Ten Questions & Ten Answers


Where do you get your ideas?

From daydreams, mostly. The weird details I come across when I’m doing historical research also inspire me. For example, I read an Englishman’s account of how derelict and filthy Versailles was when he visited in the 1770s and that helped shape the magic in Enchantée.

What kind of books do you read?

All kinds, from books on gardening and societal collapse to thrillers and poetry. Grimms’ fairy tales are my desert-island book. Or Shakespeare. Really, I’ll read anything as long as it’s good. You never know where inspiration will come from.

Do you have any favorites?

I have so many! When I was 17, my favorite books were Wuthering Heights, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, and the collected poems of e.e cummings.

What books inspired you to write Enchantée?

The most direct inspiration was Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, because it reads like a Regency novel but is full of magic—and Clarke created an incredible history of magic in the footnotes. During a year when I did a lot of driving, I listened to a 21-disc biography of Marie Antoinette, which apparently stuck with me. Sofia Coppola based her film Marie Antoinette on it, and that was also an inspiration. As was Dangerous Liaisons, both the book by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos (1782) and the Stephen Frears film.

Why did you set your story in 1789?

I was drawn to writing about the French Revolution because it’s a pivotal moment in European history, a kind of threshold when one way of life ended and another began. I was fascinated by how that change unfolded and what happened to the people who lived through it. I’m also interested in issues of social justice, which were such an an important part of the revolution.

Why do you write YA?

Because teenagers are the best readers I could ever imagine. I wish I’d had more books that felt like they were written for me when I was younger, so I’m writing them now. It’s the time when we try to figure who we are, what we should be doing, what we want (and don’t want), who our tribe is. Big, complicated questions. But asking them means you’re really alive—which makes for hungry, thinking readers. That’s who I want to write for.

What’s the hardest part of doing research for your books?

Feeling like there’s so much to learn, and not having the time to read every single thing.

Have you lived in France?

Yes, I lived there after I graduated from college. I didn’t know what to do with my life, and a friend of mine said she was going to live in Paris, so I thought, Why not? I lived there for 4 months, taught English to business people, lived pretty much hand-to-mouth, and fell in love with Paris.

Where do you want to go next?

Angkor Wat. Or New York City during the Gilded Age.

What are you working on now?

The sequel to Enchantée, in which the characters join the revolution and things get dark and unexpected, very, very quickly. And after that? I’m not sure—I’m interested in plagues at the moment.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

DO IT. How? The first part is easy: Read a lot. Read widely, and read outside the genre you want to write in. You don’t have to analyze the books, not right away: just fill yourself up with words and stories. The second part is harder: Write a lot. Revise. Get someone who will be honest to read your work, and then listen to what they say. Revise. Find friends who write, if you can. And if you’re up for it, keep a journal. Make an index in the back. And don’t forget to reread it. You’ll surprise yourself.