Tuesday, September 16, 2014

making it up

In case you missed it on the Manifestation Blog yesterday, here's my Empress "origin" story. Plus, more pictures from my initial Sisi research trip. #Homesick

Monday, August 18, 2014

once upon a time

I’m in a lovely place, writing-wise. Two weeks before book launch. Finished with a serviceable draft with my Moment sequel. About to undertake the next Empress book.

However. Times like these (pauses in the process) are historically fraught with upheaval for yours truly.

And by upheaval, I mean, leaps. Mostly, that’s served me well. Case in point: 25 years ago this month I encountered Portland for the first time. Me, my Subaru, my one-year-old daughter and two-and-a-half year old son.

We had been temporarily living in North County San Diego after my first husband died (how we got there from upstate New York is a whole other blog post). Anyway, I’d been renting this tiny cottage in Solana Beach. Every morning I’d plop the kids in the jogger, and off we’d go – into the surf.

Sounds dreamy, right?

For most people, it would be, but I was restless. I wanted to find a permanent home – a city where I could afford to raise my kids. I longed for green. Much as I love the bustle and energy of city life, I need down time. Quiet. Regroup space.

I belonged to a support group back then – for young people who had lost spouses. I met all these wild widows (we’d go on widows-gone-wild trips to Mexico… again, I’ll leave that for another post). While in this group, I met a young woman who’d been raised in Oregon, and she piqued my interest. 

One morning, instead of plunking the kids in the jogger, I strapped them into car seats and drove north. The Pacific Northwest felt like home the minute the first log truck passed me on the I-5. Seriously, all of it: the natural beauty, the go-your-own-way spirit of the people, the various shades and interpretations of green.

Twenty-five years later, here I am, happier than ever with my adopted city. 

So, where am I going with this metaphor? I’m ripe for a writing practice version of Portland. A way to approach writing and putting my work out there that honors the pioneer spirit inside of me. A set of practices and participation that stokes the fire. That feels authentic to every cell in my body.

I think I’ll start by throwing a party. Something in October. Stay tuned – I’m heading north again.

What makes you feel reawakened? 

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Hey there folks! I'm pleased to present my VERY FIRST RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY!

I'll be giving away a signed copy of THE MOMENT BEFORE as a way to thank you all for the tweeting and viral shenanigans you're all going to help me with in service to spreading the word about the new book. Which is out in less than a month. How crazy is that?!

So, signed free copy of a paperback edition of MOMENT to the automated winner of this game. It's like going to Vegas without leaving your desk, right?

USA residents only because, postage! And all those other forms you have to fill out at the PO for overseas mailing. But to my international friends, worry not!

There will be an e-copy giveaway of the new book next month. Ready, set, go!


 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, August 03, 2014


THE EMPRESS CHRONICLES is all set to launch one month from today, and if you’ve been
following this blog lo these many years, you know what a long-in-coming milestone this is for me.

TEC isn’t officially my debut, but it sort of is. I wrote the novel (many times!) a couple of years before THE MOMENT BEFORE – which came gushing out of me like a flood. In contrast, TEC feels like a pregnancy that went on way past term – coming into the world as a toddler rather than an infant. It walks, talks, and drags me around behind it, offering bold suggestions and defying my attempts to shape it.

Even though MOMENT rushed out of me, during its launch it wasn’t very demanding. I was feeling out this whole debut author thing step-by-step, and I puttered, and muttered, and scratched my head. That first book, I could leave it alone in its high chair, and it would just smile and wait for me to offer the next thing. (Come to think of it, my first child, Sam, was sort of that way too.)

This child? Not so much. (Ah! A theme here, Maggie, my second child, was much more, whoa Nelly!)

So. Today begins the official launch-before-the-launch known as the Cover Reveal (here’s a link to the hoopla party). I didn’t get a CR for MOMENT (another way in which that book was less of a diva), so this’ll be new territory. I feel a little like a movie-of-the-week character. You know, like those undercover muckrakers who set out to write scathing articles about beauty pageants, and while gathering data, fall in love with the process? Well, I’m smitten. My cover is drop dead gorgeous, don’t you think? (I can say that, because I had nothing to do with its creation.) But even better, the cover truly, truly reflects the tone, themes and energy of the book.

