Ingrid loves talking about all things books! Below are some questions she’s often asked about writing and publishing. If you have others that aren’t listed here, feel free to send a note to email@example.com.
Since I could hold a pencil! When I was really young, I wrote letters to my oldest sister at college detailing my oh-so-exciting life, which she would read to her friends for entertainment. I started writing character sketches and short stories when I was in grade school, dabbled in poetry as a pre-teen, and penned my first YA manuscript while in high school (fun fact: Andrea was a side character in that novel). During college, I did a lot of playwriting and then went to graduate school to study journalism and publishing. I worked as a writer/editor for a variety of magazines and businesses while juggling marriage and raising my boys, who are now teenagers. Though I always knew that writing fiction was my passion, it took decades of living and learning (and patience and perseverance!) before I made it to the actual "published novel" stage. A long journey, but well worth the wait!
I write young adult books primarily because it's the genre I most enjoy reading. When you're a teenager, everything happens in high definition. You're figuring out who you are, what you believe, when to trust. It can be scary, but teens are resilient, open to new ideas, and wicked smart. They tell it like it is, and I love that. And I love telling their stories, which are usually full of universal truths and experiences that anyone, of any age, can relate to.
I almost always start with character. I spend a lot of time getting to know my protagonist before figuring out the storyline. And since I'm a "pantser" (a writer who "flies by the seat of her pants" or doesn't plot books ahead of time), I'm never sure what adventures my characters will take me on until I actually start writing.
Oh, wow, there are so many, and they're constantly evolving. When I was young, S.E. Hinton, Cynthia Voigt and Francine Pascal inspired me and spurred my love of contemporary fiction. After that, I devoured everything by V.C. Andrews, Pat Conroy, and Elizabeth Berg. Some of my current faves include Sarah Dessen, Sara Zarr, Ruta Sepetys, and Laini Taylor. But there are lots more!
Andrea, the main character in All Out of Pretty, was a minor character in a manuscript I wrote as a teenager. Years later, when I left the world of journalism to pursue fiction writing, I pulled out that first novel. My critique partners were intrigued by Andrea and suggested I tell her story someday. After letting that idea percolate for a couple of years, her voice and story broke through in an extremely powerful way. I immediately dropped the project I was working on at the time and started writing All Out of Pretty.
I found my awesome literary agent, Shannon Hassan, the traditional way—by querying. She plucked my manuscript out of the slush pile, requested the full, and then sent me an email with the three words that changed my life: "I love it!"
Quite a bit. After finishing my first draft, I spent a few years (yes, years) revising and polishing. In fact, I wrote at least ten different versions of the first few chapters. My critique group and beta readers were invaluable during this time (for critique and for keeping me sane). After I signed with my agent, we did two rounds of edits—one before and one during submission. I tend to write long on first drafts, so a good portion of my revisions entailed cutting lots o' words. All the early editing paid off, though. Because I'd done so much work on the front end, I didn't have to make many changes once I got the book deal.
I'm currently revising a manuscript about a teen artist living in the mountains, and I've started drafting two other YA novels. I wish I had a time turner so I could finish them all faster!
On publishing — Don't give up and don't be afraid to fail. If being an author is your dream, try not to get frustrated with the slow pace of the process or the industry. All of your life experiences will inform your writing, so keep at it. Patience, persistence and perseverance are defining factors.
On writing — Take advantage of the resources out there and hone your craft. Join a critique group, attend a conference, research writing advice online. Also, read. A lot. Read both in and out of your genre, listen to audio books, notice techniques used by the authors you love. Finally, follow your instincts and choose what works for you.
We've all heard the advice "write what you know," right? Well, I often found myself doing the opposite. Sometimes I worried that that meant I was doing it all wrong ... until I heard the advice that rang true for me: "write what scares you."
Absolutely. In fact, there were moments when my hands were literally shaking as I typed certain scenes because I was so anxious for my MC. But at the same time, it felt like Andrea was whispering her story in my ear, so the drafting also felt very organic.
Yes! I love to meet/interact with readers and writers of all ages. Please visit the contact page to reach my publicist or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you're interested in scheduling an in-person or skype visit.
Yes, you can read the first chapter right here:
The great poet John Keats once wrote, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” Keats never knew my mother.
I glance down at my watch again. Three hours. That’s how long it's been since Ayla left me in the car with a distracted wave and a promise to “be right back with some munchies.” Right. I’ll bet she bummed dinner off some guy at the bar and didn’t bother to get anything for me. Now she’s probably passed out somewhere. Or hooking up. Or maybe she can’t remember where the hell she parked.
I never should have let Ayla go off on her own. I should know better than to trust a woman who can’t even remember to pay the rent.
For about a millisecond, I consider hunting her down and dragging her drunk ass back here. Forcing her to deal with the cold, and the lack of food, and me. But when we first rolled into this tiny town, Ayla insisted on doing a drive-by of the local bars and I saw the bouncers standing outside. There’s no way I can pass for twenty-one. Most people don’t even believe I’m sixteen until I produce my driver’s license.
