Frequently Asked Questions
Have a burning question you're dying to know the answer to? Mildly curious about something? Or, wait, you're simply killing time until your coffee finishes brewing? Look no further: here's the DL on me, my books, and a few other things. If you can't find the answer to your question, feel free to drop me a line on my contact page and I will get back to you ASAP. I will also be updating this FAQ page as I get more info. from my publishers and think of more questions to answer (because, you know, I talk to myself a lot). The questions are divided up into sections to make finding what you're looking for easier.
The Businessy Questions
Who is your agent?
Brenda Bowen of Sanford J. Greenburger. She's amazing, and I am not exaggerating.
I'm a blogger. How can I get an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of your books?
SOMETHING REAL (Henry Holt / Macmillan)
EXQUISITE CAPTIVE (Balzer+Bray / HarperCollins)
For now, shoot me an email on the contact page and I will forward it for you. My publisher is still sorting out who will take care of this on their end, so I'll add the contact info for all PR genies as soon as possible.
*Please note that we do not send review copies once a book is available for purchase
Are your books going to be made into movies?
Hopefully! How cool would that be?
Can you come to my event, library, bookstore, school, or alien spaceship?
I hope so ("take me to your leader!") and thanks for asking. :) Send a request on the contact form and I'll see what we can rustle up. Also, I am totally open to doing Skype visits, even though I am seriously bad at using anything that requires technology.
How do I get my book signed when it comes out?
I'm working on how to manage this with my publishers, so I will let you know ASAP. In the meantime, you can check the News / Events page for where I'll be signing.
Everything you wanted to know about me but were afraid to ask
So, wait, you live in Brooklyn, but you're from LA?
Yep. I've wanted to live in NYC my whole life and now I'm finally here! Loving it so far, but in some ways I'll always be a California girl.
Did you study writing in school?
I'm currently getting my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts (which, ahem, was recently voted the #1 MFA program by Poets and Writers magazine - wootwoot!). I love it, BUT I got my first book deal and my agent before I started going there. I didn't have any formal writing training before this program, but I firmly believe in improving your craft. I got my undergrad degree in theatre (with a focus on directing) from the University of Southern California (Fight On, Trojans!).
But, for real, VCFA is awesome. It's a low residency program, kinda like writers camp (and sometimes writer's boot camp). I am so proud to be part of the wild and crazy family of VCFA.
Who are your favorite writers and what are your inspirations?
Guess what? I have a handy inspiration page that answers all these lovely kinds of questions. Check it out!
I heard a rumor that you like to travel. How many countries have you been to?
At last count it was 25, but I'm adding one more when I go to Morocco this December to do research for the second book in my jinni trilogy! I've been traveling since I was in high school, raising money to go on volunteer trips and then, later, putting money on my credit card to explore more of the world. I also lived in South Korea for a year, where I taught English. A lot of my travels are featured in the Dark Caravan Cycle.
It's a toss up between Cambodia and Russia.
NYC. We make a damn fine city in this good old land of ours.
Questions about Something Real
How did you come up with the idea for SOMETHING REAL?
I've always been weirded out by reality TV. We didn't have cable (still don't) and so I never really got into MTV's The Real World, which was the only reality TV around when I was growing up (that makes me sound old, but I'm not that old--seriously!). When the Survivor craze started, it was the summer before my senior year of high school and I was (randomly) living in the Ukraine. (I spent the summer there as an au pair, which is a fancy way of saying live-in babysitter). Side note: that was one of the best summers of my life. I love the Ukraine and the family I lived with. Anyway, we didn't get American shows over there, so I was totally out of the loop. By the time I came home, the reality TV trend had started, but I never got into it. When I was in college, there was this crazy disturbing show called The Swan, which gave women who considered themselves ugly ducklings the opportunity to get plastic surgery so they could feel "pretty" and there was also a show that offered plastic surgery so people could try to look like their favorite celebs. What?!
In Summer 2011, I saw a picture of Kate Goslin and the kids from Jon and Kate Plus Eight on the cover of a magazine and I started thinking about how weird and hard it must be for kids who are on reality TV. I imagined how they would feel when they got older if kids at school could go online and watch episodes where the Goslin parents are fighting and the Goslin kids are doing embarrassing kid things. I wondered if these kids were going to be messed up someday and I wondered what it would be like to have the cameras in your house, day in and day out. It made me angry and usually when something makes me angry, I end up writing a book about it. I only watched a few episodes of the show after I started writing Something Real, but it was definitely my inspiration.
How did you sell the book?