Whereas MOMENT came out at the beginning of the year, TEC is launching at the “real” beginning of the year – when school starts up again. And not only that, but it’s conveniently making its way into the world at the dawn of Oktoberfest, and since you already know how precocious the book is, you won’t be surprised if its swilling the beers in a couple of months and I'm already planning the party!

So, speaking of party, you want to help an author out and keep TEC the sassy little thing she is? Click on this e-book pre-order page. But if you want to wait for the physical book links, I hear ya! Especially if you live in Warwick, NY or Portland. OR, because I’ll be doing readings in those towns and I will totally keep y’all in the loop.

Thursday, July 03, 2014


Tomorrow my grandmother would have celebrated her 102nd birthday. She missed it by three days, having passed away in her sleep on July 1st.

Even though “Oma” has been subdued and sweet these past few years, I will always think of her as our psychically powerful matriarch – able to bend strong wills with a slight glance, or a sharp word.

And she did have more than a few sharp words in her lifetime. And opinions.

She was an artist, Erna was. In every sense. She demanded aesthetic compliance – once I brought her a geranium in a garish hue and she made me return it for a subtler shade, one more muted and deserving of her carefully tended wine barrel planter.

When a person brought her a gift, she’d carefully unwrap it, salvaging the paper and storing it in a pile in her attic where, the following year, she would wrap a new gift for the person in the very paper. She didn’t need to label it. She knew who gave her what.

Erna Freisinger was known locally for her paintings. Palette-knife oils, originally. Landscapes, still lifes. She moved onto acrylics in her sixties. Watercolors in her seventies. One of her painting hung in a bank. Another was the cover of the Warwick phone book. The one pictured below is one of my faves – it hangs just outside my office. If she’d ever seen my display of her paintings, she’d have had a word or two. Once, I remember her bustling into our house, hammer in hand, to adjust the display of her work throughout our rooms and hallways.

My Oma was Viennese through and through. I think she never got over having to abruptly leave her homeland in 1939, my one-year-old father in tow. The Anschluss – the Nazis. My grandfather and his partially Jewish blood. Opa had managed to flee to America right after my father was born, and when Nazi occupation became inevitable, Oma and my dad slipped out on the very last boat from Italy. Oma never liked being unsettled. Her life revolved around family, duty, loyalty, pride. Art.

And yet, she had a whimsical side.

Once, we convinced her to scale the chain link fence of the country club pool for an illegal midnight swim. She often escaped to open fields and forests to collect things that she would later weave into wreaths. She was a “lefty,” busying herself with handwork projects involving yarn, fabric, textures. She made hundreds and hundreds of cookies every Christmas, and Opa would grab my sister and me to deliver tins of them to nurses and patients.

The one time she hit me, it was because I spilled milk in her kitchen. A moment of clumsiness, and boom, broken glass. A mess. She slapped me across the face. And then lamented it the rest of the day. Apologizing over and over for her loss of temper. 

To say that my Oma was a role model would be overstating it. Would sound like an elegiac move: she’s dead, let’s praise her. She wasn’t who I aspired to be, but she demonstrated a unique will – fierce, enormous. And for that, I am grateful. For the shining example of spending half her life – the last half – the 50+ half – being known for her art. Being known as an artist. 

Especially with my second book coming out in September. A book that draws a lot from the life of a misunderstood Austrian figure. Imagining Empress Elisabeth as a carefree girl before circumstance and duty morphed her into a legendary mad woman has expanded my consciousness, along with my understanding of proud women generally.

So, Oma, happy 102nd birthday. Born on the 4th of July was a legacy you never wanted, but endured for more than a century.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

practicing perfect presence

Hey kids! Been a while, yes? I've been off the blog - not just mine - all blogs, as well as Google + - most things google, in fact, in service to the royal slog. Yep, in the trenches again with a manuscript, and I'm nearing the finish line. Now maybe I can resume stuff like brushing my teeth and cleaning five month old garbage from my car.

