How do you pronounce your last name?
I've got one of those tricky Irish names with stealth letters that don’t make a peep. The "gh" is silent, and so it is pronounced "Cray."
Why do you write for teens?
Because, on the inside, I think I must be a perpetual teenager. And when my characters come to me, asking for their stories to be written, they are nearly always teenagers.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
The best and truest advice I can give is that you have to write your story. While you should definitely be open to critique, your initial aim should be to write a story that you would want to read. Write with an audience in mind, yes, but write to please yourself too. Also, when you take that first step, write with abandon. Give your mind time and space to play. You'll find that the guts of your story often come from the subconscious. Worry about the details and technicalities later, when you get to the revision process. This is advice I have to give myself constantly. Just remember to listen to your characters even if they go against the grain of your plan. Usually, they're right.
What made you decide to become a writer?
The short (and slightly crazy-sounding) answer to this is that I am a writer by compulsion. I don't think I could ever stop writing. I have too many ideas and characters haunting my brain and it seems as though they've always been there. It's to the point where I've had to ask them all to please take a number, find a seat in the waiting room and chill out until I call on them. Not to mention that I get really cranky if I have to spend a lot of time away from telling their stories. So I think I am a writer out of love for the craft and for telling stories, but also because I just can't seem to help it!
What gave you the idea for Nevermore?
I started writing Nevermore in late fall of 2005. In the beginning, I had a cheerleader and a goth and the thought of throwing them together for an English project to watch the sparks fly. At this point, Poe was in the back seat. I thought that, of course, my goth guy would pick the focus of the project. Poe seemed an obvious choice and, since I also wanted there to be supernatural elements to the story, I went with it. So I started researching Poe on a surface level, just getting the general facts. At the time, I was more concerned about the drama developing between my lead characters. Then the weirdness set in. I was startled by all of the strangeness and mystery surrounding Poe's death. I began to notice a trend in his writing--that he mentioned dreams and dreaming constantly in his works. His poetry began to read like riddles to me, and I started to develop my own otherworldly "what if?" scenarios about his fate. Isobel and Varen's story began to change and morph. Poe pushed to the forefront, commanding attention. I immersed myself in Poe's fiction, listening to his stories on audio and then reading them again and again. I also learned about the mysterious figure known as "The Poe Toaster" and soon, I had all of these pieces to a complex Poe puzzle. Then, when those pieces all started to fit together with what I was already doing, I got really really excited and, at the same time, really really creeped out! (In a good way.)
Did Nevermore take a lot of research?
Yes. In fact, I am still researching. Poe's life is so layered that I feel like I learn something new every day. What is equally intriguing is the amount of information we don’t know about Poe. There is so much left to speculation and debate, which is one of the reasons why I (and so many others) find Poe so fascinating. I read as much as I can by Poe and about Poe. In particular, I love reading the letters he wrote to his foster father, John Allan, to his aunt, Maria, and his wife, Virginia. I feel like letters to family reveal so much about Poe's personality. In addition to book research, I've traveled to Baltimore a few times where Poe is buried. When the story started taking on a life of its own, I knew had to know more and see more, to stand in the places where Poe had once stood. I've been to Poe's house in Baltimore as well as the Poe Museum in Richmond and I have to say that the knowledge I've gained by traveling to these places has been nothing short of invaluable. (Of course, it doesn't hurt that the city of Baltimore is wicked fun!)
Do you have a favorite story or poem by Poe?
My absolute favorite story by Poe is William Wilson. I love the element of the doppelganger and the subject of duality, which is a theme that I find in a lot of my own writing. My favorite poems by Poe are Annabel Lee, A Dream Within a Dream, Alone and, of course, The Raven.
After Nevermore and Enshadowed, will there be another book?
Yes. I'm currently working on the third book of the trilogy.
Do you have any pets? I have two dogs, Annabel and Jack. I adopted Anna shortly after my first trip to Baltimore and gave her a Poe-inspired Name. While Anna is laid-back, Jack is a total rascal. They're great company when I'm writing. Junior year I was my high school mascot, Sam the Ram. I wore a furry crimson body suit with a ginormous Ram’s head that had these huge Princess Leia Bun horns that made it hard to fit through doors. No one knew, either. My friends were all goths, skaters and theatre nerds so I was too afraid to tell anyone. They always wanted to know why I “skipped” pep rallies. It was totally my secret identity.
So you’re a bellydancer? Really?
Yes! Really! Bellydancing is a huge part of my life. It has been called one of the oldest dances in the world and celebrates the feminine spirit, mind and body. I initially became interested in bellydancing as a form of fitness exercise. I quickly fell in love with the dance as an art form, however, and began to dance for the sheer joy. I discovered I had a knack for the movements from the start and studied and practiced as much as I could. Bellydancing has improved my health and contributes so much to my happiness and self esteem. After sitting at a desk and writing for hours, there is nothing better than putting on some baladi and rocking the cashbah. For more information about bellydance, there are some great articles written by some amazing dancers here.
Can you get any weirder?
No! I don’t think it’s possible!
Where do you get your ideas?
Everywhere! When you're writing, you're taking the raw idea and using the nuts and bolts of what you know about craft to develop a coherent and exciting tale. But the initial spark can come from anywhere and at any time.