I drag my fingers through my long, dark hair. It feels greasy. So does my face, which I haven’t washed properly in days. But when I lean forward and peer into the car’s rearview mirror, the girl staring back at me somehow still looks pretty. I scowl at her. Then I grab a pen and start scribbling in my notebook, the ink making deep indents on the page to match the ones on my forehead.
The truth is, I used to like being pretty. I used to feel proud when girls at school wished out loud for my pale blue eyes, when boys stared as I walked past. It felt good, in the same way that spring grass tickles your toes or pearls feel fanciful looped around your neck. Even Gram would sometimes stand behind me, looking at our reflection in the hallway mirror, and say, “You’re stunning, Andrea—inside and out.” Then she’d beam at me like a proud mama bear, crinkling her nose until we both collapsed into giggles.
I can’t remember the last time I giggled. I don’t even smile anymore. If I feel my lips twitching, I push the smile down, kick it into the dirt. I hide—not just my smile, but everything.
The problem with being pretty is, people tend to notice you. And these days, being noticed is the last thing I want.
My fingers ache from gripping the pen so tight. I stare down at my messy handwriting in the soft circle of light emanating from the roof of Gram’s car, knowing I won’t ever share the words I've written. They’re just a rant. I’ve already finished the essay Iwill turn in to my English teacher when spring break is over. It’s written in neat, vertical letters and it’s full of the fun things I did on vacation, like going to the waterpark and exploring the science museum. I call it my Rough Draft of Lies. I hate lying. But I can’t write honestly about the places I’ve been this week — or this year. It’s remarkable, really, how many secrets I’ve accumulated in such a short stretch of time.
A dull thudding starts in my temples and I begin to feel lightheaded from not having eaten in thirty-seven hours, from the worry that’s plagued me ever since we got evicted. Gathering our few blankets, I coil up in the backseat and rest my cheek against my dark green backpack. I lift my head slightly and punch the bag, trying to make the bumpy spots flat. If I can’t have food, then I’d like a good night’s sleep tonight. In a real bed. Not in the back of Gram’s Buick, with its stiff leather seats that remind me too much of her hands the day I found her.
It’s so quiet that the smallest sounds are amplified. Like my breathing. And the lone moth repeatedly throwing itself against the windshield, attracted to the red glow of the dashboard security light. The thwp- thwp of its wings beating against the glass makes my own limbs ache in sympathy. Maybe I should shoo it away—or put it out of its misery. The frost will claim it tonight anyway. But that would mean unknotting myself from my own fragile cocoon, and I’m not that selfless.
As time ticks by, the only thing keeping me remotely warm is my increasing anger. The bars must be closing, so where the hell is Ayla? My stomach rumbles and I press my fingers against the hollow of it. I stare out the window at the ink-blotted sky, where the moon hangs like a sentry between heaven and earth. Even if Ayla keeps pretending, I know we’re in trouble. Just like I know the sixteen cents in my pocket will buy me exactly nothing at the 24-hour gas station across the road. I also know there’s a dumpster on the other side of this lot. My eyes flick toward it.
Before the thought has a chance to warp into an actual plan, bright lights blind me, a sharp wind whips into the car, and pointy-nailed fingers poke my shoulder. I shield my eyes, hoping it’s not a cop.Instead, I see Ayla’s gorgeous, flushed face blocking out the moon.
“Wake up, wake up!” Her voice is giddy and high-pitched. She definitely scored dinner or she’d be growling and swearing at me. “Come on, Bones, we got a place to stay.” Bones. This is what she calls me instead of Andrea—the name Gram chose when I was born. I wish I could say Ayla’s nickname for me is a term of endearment, but I know better.
Tugging off the blankets, I sit up and squint into the cold darkness. My lungs protest the frigid air, causing me to cough. A rainbow halo is smeared around the one lit parking lamp near the street. There’s a man under it, smoking a cigarette. He’s tall and strong-looking, not the cleanest sort. He doesn’t look at me. Just at Ayla in her tight black skirt and shimmery top.
“That’s Judd.” Ayla smirks, like he’s some knight in shining armor. “We’re going to crash at his place.”
She leans in to gather her belongings, which are strewn across the front seat of the car. I steal another glance at Judd, and he smiles. It’s uneven and awkward, an expression I can tell he avoids. Huh, I think. We have something in common.
In the hazy lamplight I see that Judd’s hair is dirt brown where it’s not receding from his forehead. His face is long and fierce, like the skin has been stretched too tight. He might have been decent-looking at some point, but he’s at least ten years older than Ayla and he seems… haggard. I don’t bother pointing this out. I know Ayla’s giddiness is a ruse. She’s playing Judd, using him for what we need. She’s a parasite. And so am I, by default.
Yes, I used to like being pretty. But if it means ending up like Ayla, I think I’ll pass.