I first began work on it in Fall 2011 in a writing class at Simmons College. Then I wrote like mad, the whole plot coming to me in waves as I got deeper and deeper into the world of a reality TV family. I watched the movie Cinema Verite, which is a fantastic film about the first reality TV family. I read articles on TMZ about the Goslins and watched videos of the Duggar Family, of 19 Kids and Counting Fame. I finished the manuscript in March 2012 and received the 2012 Susan P. Bloom PEN New England Discovery Award for the book (then titled Streaming). A couple months later, I signed with my agent and the book sold at auction to Henry Holt/Macmillan!
Despite being a writer, I don't really have the words to describe what it feels like to have your dream come true. All I can say is that I feel ridiculously blessed. And just so you know, SOMETHING REAL was the first book I sold, but not the first one I wrote. I have full manuscripts for another YA and a middle-grade that never really saw the light of day. I have loads of rejection letters from editors and agents. But from the moment I started writing SOMETHING REAL, I knew it was the one. Kinda like I knew my husband was "the one." The responses I got from editors and agents was like nothing I'd experienced with my other books. Needless to say, I'm glad I didn't give up.
Do you have a favorite reality TV show?
Okay, I have a confession to make. When I was living in South Korea teaching English, I got so homesick that I binge-watched America's Next Top Model. This is NOT my favorite show, but, in my defense, the only TV in English was on the Armed Forces Network and, like, this one channel that kept showing ANTM. There was also an Asian version of The Amazing Race that totally rocked. I don't watch reality TV, BUT my grandma is dying for my husband and I to try out for The Amazing Race and I have to say, that show is awesome. Alas, I'm too lazy to make the video you have to send in with your audition. I think my husband and I would kill it, though.
If your life were a reality TV show, what would it be called?
Damn, way to raise the question bar! How about "Heather in Wanderland"? I don't know, I feel like it would have to be related to how much I love traveling in real and imaginary places. But, for real, if my life were a reality TV show, it would totally suck. It'd just be my at my computer for twelve hours a day or watching episodes of Breaking Bad on the couch with my husband.
In SOMETHING REAL, Patrick asks Bonnie™ what her three favorite words are. So, what are your's?
These are in no particular order...
1. Gloaming: Oh my gosh, if this word were edible, I would gobble it up. I think I fell in love with it in the Radiohead song "The Gloaming" from Hail to the Thief. The first line says it all: "Jinni let out of the bottle it is now the witching hour." You can check out an awesome video of Radiohead playing the song on the Exquisite Captive playlist on my YouTube channel. P.S. Radiohead is my favorite band. Loooooove them.
2. Bashert (Hebrew, pronounced "bee-share-t"...I think). So, this is going to mark me as total freakin' weirdo, but whatever. When I was a kid, there was this show my mom liked called Sisters and this is where I first heard the word. I totally fell in love with it. And I am not Jewish, but whatevs. It's basically the Hebrew word for "soul mate." I saw a bracelet at the New York Public library gift shop that says it in Hebrew, but it was over a hundred dollars so, you know, I admired it from afar.
3. Serendipitous: I love the meaning of this word, but also the sound. It has such mysterious possibility.
4. YAWP (yeah, I know Patrick only gave Bonnie™ three, but I'm adding a fourth BECAUSE I CAN). This is from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, which I have a mild obsession with. You might have noticed that this was part of a quote on my website's homepage. Fun fact: my husband and I had a theatre company that we started in LA called Theatre Yawp! (The exclamation point is part of the name).True story.
What's up with the setting for SOMETHING REAL?
I decided to have the book set in central California, in the Fresno/Clovis area because that's where I went to high school. It's a pretty isolated place and I thought the Bakers would be able to start a new life there.
Does it *really* matter where you get your Pepsi Freeze?
Um, YES. Here's a hint: Shaw Ave. That's all I'm sayin'.
Who's your favorite character in SOMETHING REAL?
Are you kidding me? That's like Sophie's Choice. I refuse to answer your question. Now please excuse me while I go make out with Patrick. That is, if I can get Benny to leave the room.
Questions about Exquisite Captive / The Dark Caravan Cycle
How did you get the idea for the story?
Believe it or not, my idea was from a writing prompt! In the same magical class that I began SOMETHING REAL in, the teacher (Anna Staniszewki of My Very Un-Fairy Tale Life) told us to write the first chapter of a middle-grade novel where the main character realizes they have a huge problem. The very first thing that popped into my head was a jinni in a bottle. I had never had an obsession with jinn before, so I have absolutely no idea how I latched onto this idea, but I loved it! So, I wrote a chapter where my young jinni was stuck in a bottle and couldn’t get out. It was very different from the YA book it would become, but what stayed the same was my jinni protagonist, Nalia. A lot of people are intrigued by the fact that Nalia is the main character, rather than a human girl who gets hold of a jinni and has the opportunity to make three wishes.
