Let’s start with the basics.
Where were you born?
I was born in Austin, Minnesota—the town where I still live.
What is the coolest or most distinctive thing about your town?
We are known as SPAMtown USA, and we actually have a SPAM Museum here.
What’s your take on Minnesota in general? Love it or hate it?
I love Minneapolis. I think it has a lot of the perks of other big cities—like plays, concerts, and a bustling nightlife—but it’s always felt very safe to me. I hate the snow. I like it on Christmas day, but I’d be thrilled if it melted the day after. Strangely, I made vampires that prefer winter to summer, when I’m the opposite.
What’s your sign?
I was born July 12, 1984, which makes me a Cancer. Or it did, until the zodiac changed, and now I might be something else entirely.
Aside from writing, what other kinds of jobs have you had?
I worked full-time in group homes for people with disabilities for the past five and a half years, so the majority of my writing was done then. In high school and right out of high school, I worked as a dishwasher, and then I went to work at the group home. I always wrote in my spare time, but I had to pay the bills, so I had to keep my day job. Until August 2010. That’s the first time I made enough money off my writing that I didn’t need to work anymore, so I’ve been writing full-time since then.
What do you do in your spare time?
I’m the guitarist in a band called the Fraggin’ Aardvarks, and even though it’s twice as cool as it sounds, we haven’t had a practice in like two years, so I’m not sure that technically we are still a band. But we never broke up, and it’s an awesome thing to tell people, so I’m sticking with it. (We even had a synthesizer!) I make collages all the time, too.
I enjoy Red Bull, Jim Henson, Batman, Jane Austen, Star Wars, and Legos. I really like sushi.
The paranormal. I [also] love ‘80s movies, especially sci-fi/fantasy and John Hughes.
I absolutely hate long walks on the beach out of my intense fear/hatred of wet sand.
I have an obsession with River Phoenix, and I’ve seen Silence of the Lambs more than any other movie, even The Dark Knight. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen every American movie that came out between 1980 and 1990, and I’ve loved them all. My favorite movies are The Dark Knight, Labyrinth, The Crow, Up, My Own Private Idaho, Pretty in Pink, The Empire Strikes Back, Back to the Future II, and American Psycho.I like to obsess over things that don’t matter because it’s more fun than obsessing over things that do.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut and Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is my favorite play, and I want to watch it all the time.
Playstation or X-box?
X-box (Side note: I literally only bought an X-box so I could play Arkham Asylum. And it was TOTALLY worth it).
The Trylle hate eating anything remotely processed—even blueberry pancakes! Are you all into eating veggies and fresh fruit like Wendy or do you eat more like Rhys?
When I was writing, Switched, I only ate ravioli and Red Bull and Sweet-tarts.
So, Finn or Loki? What kind of guy do you fantasize about? Or, okay, let’s be more dignified— What do you consider to be the traits of a perfect mate/partner?
Of the two, I definitely have a preference, and while I won’t say exactly who it is, the guy Wendy chooses is the same guy I would’ve chosen. It sounds cliché but the number one thing I look for in a guy is a sense of humor. Anybody that can make me laugh steals my heart. Brooding is overrated. I’d like somebody honest, straightforward, and funny.
Who or what inspires you?
I think I draw most inspiration from writers like Richelle Mead and filmmakers like John Hughes. They both really understand the experience of being a teenager and how insistent and intense everything feels, but they’re also smart, savvy, and fun. [Richelle Mead’s] characters are very strong and funny and real, and I definitely learn from her as much as I can.
Now, let’s switch gears and talk about writing.
When did you start writing?
The truth is I was always writing. Before I could write, I would tell stories. When I was younger, I couldn’t write fast enough to keep up with the ideas I had, so I had to talk and get them out. It never occurred to me until I was about 12 that I would do anything other than be a writer.
When I was 12, I decided that writers were boring people, and I didn’t want to be boring, so I’d save writing for my “safety” career while I tried out other ones. In high school, I probably wrote about fifty short stories and started a dozen novels. I also wrote a full-length script for a movie about four teenagers who resort to murder to protect a friend. I’m sure it’s poorly written, but I haven’t looked at in like eight years.