What is your writing process like?
I do my best to write every single day. While writing Enshadowed, I learned that every book is different in terms of process. Where the plot for Nevermore seemed to spin itself into existence, I had to dig deeper with Enshadowed. I even had to scrap entire chapters, backtrack, and try something new. Also, during the first draft of whatever project I'm writing, I tend to allow things that want to be in the story to go in. For example, when I was writing Nevermore, the character of Pinfeathers arrived pretty late in the game. Part of me worried about introducing a new character (and a supernatural one at that) so far into the manuscript. However, I let him enter the scene and was very glad I did. He's actually one of my all-time favorites and has become integral to the Nevermore story. With Enshadowed, this approach was a little more hit-and-miss. A lot of material was cut from the first draft but, at the same time, there were some very cool things that I had not planned for that did remain. Recently, I've tried to develop a mixture of light out-lining combined with spontaneity. In other words, I develop a plan, but I don't let the plan rule the process if my characters won't follow its orders. I enjoy writing character-driven stories and that means giving them the final word.
Is there anything you have to have while writing?
I love to sip coffee while I write. I do any and all planning long-hand, but I need my word-processor for the actual drafting process. It's easier for me to organize and re-organize on a computer screen. I also have noise reduction headphones which I adore. For Nevermore and Enshadowed, I listened to moody and creepy movie soundtracks. I like to have music playing while I write but I can't handle songs with lyrics. However, when I'm driving, I find that music with lyrics fuels my imagination and helps me to plot. I've listed those songs in the playlists on the "Extras" page. It's also nice to have my dogs with me! Anna and Jack like to curl up at my feet. I usually know it's time to take a break when I start asking them for advice. It's definitely time for a break when they start giving it.
Will Nevermore be a movie?
That would be fun, wouldn't it? As of right now, there are no plans for a movie. I often daydream about there being a film, but that's in the film industry's court. I'll keep you guys posted on my blog if there is any news. ;)
Have you ever had writer's block?
I used to believe writer's block was a myth. I had never previously been at a loss for story ideas or words until I began to write my first sequel. The cure, I have found, is to meet with that blank page every day, no matter how scary it is. Even if you only manage a few pages or even a few paragraphs, that's still a victory. I also think balance is a key element. You have to allow yourself some space with your work as well and to have a life and interests outside of writing. That way you have experiences and real-life moments to draw from. In other words, you have something to write about. Community is another sure-fire cure for writer's block. Being in regular contact with a group of writers who are supportive and who are going through the process just like you can be invaluable and incredibly encouraging.
What happens after the Nevermore trilogy?
Back in 2007, before Nevermore sold, I wrote the bulk of a novel that I had a blast with. I'm going to be secretive about the subject and content because it's very different from anything I've ever done. But, after the conclusion to the Nevermore series, that's the project I hope to focus on next.
Hey, how come you didn't respond to my e-mail?
I love receiving mail from my readers. I love hearing your thoughts and reading about your experiences with Nevermore. Unfortunately, I do not always get the chance to respond. Other times, it just takes me a very long time to get to my e-mail. The reason for this is because I'm writing more books! Responding to e-mail takes time away from my writing and I have to put my work first. If you have a specific question that does not appear on my FAQ, I will try to add that question in with my next website update.
Will you read my story/book/fan-fiction?
Sorry, but no. My writing schedule does not permit me to read and/or critique manuscripts. However, your instinct is good! Seeking critique is an integral element to the process of crafting a story. My best advice to you is to seek someone who you know and trust who is also a writer and reader. Is there someone at school you can trade stories with? Can you start a creative writing club? Perhaps there is already an after school writing program you can join. In high school, I took Playwriting every day after my regular classes. Though I write novels today, those playwriting classes taught me invaluable lessons regarding dialogue and character development. So even if you want to write books and the only class available is on poetry, take it! Be as open as possible when it comes to learning about craft.
Do you know how I can get published?
There are many ways in which you can pursue publication of your work. The very first step is to learn craft and write the very best novel you can. This means taking your work through several drafts, asking the opinions of other writers/readers/creative writing coaches. You need to be open to making changes to your work, revising, revising and revising. You also want to read as much as you can in your field of interest so that you have working knowledge of your genre and the types of books that are being published. Once your book is complete and as good as you can make it, that's the stage when you should consider seeking an agent and/or editor. There are a few avenues in which to do this, including attending conferences or sending out query letters. When you are at this stage, my advice is to check out books from your local library regarding how to write a query letter. You'll also want to take a look at the most recent edition of The Children's Writers and Illustrator's Market. This is a book you can find in the reference section of the library or in most bookstores. The Writer's Market will list agents and editors who are seeking material. It will also tell you what type of material each agent or editor is currently seeking. This is a very surface answer to a very involved question and my response here is meant to point you toward resources. There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to publishing. So again, I'm sending you to the library! There you will find many how-to books that will provide more in-depth answers.
I'm a blogger and I would like to review your novel. Could you send me an Advanced Readers Copy (ARC) of your book or a finished copy?
As the author, I only receive a limited number of ARCS and finished copies of my books. After those copies are put to use, I have to purchase additional copies myself. So I do not have extra copies on hand. If you know of other bloggers who receive ARCs, you may want to check their FAQ pages to find out how.