Time management. Ugh. Because the non-negotiables involve making a living, sleep, taking the occasional walk to unkink my shoulders and lower back. And regular life stuff. Kids. Dog. Hub. Food. Oh, and the myriad activities surrounding book promotion.

Not that I'm complaining. I love being busy. I'm a fan of the daily jumble - where you straighten up messes on the fly while pushing through to uncharted ground. Did I mention I'm a Gemini? And that's it's almost June, the month of my birth, where my typically manic-zen balance goes into crazyland? That's why I set a goal to finish this book before June, because the universe will no doubt fling things at me in 5, 4, 3, 2...

Meanwhile, though, I'm trying something out. I'm trying really hard to mitigate my zany dance with conscious acts. Pausing when doubtful. Rethinking the course when it looks like disaster ahead instead of ploughing ever forward into the abyss. Which is harder than it sounds because it means grooving just a wee bit outside the comfort zone. Lipping up the cliff and riding the edge.

What the fuck am I even talking about?

Saying yes when I need to say no. Worrying that I'm not planting enough flowers and I'll miss the season. Buying new stuff 'cuz I misplaced the old stuff. Spending too much $ (and fucking up the earth) by buying dinner in clamshell servings. These are all things I do without thinking.

The "riding the edge" thing would be: say no. fuck flowers, there's plenty already. take a look in the freezer before deciding on what's for dinner tonight. And stop, JUST STOP, going to happy hours where they serve deep fried shit at $2 a pop. From now on, I'm only eating out at quality places. Like this one. Or this one. Or I'm making it at home. From scratch (even though I'm an inconsistent cook - but again, that's because I'm always multi-tasking while cooking. Just stop that!). That's complete presence, right? Being in a place of resources and surplus and drawing from that pile? I mean, we have frozen blueberries from last year! And some stew or something that is even Sharpie-penned (though hard to read).

In our house, we love the game. An idea I had the other day whilst confronted by a dozen mason jars with unidentifiable powder in them (I blame my husband's Bob's Red Mill habit), I thought, we should agree to, for one week, take turns making dinner (and that includes the 15-yr old) with only the stuff we have on hand. We could have prizes for the most creative (and palatable) dish. The prizes could be foot rubs - or a pass on cleaning the dog crap from the yard - or breakfast in bed (though the breakfast might be 3-yr-old freezer-burned Eggos).

So, I guess what I mean by complete presence is resourcefulness. In its biggest sense. Acknowledging concrete limits and making the most of them. (I'm not talking about turning into some extreme-couponing Nazi - sort of the opposite of that). Looking inward before charging forth. There's a boringness to it because it's less sparkly. Less full of the promise of something better around the next bend. Anyone have a spare meditation pillow? My ass is sore just thinking about all that sitting with what's real.

Do I dare ask? What are the ways in which you fritter away your life, and what are going to do about it? 

Friday, April 18, 2014

tag! writing process blog tour

Hey folks, the incredible AWARD-WINNING author Kari Luna just tagged me in her blog post. I know, I know, you hate this sort of crap. But this one's better. Swear.

First off, you need to read Kari's post, because I so am already in line to buy her next book. Doesn't it sound cool?And I love the idea of a mood board. Like Pinterest, but old-school, right?

So, in the spirit of moving the conversation forward (which is why I really do love this particular tag game. It's about sharing the love), let's talk about process. My process. Because it's my turn.

What am I working on?
Well, I think I outed myself here, and here, but I've made progress since then! I'm writing the sequel to THE MOMENT BEFORE. Only it's four years later. My "young adults" are "new adults" and life has flung Brady and Connor into another situation where they'll need to come together against adversity. Oh, and there's one other thing. Connor has a live-in girlfriend named Ella. It's complicated!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Did I tell you this chain-blog post idea was cooler than most???? I love smart questions like this. Whereas MOMENT is a love story that doesn't revolve around romance, my next book will explore the depths of "happily ever after" sorts of relationships and look beyond boy-meets-girl-loses-girl-wins-girl-back.