I finished my first novel when I was seventeen, right after I graduated high school. It was about a guy with amnesia in a corrupt institution looking for a serial killer. I know, it’s shocking that something with that many overwrought clichés never found a publisher. (BTW - my mom still says it’s her favorite book by me. But it’s still very bad).
What is a day in your life like? Do you have a daily writing ritual?
I don’t really have one. So much has happened so quickly, I haven’t exactly figured out how to get into a writing routine, yet. I’ve always kind of written when I wanted to….Most of my day is spent on the computer, though.
Okay, but you must have a process, right?
When I get an idea, I think about it for a few weeks, and then I outline. Once I have an outline ready, I sit down at the computer and write. Sometimes, I’ll write for 8-12 hours a night. When I’m writing, I usually shut myself off from the world for a few weeks and just write. Then I’m done, and I come back to real life.
How does it feel to be labeled an overnight success?
I think there is this very big misconception that I was like, “Hey, paranormal is pretty hot right now,” and then I spent a weekend smashing out some words, threw it up online, and woke up the next day with a million dollars in my bank account.
This is literally years of work you’re seeing. And hours and hours of work each day… I also have this tremendous sense of urgency, like if I don’t get everything out now and do everything now, while the iron is hot, everything I’ve worked for will just fall away.
Or at least that’s how it feels.
Sounds stressful. You should try yoga.
I carry all my tension in my shoulder—as in one shoulder, my left shoulder, right in the little curve where it meets my neck…which wouldn’t be a big deal except that however I sit when I write, I pull on it. It’s my fault for having ridiculously bad posture.
What makes your books bestsellers?
Nobody knows what makes one book a bestseller. Publishers and agents like to pretend they do, but if they did, they would only publish best sellers, and they don’t.
What about writers who want to self-publish?
My biggest word of advice to any new, future writers thinking about diving into self-publishing: Edit. I don’t care what you think, you didn’t edit enough. Some people won’t care that there’s errors, its true, but enough of them will. And they paid for it, so they have a right to. So edit more. And then again. Really….Self-publishing is great, but it’s not easy.
Who is your favorite character in the Trylle series and why?
Tove. He’s by far the most complex and layered. His motives aren’t always clear, but he has a nice balance of wanting to do the right thing and doing what’s best for him.
Which of your characters is most like you?
Duncan. He’s clumsy and loyal, and he’s underestimated a lot.
New questions for WAKE & the Watersong Series!
What do you think is the most notable difference between Harper and Gemma?
Harper’s more practical. She’s older and had to take on more responsibility, so she tends to think more before she acts, and sometimes that leads to her never acting at all. At times she gets too bogged down in worrying about everyone and everything that she forgets to make time to have a life.
Gemma’s much more impetuous. She’s not thoughtless, but she knows that she if she wants something, she has to go after it. She’s more likely to take risks, and that can lead to good things – like the foxy neighbor boy Alex – and also bad things – like dangerous run-ins with Penn.
If you suddenly met Penn, Thea and Lexi in real life, how would you react?
If I were walking down the street and saw them, I would probably turn around and walk the other way.
Penn, Thea and Lexi are so deliciously evil, what inspired you to write them and who could you see playing them in a movie?
Villainesses were always my favorite. Bad guys always get the best lines. They get to do what they want without regard for others. Nothing is more fun than a strong, wicked woman bent on destruction and domination.
For a movie version, I really see Megan Fox as Penn. Maybe Brittany Snow as Lexi. I’m a bit conflicted about Thea. I like Blake Lively, but she doesn’t have red hair. So maybe if she dyed her hair.
What sort of research did you do for Wake and the Watersong series?
I’ve always been fascinated with mythology. When I was in grade school, I read about everything I could on Greek mythology, so I already had some knowledge about the subject. But before I actually sat down to write Wake, I read several books on the subject, and did more basic internet research.
How important was music when writing Wake, was there one song you had on repeat?
Music is always important when I’m writing, and with Wake, more so than most. I listened to a few instrumental film scores – mostly The Next Three Days composed by Danny Elfman, and also a bit of The Dark Knight composed by Hans Zimmer. But for some reason, I listened to “E. T.” by Katy Perry ft. Kanye West on repeat, especially at the beginning of the book. As I’ve written the rest of the series, I’ve been listening to a lot more Florence + the Machine, Death Cab for Cutie, Lana del Ray, and the Drive soundtrack.