Why did you decide to write about jinn/djinn/genies?
One of the reasons that writing about jinn appealed to me is that we just don’t see much of them in western fantasy literature. While vampires, werewolves, faeries, witches, angels and the like have been explored over and over, for some reason the jinn are forgotten about. My only knowledge of the jinn came from watching old episodes of I Dream of Jeannie as a kid—going back and watching those, I realize that Nalia would absolutely HATE the portrayal of the happy servant jinni (as do I!). Another thing that interested me about the jinn is that whenever we do hear about them (which is rare in the west), they are often portrayed as tricksters and somewhat dangerous—I’d say they’re most similar to the fey in this regards. I thought it’d be fun to write a protagonist with a bit of a mean streak. Once I decided to write about the jinn, and to write Nalia’s story in particular, I knew I had to get on it right away: I was terrified that every YA fantasy writer was having the same idea and that I’d get left behind in the dust. It ultimately took me a little over a year to write, from that first prompt until I sold it, but I wrote most of it in a three-month spurt this past winter.
What was the writing process like?
Once I got really going on it, I worked like mad to get the book written, all the while researching everything I could about the jinn and, of course, delving into One Thousand and One Nights. There was another book that helped me a lot and if you're into jinn, you might want to check it out: Legends of the Fire Spirits by Robert Lebling. I had to create a magic system, a language, and a whole new realm. It was tricky!
What made you take on the serious issue of trafficking in your book?
I didn’t set out to write a book about trafficking—it all came about organically. One day I was writing and I suddenly realized, oh my gosh, Nalia has been trafficked! So began the concept of the dark caravan and, later, the arms trade. It’s been great to use my fiction to better understand and explore issues in our real world that I care about and I like that this gives young women an opportunity to consider this issue in a fictive context, where they are really spending time with a character that is dealing with modern slavery. That’s part of what I love about fantasy: that we can explore things that are true through our fiction, which, in its own way, becomes another kind of truth.
BUT, this is my huge disclaimer: I am in NO WAY realistically portraying trafficking in my book. In the real world, there aren't sexy masters who have the possibility for redemption. A girl being trafficked wouldn't be attracted to the evil dudes who captured her. This is a fantasy, camerados.
Okay, out with it: if a jinni were willing to grant you three wishes, what would they be?
I'll have to get back to you on that. Honestly, being able to do what I love for a living is the biggest wish I could ever have asked for. So I need to go back to the drawing board! It would probably involve travel. Or Maseratis.
Team Raif or Team Malek?
Um. I can't have both, can I? Oh, shut up, you know the dark side of you wants Malek, too.
How did you come up with these guys?
Malek just sort of...appeared. He was very insistent in his Malek kind of way about how he would speak, act, be. I was basically his secretary - he's pushy like that. Raif is a character I've always wanted to create. I have a soft spot for revolutionary boys. He's a nicer version of Che Guevara.
Okay, you obviously have a thing for cars. If you got to choose, would you want Nalia's Maserati or Malek's Aston Martin?
Okay, first of all, if this is my fantasy I don't see why I can't have both. But, really, it's no contest - the Maserati. I used to see them on the freeway in LA and just...sigh. And now there's one in my neighborhood in Brooklyn! (And who the heck parks their MASERATI on the street in Brooklyn?). Maybe if I'm nice, they'll let me drive it.
If you were a jinni, which caste do you think you'd belong to?
Hmmm...this is tricky. I can't give away any spoilers. I think I'd want to be a very nice Shaitan. Wind has always been my favorite element, and they are the artists and scribes of the realm. Also, it would straight up suck to be a Marid or Djann under Ghan Aisouri rule.
So, why did you decide to set the book in LA?
Well, I'm a native Angelino and I've always been fascinated by the duality of the city. It's bright and warm, but it has a really dark underbelly. I thought this would be a perfect place for someone like Malek and for expat jinn. It was so much writing about some of my favorite parts of the city, especially the Getty and the Venice Boardwalk.
I heard Book 2 of the Dark Caravan Cycle is going to be in Morocco! How are you prepping for that?
Well, I'm going to Morocco! I'll be there this December to do research for the book. This includes camping out in the SAHARA! I can't wait and I promise to pose loads of pictures.
You're in a dark alley and are suddenly surrounded by some seriously scary criminal types. You can choose a jinni, a vampire, or a werewolf to help you out. Which one do you choose?
Hello? Jinni. And not just because I'm writing about them. Think about it - if you were a seriously scary criminal type, a jinni would be the last thing you were expecting. The possibilities are endless.