I'm so amazed when I look at the twenty-somethings around me. Maybe it's because I live in Portland, but I see young people being more creative, taking more risks, and throwing themselves into the deep - whether it's new work/parenting combinations, creating families of "intention," co-housing with others in order to stretch resources.

I was inspired by an article I read in the paper. This couple decided to start a farm in a valley 60 miles east of Portland. The article shed light on a new "small farm" movement - and I've seen evidence of this at local farmers' markets. I totally stole the idea and am pouring Brady and Connor and Ella into a version of it.

Why do I write what I do?
I write books that I'd want to read. Does that sound stuck up? I hope not. The acts of reading and writing are not that separate for me. It's an immersive process - a journey to the heart of humanity. I'm always eager to spend time in places that illuminate connection. When an author whispers in my ear, invites me to dinner, puts a hand on mine and says, "I thought I was the only one who feels like this," well that's the intimacy I try and pass forward.

How does my writing process work?
I start with place. Then voice. Then situation. I don't outline until I'm sure of the voice and the type of conundrum my hero will face. Then, I write on sticky notes. Put them on a board. Think about the job that each chapter has, and loosely explore within that framework.

Like Kari, I'm a morning writer. My head gets too gunked up after the noon whistle. Also, if I dally too long in the monkey world when I get up, it's really hard to let it all go and get back to the dream. It's better to quit while still inspired. Take the dog for a walk or hike the hills behind my house.

Thanks, Kari, for tagging me!

Next up on the TAG! YOU'RE IT, game:

Here are a couple of terrific new reads you all need to know about.

Another Diversion author, Katie Davis, debuted her YA novel DANCING WITH THE DEVIL this week. It is a powerful contemporary YA with a terrific voice.

And another terrific author, a Portland local, Dan Berne, has his debut, THE GODS OF SECOND CHANCES, out this spring with an up-and-coming publisher, Forest Avenue Press. I read this book in a couple of sittings. It was a terrific read, and, like Katie's book, dealt with serious matter in a lovely voice-driven way.

I love the idea of placing authors and books who haven't met before next to each other. Kindred! Writers out there, think of two books you've read recently that might make an odd couple.

Monday, April 07, 2014

the blossom project

So I'm doing this thing. It's totally impulsive, in that spring fever way, but it's also a deep plunge into my resources - a way to help me channel the revelry that is April and develop the line of flight for my next book.

I've been writing the next Brady/Connor novel, it's pretty much outlined and scaffolded, and now I'm diving in the deep - all my senses heightened. Does that sound too lofty? I don't want to go overboard on the writerly way of describing process. But here's the thing. As I've pointed out here, and here, writing starts with place for me. And place can only be created through sensation.

In THE MOMENT BEFORE, a book set entirely in the spring (which I wrote in the spring), new growth, fecundity, earth, blossoms and the crazy mixed up weather patterns of this time of year figured into pretty much every chapter.

The way some actors immerse themselves in character off stage/screen in preparation, I want to surround myself with the visual, sensual details that evoke the mood I'm going for in this MOMENT sequel. Also, hey, it's spring, and in Oregon, there's nothing more amazing than the colors that are EVERYWHERE.

Ergo: The Blossom Project.

Join me!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Last weekend I took a spin out to Hood River for some sensory research. Talked to some folks. Filled my tank up with material for further adventures of Brady and Connor.

It's magic to me, the way it always starts with place. I mean, plot's important. Characters, certainly. But when I consider the starting point for anything I've gone the distance with, it's clear that the germination that sticks must touch on my experience of the physical.

The smell of Daphne wind. The warmth of sun through a closed car window. The texture of early spring landscape, brittle, hopeful, the slightest pastel peeking out from bark-gray. Tractors backing up. Apple cider in cold storage. Crusty leaves in sodden berms.

It's composting fast - as though I added some enzyme to it. I feel a writing day coming on.

Where do you start? When do you stop?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

unkiss me. now.

