I was never good at coloring inside the lines. That artificial boundary taunted me to be daring enough to blow it off. I’d like to say I was just that bold, but okay, actually I just wasn’t that patient, or maybe I just didn’t care about staying in the lines. I didn’t see the point.
When my dad first heard that I sold a book, he teased, “Maybe you’ll be the next JK Rowling!” Ha! Who wouldn’t want to be her? But actually… me. I’m not trying to be the next JK Rowling or the next Sarah Dessen or the next Stephenie Meyer. I’m trying to be the first me. And so maybe my books won’t be purely mainstream, but they will always be from my heart.
It was considered a risk to write a novel in a Southern dialect, but that was the truth for my main character, Savannah, in Breathing, and I didn’t want to portray a watered-down version of her. And I’ve had lots of teens and adults write to me to tell me how much they liked the Southern-style language. But did it make others not give it a chance? Maybe. Do I regret including it? No. Because I had to stay true to the character that came to tell me her story. And her personality is wrapped up in her history, her setting, her community, and her language.
It’s also said that authors should write three books in the same genre before switching genres in order to brand themselves. Well, my brain resists. It’s been trained to listen to the words that flow from my heart and those don’t always fit inside the lines. So I’m working on one book that’s contemporary, but much darker than Breathing, and another book that is paranormal.
I was actually an extremely obedient child, never wanted to get in trouble. But at some point I figured out that always staying in the lines– just like with my old coloring books – is boring. So I’m still a law-abiding well-behaved person, but when it comes to writing, to pouring my soul on the page, that’s where I’m free, no constraints to bind me. I’m thrilled to be a part of YA Outside the Lines and hope that together, we can all remind each other that outside the lines is a pretty cool place to be.