Where do your ideas come from?
Short Answer: Everywhere.
Long Answer: Story ideas can (and do) come from anywhere (and everywhere). Anything I’ve done or experienced. Anything that’s happened to me in the past. Anything that’s happening to me now. Anything that’s happening to people I know. Sometimes ideas come from other stories like the ones I read in books or watch on TV or in movies. Other times ideas come from games or songs. Ideas can come from a trip to a theme park (like in the picture above), a toy on my shelf that I used to play with as a kid, or the owl perched on the falling-down barn in my yard. The kids in my life also inspire my stories (especially the really awesome ones, like the kids I used to teach and my amazing niece). Here’s the thing about being a writer. Anything and everything in your life is up for grabs.
I sometimes think of my mind like a giant room with shelves on every wall. Every single thing that’s ever happened to me–everything I’ve seen and done and felt and wondered and thought has its own box somewhere on those shelves. And as I’m writing, if I want to write about kids playing sports, I don’t necessarily think oh, let me remember what it was like when I used to play softball in fifth grade. Instead, my mind just automatically goes and opens up the “Fifth Grade Softball” box and sees what’s inside. It’s not magic exactly, but sometimes it sure does feel like it.
Are your stories true?
My book Superstar is a work of fiction. That means that no one in the story really exists and none of the events in the story ever took place. BUT (and this is a really big BUT), my goal on every page of every book is to make the story FEEL real. My hope is that Lester and Abby and Michael Z and Ricky and Connor and Mona and Mrs. Raines and Mr. Marmel and Lester’s mom and even the lunch lady will feel real to you as a reader. If the story feels real, if it feels like I’m telling you a true story, then I have done my job as a writer.
How long did it take to write Superstar?
I started writing Superstar in November of 2008 and the book came out in June of 2017. (Can you do the math?) I wasn’t working on it the whole time. I was doing lots of other things, too. But even when I’m doing other things, my writing projects are always on my mind. Like right now, as I’m answering these questions, a little part of my brain is thinking about my next book.
What is your next book about?
Sorry, but I can’t really tell you very much right now. I don’t usually talk about my next book until I’m farther along in the book writing process. You see, when I’m writing a book, it goes through so many revisions that the final product is usually completely different from my early drafts. So, if I told you what it’s about right now, I might be making promises I can’t keep. (And who likes a promise breaker??)
I can tell you this, though. My next book features a girl as the main character. And she’s in middle school. Oh, and she LOVES the theater. Okay. That’s it. That’s all I’m going say.
Are you going to write a sequel to Superstar?
When kids ask me this question, I get such a warm, happy feeling because it means they want more of Lester. (And I happen to love Lester a whole lot.) Unfortunately, though, I don’t have any plans for a sequel. I spent eight years and seven months (hey, I did the math for you this time!) working on Superstar, and during that time, I feel like I put everything I knew about Lester and his world into that one story. His story is already whole and complete to me, which is why I’m not planning a sequel. (But thanks for asking! You just made my day.)
Do Lester and Abby (from Superstar) grow up and get married?
Oh, how we like to tie things up in a perfect little bow. I have thought about this question quite a lot. I love to think about where my characters will end up in five years, ten years, or even longer. I like to think about what they’re doing, who they spend their time with, what joys and sorrows they’ve experienced, and how they’ve grown. So yes, I do have an answer to this question.
Then, tell me what it is.
Are you sure you want to know?
Yes, Mandy. I’m sure.
(You might not like my answer.)
That’s okay. Please just tell me.
Okay. The answer is… (scroll down)
…whatever you think it is. Here’s the thing, readers. When I finish a story, when I put that story into the world and someone like you comes along and reads it, the story doesn’t belong to me anymore. Sure, I wrote it. But now the characters continue living on inside of you. So, the answer is really up to you. Do Lester and Abby get married someday, many years from now? What do you think?
Oh, come on. I want to know what you think.
You really want to know?
Okay. Okay. Settle down.
In my mind, in my imaginings of the future for these two characters, Lester and Abby DO… (scroll down)
…NOT get married. But they always stay good friends. And they never ever forget what happened on that crisp October night when they were fifth graders.
Wait a minute. What did happen on that October night?
Ah, my friends. You must discover that answer on your own. And I bet you know exactly how to do that. 🙂