frequently asked questions

Books FAQ
Writing FAQ

Books FAQ

» Are you writing any sequels?

Julia and Eric from Snitch show up in my book On the Edge. On the Edge, Light of Day, and Run the Risk (early 2017) are all connected books.

Other than that, all of my books are standalone, except The Oracle of Dating, which continues into The Oracle Rebounds.

» Are any of your characters based on real people?

No, but many of my characters are similar to people I've met, especially my students.

» Will any of your books be made into movies?

TAKEDOWN has been optioned to be a TV show. Fingers crossed it’ll work out!

I would love to see my books made into shows or movies, and I’m very hopeful that it will happen… If I have any news, I’ll post it on my website and Facebook pages.

» If there is a movie, can I play the role of Julia, Ty, Amy etc.?

If there is a movie made of any of my books, I would love for non-professional actors to be involved. I would do my best to make audition information public so that you could give it a shot.

» What inspired you to write Street Pharm and Snitch?

While I was teaching in Brooklyn, my students complained about some of the boring books they had to read for English class. I wanted to write books that would keep them turning the pages, and that would reflect the realities they faced growing up in Brooklyn.

Some of my students were drug dealers, and bragged about it. I couldn’t believe that these smart, charismatic guys were involved in such a dangerous business. After some hard listening, I was able to understand why they made the choices they did. Ty Johnson actually came to me while I was on the subway one afternoon, daydreaming. I could see a scene in which a student was talking back to a dean who was telling him that he would never amount to anything. From that moment, Ty Johnson became real to me, and writing from his viewpoint just flowed.

A lot of my students in Brooklyn were in gangs. Some wore colors to school, while others were more secretive about their involvement. Gang violence was rampant at my school, and I had many discussions about it with my students. I asked them why they would join, and they gave me an earful. I even had a student warn: “You should stop asking so many questions.” But I didn’t.
And then one day I was branded a snitch. I witnessed an incident involving some teens from another school, and I reported them. The teens then followed me to the subway station, surrounded me, threw garbage at me and cursed at me. The subway platform was crowded, but no one did anything.

The next day I told my students what had happened, and to my complete shock, they said it was my fault because I was a snitch. They said I was lucky I hadn't been thrown onto the subway tracks. I realized that if I'd been a student instead of a teacher, I'd have been in real trouble that day. So I started wondering what it would be like for a teen who lived in fear... and Snitch was born.

» How did you get the idea for Raven?

I was listening to music (which I often do when I write) and I pictured a dance club in what was once a church. I could see mysterious people working there, including a darkly handsome Italian boss and a group of teen breakdancers. I hadn’t planned on writing anything paranormal when I started Raven, though I’d always been fascinated by the paranormal myself. I decided to follow the story where it took me.

The character of Nicole came to me very soon after I saw the setting. She was in a lot of pain due to her brother’s mental illness and drug addiction. Like many people in her situation, Nicole believed that the pain inside her would be gone if she could just be with Zin, the amazing breakdancer she’d fallen in love with. But, of course, Zin isn’t quite what he seems.

You can read more about Raven in this interview.

» What was your inspiration for The Oracle of Dating?

I felt like writing something different—something light. And I’ve always loved giving dating advice. As a teen, my older sister’s friends called me the Oracle of Dating. Over the years I’ve had some funny dating experiences myself, and met some, uh, interesting characters… and all of that fed into The Oracle of Dating. (And yes, some of what’s in the book actually happened to me.) Writing the Oracle books was a lot of fun—kinda like going to a slumber party with lots of junk food, guy talk, gossip, and out-of-control giggling.

Read this blog to find out more about how my own dating experiences inspired The Oracle of Dating.

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Writing FAQ

» Why do you like writing for teens?

Check out my blog: Top Ten Reasons Why Writing for Teens is Awesome.

» I have writer’s block. Help!

It’s perfectly normal to feel blocked now and then. The question is, why are you feeling this way? Is it because you’ve given yourself an unrealistic deadline for finishing the story? Is it because you’ve written yourself into a plot maze, and can’t find your way out of it? Or do you just need a break from writing for a few days?

Sometimes the best way to deal with it is to take the pressure off, step away from the computer, and do something completely different. If you’re feeling blocked because of a plot problem, then I find it helps to sit down with a pen and paper and think it out, or discuss it with a friend.

» How did you get your first book published?

I bought a copy of The Writer’s Market Guide to Literary Agents and submitted query letters to five agents. (A query letter is a one or two page letter pitching the book—Google “query letter” to see examples.) Two of the agents I queried requested to see the manuscript, and one of them took me on as a client. (However, it did take about eight months to hear back from him—you have to learn patience in this business!) The agent said it was my “unique voice” that attracted him to my writing, and he gave me some useful feedback on my manuscript. Eventually he submitted the manuscript to publishers, and it sold.

» Do you have any advice on how I can get my book published?

Right off the bat, my advice is to be patient. Getting published is usually a long-term goal, not a short-term one. As a teen, I wrote a lot and hoped to get published soon. I ended up getting published when I was twenty-eight—and I wouldn’t change a thing. Like most people, I needed years to write, revise, and grow as a person before my work became publishable.

So, start off by asking yourself if your work is publishable at this point in time. If you can’t be totally objective or you’re just not sure, ask someone who will tell you the truth. If the answer is “not yet” don’t be discouraged, just keep writing until you are ready to take the next step. Many authors do not get their first, or fifth attempt at a book published, and yet go on to have wonderful careers. And remember, if you do eventually get a book published, you can always go back to your much-loved first manuscripts and see if they’re workable.

» How long does it take you to write a book?

That totally varies depending on my life at the time—but, on average, I’d say six months. I need to do a certain amount of writing on a regular basis, or else I lose the flow of a book.

» Can you look at my book?

Unfortunately, I can't. With my own writing to work on, not to mention my students' work to mark, I simply don't have time. And I don't feel it's fair for me to say yes to one of you, and not all of you. The good news is that you don't need me to read your work, just someone who knows books and pays close attention to detail—maybe your English teacher, someone in your family etc.

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