Hello Isabel, thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to me.
1. First things first: how did you take up writing?
I’ve been writing since I was very little, basically from the moment I realized that people actually “made” books. There was magic in realizing I could “write,” too.
2. What was your very first attempt at creative writing?
Those little “books” I made when I was four, perhaps? 😊 Like I said, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing.
3. Where did you get the ideas for your stories?
My ideas come from everywhere: little snippets of conversation, watching people out in the world and making up stories in my head about them, news stories, dreams, and bits and pieces of my own experiences. Our world is a treasure trove of stories just waiting to be discovered.
4. What in particular gave you the idea for Bookishly Ever After?
The first bit of inspiration came while I was writing a short scene for a blog hop. In that scene, a girl tried impress a boy she liked by acting like her favorite book heroines while trying to cross a two-rope bridge at camp. It was such a fun, funny scene to write and I really enjoyed playing with these characters so much that it was hard to let go of them. A few months later, while at a writing workshop, I was given the prompt “Your character falls in love at first sight.” An idea using the bookish girl from that story popped into my head and, thanks to that prompt, I found Phoebe’s “voice” and ended up writing the first few paragraphs of Bookishly.
5. It was interesting that Phoebe Martins wasn’t reading the same book over and over again as bookworms are usually depicted. How did you come up with the ideas for the books that she had her nose buried in?
As a bookworm myself, I couldn’t imagine just reading the same book for months, so Phoebe definitely had to have a healthily sized to-be-read pile. To create her “books,” I played with YA tropes that were especially popular when I was writing BEA, especially common YA paranormal romance tropes. For example, in the “Golden” series books, I was looking for a paranormal love interest that (at the time and to my knowledge) hadn’t been done already, so I picked leprechauns. For the “Hidden House” series, I played with an old Victorian superstition and built a modern YA paranormal around it. Finally, for the contemporary, “Cradled on the Waves,” I started with a setting — Prince Edward Island, Canada — and created a storyline that would compliment the discussions Phoebe and Dev had in the second half of Bookishly.
Regardless of how many excerpts were actually needed, all of the books mentioned and excerpted needed to be fully outlined and multiple scenes needed to be written across multiple books in each “series” in order to find best fit “scenes” to match the action in Phoebe’s storyline. Writing Bookishly was the equivalent of writing four or five books!
6. Also, I am sure a lot of people ask you this, but would you consider writing The Golden Series independently?
If there’s enough interest from readers and publishers, yes. I had to do heavy research into mythology, geography, and I had to write the outlines for the entire series, so it would only be a matter of writing it out. I think it would be a lot of fun to tell Maeve and Liam’s story!
7. We must say that we are thrilled to have seen Dev as the male protagonist of BEA. Two questions about that — what is his last name? And what inspired his character?
Dev’s last name is Jacobs. His family is from Mumbai and I wanted his first and last name to reflect Hindu and Goan names, respectively. Though his last name comes from his dad’s Goan side, Dev, like his mom, is Hindu and vegetarian (and loves stealing Phoebe’s mac and cheese bites at school).
Speaking of Mumbai, fun fact: The plantation Dev mentions in the second half of Bookishly is modeled after a friend’s farm in Maharashtra not far frm the city — his description of the plantation is almost word for word what I had written in my own diary during my stay (The bougainvillea truly did look like snow falling).
As for character inspiration, Dev was always Dev from the minute I pictured Phoebe in that short story trying to get across a rope bridge to impress the cute boy on the other side. I could clearly picture him standing there, from his slightly messy hair to his encouraging smile. As for his hobbies, I spent a lot of time in my high school years with marching band and theatre kids and, at that time, had a crush on a clarinetist who was also an amazing singer and actor, so those became ingredients for my perfect book boyfriend.
8. Did you always plan to continue the series into Dramatically Ever After and Practically Ever After?
Not at first, but as soon as I was finished Bookishly, Em wouldn’t leave leave me alone until I wrote her story. When Spencer Hill Press made the offer for Bookishly and asked me if I had a stories for Phoebe’s other friends, I gave them Dramatically Ever After and the outline for Practically Ever After.
9. Do you have particular schedules or writing routines when it comes to your work?
I do, in a way. Writing with a day job means being disciplined about morning writing time and, when I can, lunchtime or evening writing time. I outline my stories in advance and, when I’m trying to hit a deadline, I even have specific scenes planned for each day in my planner. I also like writing with music, though my taste is very broad and what I listen to changes with each scene and with my mood. Nowadays, I try to write at my desk or at a café so that I separate work and relaxation, but when I first started, I usually wrote while sitting in my bed!
10. If your story got turned into a movie, who would you like to see star as leads?
Oh, wow. The hardest part about writing YA is that the people you fancast when you’re writing the story usually aren’t teens by the time the book comes out! Back in 2012 when I was writing BEA, I took part in a bloghop where we fancast our works in progress. At that time, I pretended I had a time machine and picked a young Mafalda Tavares for Phoebe (this actress actually has an older sister, Catia Tavares, who would be perfect for Phoebe’s sister) and a young Shahid Kapoor for Dev. Now? If this was a Disney movie/series, I’d love Karol Sevilla (from Disney Channel Latin America) for Phoebe and the adorable Karan Brar (from Disney Channel US) for Dev.
11. What are your future plans for writing? Can you give out a teaser or two for your readers?
Practically Ever After is up next and the only thing I can say at the moment is that the main character is very… practical. Maybe a little bit technical, too. 😊
Outside of the Ever After universe, I’ve been working on a few contemporary projects and, hopefully, one or two of them are good enough to make it out into the world.
12. Do have any particular authors who inspire your work?
My favorite author is Lucy Maud Montgomery, so I tend to slip references to her characters and books into my books as a homage.
13. What would your advice be to aspiring authors?
First: don’t be afraid of rejection — it’s a major part of the industry and something you can’t avoid whether you’re writing your first or one hundredth book.
Second: Write something you love or develop a bad memory for your own writing. You will have to read whatever you write over and over as you revise prior to querying, then again if you do edits with your agent, and yet again and again with your editors, copyeditors, and line editors. If you love it, it won’t be as much of a chore, but if you’re writing to a trend or forcing a story, it will get old very quickly.
14. If there was a book you could turn into a movie, what would it be and why?
Emily of New Moon, by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Why? Because it was my favorite book growing up and I would love to see Emily on the big screen.
15. Finally, since this is the month a lot of people all over the world take part in NaNoWriMo, what are your thoughts on the same? And anything you would like to say to the participants?
I don’t do NaNoWriMo because it doesn’t work for my writing style — which is totally okay! But I love that there is an entire month dedicated to getting words on the page. If you participated and wrote — even only a few hundered words — you are a winner because you dedicated time to your writing. And when you’re done, please shelve that manuscript for a little while and work on something else before going back to revise. I know the instinct will be to revise and send it out as fast as possible, but time is your friend and time will let you look at the manuscript with fresh eyes.
Thank you once again for talking me. I wish you all the best with your current work and future works.
Thank you so much! The same to you and your readers!! ❤