Monday, February 23, 2015

Write what you want to know

Probably most of you have heard the old adage, "Write what you know."

Over the years, authors have argued it's actually not the best strategy. What might be better is to say something like, "Write what you want to know." In other words, go where your imagination and curiosity take you.

I can't lie, I'm pretty envious of the authors who (seem to me anyway) have huge imaginations. Authors like Laini Taylor, Holly Black, Kate DiCamillo, Maggie Stiefvater, Rick Riordan, etc. etc. They think big. Imagine big. Write cool stories about cool things.

If I've learned one thing over the course of my career these past eight years, it is this: do not underestimate the power of cool things.

What do I mean by cool? I don't even know if I can pin it down. It's something that makes people sit up and take notice. It's something that large groups of people love. It's unique, in a good way, to stories, and yet as a whole, it's not too unique.

I recently read the Printz honor book The Carnival at Bray, a young adult novel (ages 13+), and goodness gracious, that book is just SO COOL. I don't want to give anything away, but something happens part way through the book that made me shout out loud because I loved where the book was going so much. That's amazing, when you think about it.

I've recently realized that I have done a much better job at thinking about the "cool factor" when writing my middle grade books than writing my young adult books. I don't know why. And I don't know why I only noticed this recently, but now that I have, it's something I'm taking into consideration a lot more before I start in a new story. This writing thing, there is always SO MUCH to learn, it's kind of crazy.

So this is the week MY SECRET GUIDE TO PARIS comes out.

It's a story for people ages eight and up, and has received really nice reviews from all of the trade publishers. When I began writing it, I went into it knowing there were a lot of kids, girls specifically, who would go crazy for a story set in Paris. Like cupcakes, Paris is one of those things that is just fun. I know girls who have their bedrooms decorated with all-things Paris. Paris, in a lot of kids minds, is cool. And when I wrote the book, I knew there were hardly any books for the middle-grade crowd set there. But that wasn't even the best part -- I knew I would have fun writing a book set in Paris, because it's been a dream of mine for a long, long time to visit that incredible city.

MY SECRET GUIDE TO PARIS is definitely a book where I wrote what I wanted to know. Where I wrote about something I love to think about. Dream about. And I'm so incredibly excited for people across the country to discover this book and to go on an adventure with Nora around the City of Light.

I only wish I could provide everyone with french pastries to eat as they read!

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