I've had this tiny little e-book of stories out for about a year. It was an experiment in self-pubbing, so I guess, now that I am "traditionally" published as well, I'm officially a "hybrid" author.

In ongoing efforts to wrap my mind around the selling of books, I'm turning a bit of attention to this e-chapbook, because it's been sitting there on Amazon as a Kindle book (It doesn't yet exist in print) for a year, and I pretty much ignore it. It's also available via Smashwords, so all you folks who avoid the Amazon purchases (and believe me, I support you) can get it there, too.

My goal with Unkiss Me is to eventually add to it and produce a print copy, but that's sort of at the bottom of the pile of projects. For now, I've got a little St. Paddy's special going. Seven stories for .99. Kind of a deal, eh?

I feel a little like the dime a dance girl. A cheap whore in a green dress. How about you? Ever feel cheap when out hustling your merch?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

hand-selling books

Month two of The Moment Before launch is done and dusted. Well, nearly. This week I'm thinking about what has worked, what could have worked better, and what's next.

To be sure, selling a book is a full time job. It can feel soul-sucking, but in my experience, it hasn't. I actually was prepared to be exhausted and wrung out. I'm sort of shy. Not comfortable in crowds. But somehow, after this two months of events and social shouts and meeting/greeting, I only want to do more.


The events I did at Voodoo, at Annie Bloom's, at Elliott Bay and at Broadway Books were all unique, and involved a "support crew" and/or co-readers, but the biggest thing they had in common was an overwhelming outpouring of love, support and whimsy. Accent on the whimsy.

Oh, and books were sold, too. The audience member-to-sales relationship was pretty amazing. That's what I mean about support. Folks bought books. From places OTHER than Amazon. That makes me more than happy.

I'm not going to rant on my issues with Amazon in this post. I plan to at some point, but now is not the time. Let's just say that having lived in Portland, Oregon for 25 years (almost), I may have adopted the independent spirit and boxless orientation natives of this fair city are prone to. Or, I may just be congenitally ornery.

Michael Powell once told me that his whole impetus for the phemon that has become the number one attraction in Portland was "putting more books in the hands of more readers." Whether those books are new, used, genre, literary or out of print. So now, we live in this crazy entrepreneurial age where we can all be Michael Powells. At least of our own books. Think about it. No longer are we dependent upon the gatekeepers of the Big 6 5. When it comes to publishing, we can be indie or hybrid or traditional or self. Or all. So if the goal then is to "put more of our books into the hands of more of our readers" - the tools, avenues, support infrastructure is there. But in order to navigate it successfully, you really do need to think like an entrepreneur. And work like one.

Here's a terrific blog series on just that. "Marketing" is apt and exactly right, but I can't help it, I HATE the term. I despise what it conjures, which, to me, brings to mind huckster tactics and double speak. I know, I know, I'm being simplistic. But remember, I live in the "fuck normal" city, known for work-arounds and tactical hedonism. If I had to label my brand of "marketing" I might call it the hand-sell. Hand, as in human. Hand, as in helping. Hand, as in give me a.

Hand, as in, put more books in them.

So, how do you find "your" readers? That's the big question, right? One I'm exploring now. It feels like writing a novel, actually. Following a certain depth of inquiry where you (as Cheryl Strayed says) "trust the heat." Follow your people, and invite them to invite you to their parties.

Anyone out there? Have a success story to share?

Monday, February 24, 2014


The last AWP on the West Coast (or at least, the last one I attended) was in Vancouver, BC in 2005. It was the only other time I was able to drive to the conference, and therefore pack all my extrys. You know, like more than 3.4 ounces of hair conditioner? A printer? Because, I really, really need to know if something needs printing, I'm hooked up.

Today I am fixing to make a tentative schedule regarding panels, parties, readings and the like. I'm just going to throw out a few possibilities here, and invite anyone to slap up their shout-outs in the comments section:

Thursday afternoon: Panel. Relationship Memoir, Living Through it.
Room 202, Western New England MFA Annex, Level 2
4:30 pm to 5:45 pm

Thursday night. Party: Writers’ Shindig
6-8pm at Sorrento Hotel Fireside Lounge
900 Madison

And then, of course, the Annie Proulx keynote. Duh!

