi, Sarah! Speaking of point of view, I love how the narrator in Don’t Even Think About It isn’t just one person—it’s everyone! What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in writing from the perspectives of so many characters at once? —JESS ROTHENBERG (Jess is the author of The Catastrophic History of You and Me. She is thinking about how much more fun high school would have been if she could have read everybody’s mind.)
A. The biggest challenge I faced was deciding when and how to jump into various characters’ heads. I had to balance staying true to rules of first person plural with helping the reader care about the individual characters. I also had to choose whose thoughts I showed—and whose I left out.
Q. Should I write a book in first person plural? It seems hard. And I’m lazy. —ROBIN WASSERMAN (Robin is the author of The Waking Dark and The Book of Blood and Shadow. She is thinking about taking a nap.)
A. Since you’ve written over seventy books, I don’t think the word lazy can be applied to you. But yes, it was hard. And yes, you definitely should do it. A book in first person plural by you would be amazing. And likely scary. Oh! Oh! It should be from the perspective of a group of serial killers! Or murder victims! Or decades-old-secret- society members! C’mon, Robin. Everybody’s doing it.
Q. Sarah, there is a character in this book named Courtney. She is not very likable. But you find me likable, don’t you? —COURTNE Y SHEINMEL (Courtney is the author of several books, including Positively and the Stella Batts series for young readers. She is thinking about naming a character in her next book after Sarah.)
A. Well, usually I like you. I mean, except when you bring brownies over to my apartment even though I have asked you not to. You know I can’t control myself in the presence of brownies. But dear Courtney, of course I find you likeable. In fact, I find you absolutely delightful. Also super-smart and sweet and not at all addicted to Adderall. DEAR READER: UNLIKE THE COURTNEY IN DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT, COURTNEY SHEINMEL DOES NOT POP ADDERALL. Hmm. Maybe I should check her purse before making such a statement. Okay, I’ve checked her purse. I have not located any amphetamines. I did find a box of brownies, though. Damn you, Courtney Sheinmel!
Q. In Don’t Even Think About It, a group of high school students can suddenly read each other’s minds and uncover the true feelings and deep secrets of their class- mates. What is one thing your high school self would have been absolutely desperate to keep secret, if your high school classmates had developed powers of ESP?—L AUREN OLIVER (Lauren is the author of Panic, Before I Fall, and the Delirium trilogy. In light of Courtney’s question, she is wondering why there is no character in Sarah’s book named Lauren.)
A. One thing? One thing?! All right, here you go: I had a serious boyfriend for two years, but the whole time I was dating him I actually liked someone else—my guy best friend. That situation inspired the Tess storyline in the book. Can we keep that between us? Hmm, probably not.
Q. Sometimes I like to think I’m psychic. What is it about ESP that you think people find so fascinating? And did you do any research into psychics or mind reading while writing the book? —AIMEE FRIEDMAN (Aimee is the author of The Year My Sister Got Lucky and Sea Change. She is thinking, as she often is, about ice cream.)
A. I didn’t do any explicit research, but . . . I once called a psychic hotline. I probably shouldn’t admit that. But I did. I spoke to a guy named Stan. He told me I was going to do some traveling and I would not win the lottery. He’s been right so far. I think people are fascinated by ESP because we all want to believe that there is some- thing beyond the basic cognitive experience. Something extra. We can smell, we can taste, we can see . . . why can’t we move things with our minds or tell the future? We’re so close! Maybe with some extra focus… or a flu shot …maybe …
Q. A family of witches, kids who get sucked into fairy tales, flu shots that go haywire …your book ideas are always so much fun and so creative! How do you come up with them? —JEN CALONITA (Jen is the author of the Secrets of My Hollywood Life and Belles series. Jen likes to think about how she can con her way into an overnight stay in Cinderella Castle at Disney World.)
An overnight stay at Cinderella’s castle?! Now, that is an amazing idea. Count me in. And I got the idea for this book when I walked by a supremely creepy building in Tribeca. It was tall. It was brown. It had no windows. I couldn’t help but wonder: What was the building for? Why did it have no windows? Were aliens being hidden inside? Or perhaps . . . was it a top-secret school for students with ESP? Ding! Ding! Ding! I played around with that idea for a while, but then I thought it would be more fun if kids with ESP went to a regular school—but no one knew they had ESP. So that’s what I wrote. The building is still there, and it’s called the former AT&T Long Lines Building. I still have no idea what it is. But I’m 99 per- cent sure aliens have something to do with it. I’ve posted pics on Sarahm.com. Decide for yourself.
Q. You write for kids, teens, and adults. What do you find the most challenging? —LESLIE MARGOLIS (Leslie is the author of both the Annabelle Unleashed and the Maggie Brooklyn Mystery series. She is thinking that the building in Tribeca with no windows is seriously creepy. It’ll probably give her nightmares and she hopes no one finds out she’s such a wimp.)
Honestly, I don’t find one age more challenging than another. For me, the only difference when writing middle grade, YA, and adult is the word count. But what I do find significantly more challenging to write are standalones or first books in a series. There are so many decisions to make. Setting! POV! Characters! Characters’ likes/dislikes/siblings/heights/favourite chocolate bars! An entire world needs to be created. Sequels are a lot easier. The rules and a lot of the details have already been established. All I have to do is focus on the plot and story—my favourites.
Part two of the Q & A will be up tomorrow on Luna’s Little Library, so don’t forget to check it out to read the rest!