WN: How did you become a writer for 'tweens?
TM: The short story is: When I submitted my first novel to my agent, he suggested the story was a bit more suited for tweens than my intended young adults, and I agreed to change the age by two years, down to 13. This was excellent advice, and I’ve found it a great age to write about.
The long story is that it all began in college. I was in a writing workshop at Emerson College and I wrote a story set in high school. The class really liked it and I got some great feedback, but all the other students wrote super-serious stories that were dark and had adult issues. I thought that maybe what I was writing wasn’t serious enough and I needed to do what my classmates were doing, so the next week I wrote a story about something I knew nothing about. This is embarrassing. *takes deep breath* I wrote about a high-powered executive who can’t take the pressure so she leaps to her death off a high rise in downtown L.A. I knew nothing about being a high powered anything, especially not an executive, nor did I know anything about feeling suicidal. I had minimal knowledge of downtown LA.
The feedback was mortifying. They were nice, but they also had nothing good to say about the story. Finally someone said, “Why don’t you write like you did last week?” The class agreed they liked that genre from me, and that I did it well. I told myself I’d never go back.
WN: What is it like writing for that age group? Any great stories to share?
TM: The great thing about writing for tweens is that many of the experiences the characters go through are so new. First crushes, first big fights with friends, navigating cliques, making moral choices, good stuff like that.
WN: If you had to actually live the life of one of the characters in your book(s) who would you want to be and why?
TM: I would like to be Lucia Latham of TOTAL KNOCKOUT. Despite the punches I put her through in the book, I like her because she’s much more self-assured than I’ve ever been. She plows forward for what she wants, and she’s always sure that she’s going to get it. If there’s an obstacle in her way, she’ll figure out a way to get around it. Those are great qualities. Plus, her best friend, Cooper, has a trampoline and parents who cook amazing food—huge bonuses in a best friend.
WN: What kinds of things are you doing when you are not writing?
TM: I love, love, love to travel. Any chance I have to visit a new country, I go! But since that’s an expensive hobby, I also really enjoy hiking at Breakneck Ridge in Cold Spring, NY (fresh air and nature!), and walking for miles around New York City, especially with my friend Jessamyn and her little dog, Golda. One of our last walks was eight miles from Queens and through Brooklyn on one of the most perfect spring days of the year so far.
WN: Most of your books are about a pivotal moment in a pre-teens life - an embarrassing mom, blending in, gossip, etc. What makes this a great place for you to write in?
TM: For one, there’s always lots of drama in this age group to write about—and by the way, drama is so much more fun to write about than it is to live in. Also, like I said earlier, many emotions are being experienced for the first time but you’re also learning how to handle your emotions. Usually they go spilling over because everything in life is so heightened at this age, so something like your mom picking you up in her clunky car right in front of the movie theater while all your friends—and your crush—are standing there watching can feel utterly humiliating. Believe me, I know this to be absolutely true.
WN: I have to ask - any daughters?
TM: Nope, no kids at all. I have three amazing nieces, though, each of whom I’ve dedicated one of my HELLO, GORGEOUS books to. The oldest, Haden, is almost 10 and reminds me of how I felt at her age—moments of uncertainty, moments of feeling bold, and lots of moments of wondering where you fit in.
WN: What question should the Word Nerds ask, but haven't?
TM: Good question! You should have asked me which book is closest to something that has happened to me in real life. I totally would have told you—and the true story is as good as the fictional story.
C'mon, Taylor, don't leave us hanging! What about a follow-up in the comments?