Friday morning. Panel: Stoking the Fire feat. bestie Teri Carter
Rm 101, Western New England MFA Annex, Level 1
9:00 am to 10:15 am

Friday noon. Panel: Full Disclosure feat. another bestie, Lidia Yuknavitch
Redwood Room, Sheraton Seattle, 2nd Floor
12:00 pm to 1:15 pm 

Friday afternoon. Panel: Plotting the Realist Novel (because, friends, I need this more than anything!)
Room 400, Washington State Convention Center, Level 4
1:30 pm to 2:45 pm

  • Here's where I'll be a lot of Thursday:  The LitReactor booth at 717.
  • The kind and generous women of Unchaste will have my books for sale at G8, and I'll try to wangle a sign time (meet and greet and stuff) on Saturday (when, thank god, the fair is open to the public). I'll tweet times and so forth with the #AWP14 hashtag.
  • Meet the lovely people behind WriteLife, stop by to say hi to Erin and Cindy at T2.
  • Want a sneak peek at Tom Spanbauer's new book? Don't forget to check out Hawthorne Books at CC38.
Oh, and I'll be reading with my buddies at Elliott Bay on Saturday night! I'm pretty sure tickets are gone, but you can always reach me via email if you'd like to get a signed copy of my book! (Or buy from the bookstore, they have a stock of them there as well.)

And speaking of the Elliott Bay pj party on March 1st, it's a good thing I'm driving because I've got to bring the pillows!

Who's going to AWP???

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

the empress moment

My book has been out for a little more than a month. If we were to equate this to motherhood, my baby is just starting to sleep through the night. I can sometimes even go eight hours without checking to see if she's still breathing.

Do you know what I mean?

As with my first actual child, I celebrated this milestone by getting knocked up again. My second book, THE EMPRESS CHRONICLES, is officially in the queue for publication, and the "due date" for now sits at July 29th, 2014. In other words, I'm starting to show. Getting cravings, gaining weight, wondering about eye color, etc...

Some of you know this, but if you don't, I actually wrote TEC before THE MOMENT BEFORE. Built around my obsession for Empress Elisabeth, I concocted a fairy tale where I imagined "Sisi" as a young teen, before being sold off to the Habsburgs where she became, in short order, a controversial cult figure.

I've paired my version of Sisi with a contemporary heroine, Liz. Unlike many fanciful time travel stories, there is no actual "meeting" of these two girls, but there is magic. In TMB, Sabine is present through the narrator's memories and imaginings. In TEC, Elisabeth and Liz are embroiled in their own stories, but find a way to blur edges (and possibly, history) through a diary and a locket.

I suppose I enjoy exploring this idea of extra-sensory communication. A sprinkle of magical realism. A bit of whimsy. Hopefully, grounded in humanity.

Through March, I'll still be mainly concentrating on promoting TMB (potty training? weaning? what other half-baked metaphors can we rustle up?), but come spring proper, you will see much more of the petticoats and pomp associated with the last Habsburg Empress. I hope you'll be with me when I give birth. The second time goes much quicker, yes?

How many books do you want to write before you die?

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

kate scott on contemporary ya

Hey there folks, I wrangled a guest post out of the amazing Kate Scott! Her new contemporary young adult book, Counting to D, will be available NEXT WEEK, and she's all over the interweb this week with smart posts and such.  

After reading Counting to D, I asked Kate if she would elaborate a bit on the contemporary young adult genre and this whole idea of the "issue book," which is a buzz term for ya books that explore social issues many teens face. (Or at least that's the way Amazon pigeon-holes it.) Kate has lots to say about genre in general. (Yay!) And offers her stance on creating complicated characters that embrace the realism of, well, real life!

Also, all you Portland (or near Portland) folk, Kate and I will be reading together at Annie Bloom's on February 18th, and in one of those, are you kidding? moments, we discovered that not only are both of our narrators high school students of slightly fictionalized versions of the same West Portland high school, they share THE SAME LAST NAME. Really!!

I hope you'll come to the reading, and I hope you'll buy Kate's book. It's really, really good!

Welcome to Let's Talk About Writing, Kate!

Real People are Complicated – Characters Should Be, Too
Guest post by Kate Scott

Counting to D is a contemporary young adult novel. There is an element of romance, but it’s not really a “romance novel.” The main character is dyslexic, but it’s not entirely about dyslexia. She also has an alcoholic parent, but that’s nothing more than a small subplot. Counting to D is a contemporary novel, but it’s hard to classify beyond that.

The larger genre of contemporary YA is normally divided into two sub-groups: “issues books” and “teen romance.” Counting to D is neither, and it is both. It’s a book about a fifteen-year-old girl. She has hormones—she is fifteen, after all. She also has feelings, and emotions, and a lot of issue-worthy stuff going on in her life.

I enjoy reading “genre fiction.” Or at least, I enjoy reading fiction, and publishers and readers alike tend to classify most fiction into genres. I read sci-fi, historical, urban fantasy, and romance. But my favorite books are the ones that are the hardest to label.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell is a super cute YA romance, set in the 80’s, about a child abuse victim. What genre is that? The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is an even more amazing book, about two teens with cancer who meet and fall in love during their cancer kids support group. It’s the sweetest romance ever, but boy, do those characters have issues.

There are a lot of things that I love about YA, but the ability to bend genres is easily one of my favorites, both as a writer and as a reader. Just last month, I read a YA romance that was also an urban fantasy, set in the 18th century. YA authors bend genres all the time, and YA readers jump genres, too. There may be some adults who read nothing but horror, period, and appreciate genre distinctions. But at least for now, young readers are still able find books about sparkly vampires sitting on the same shelves as the ones about bad-ass dystopian heroines.

This means that YA writers like Libba Bray can dive into entirely new genres with every book and still live in one section of the bookstore. I totally want to be Libba Bray when I grow up, just saying. But she already wrote Going Bovine (funniest book ever), so I guess I’ll have to stick with being Kate Scott.

Come to Annie Bloom's Feb 18th!
At this point, I’ve only written one book, or at least, I’ve only published one book. I have a few super crappy practice books stuffed in proverbial drawers, but trust me, nobody wants to see those. Counting to D is definitely YA—that much is obvious, but defining it beyond that becomes a little bit harder.

The novel is set in the present and completely devoid of sparkly vampires, so I feel confident calling it “contemporary.” There is a cute boy or two, so if you wanted, you could try to call it a “romance.” Except, there are a few issues that come along and knock the romance out of the forefront from time to time.

Some writers are great at writing interesting, compelling stories that clearly live in only one genre. But most great books, even the great books that people hold as genre-defining icons, are more than that. Because great books always star great characters, and characters, like people, are complicated.

In real life, I have a wonderful husband who I love very much. But he’s certainly not the sole focus of my life. All of my romantically involved friends have other issues to deal with beyond their love lives, too. Crazy overactive hormones are a huge part of adolescence and the reason why romance is a significant part of most young adult fiction. But real life is about more than just cute boys, and I’ve never met any teenagers who didn’t have at least a few issues capable of distracting them from their romantic interests now and again.

As a writer, I try not to think about genres. Readers, book promoters, and retailors think about that sort of thing. But me, Kate Scott the author, I only think about characters. My goal as an author has never been to perfectly follow every genre convention. It’s been to invent interesting and compelling characters that readers can relate to. Counting to D’s main character, Samantha Wilson, is a fifteen-year-old girl. She has issues, and hormones, and complicated messed-up emotions—because she’s human.

Right now, at least, that’s all she has to be because she lives in the YA section of the bookstore. I love that the YA market is growing in popularity, but I hope it never grows so big that YA books have to be defined as more than “just” YA. Because Counting to D is not the only book that’s hard to define. I love to read. I love to read YA. And all of my favorite books are hard to define. Funny, all of my favorite books are also about interesting, complex characters.