Alyssa Sheinmel

author

Who are your favorite authors?

This question is impossible to answer because I could go on and on and on about the writers I love!  Here are just a few: Jane Austen, Susan Casey, Joan Didion, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Alice Hoffman, Ann Patchett, Philip Pullman, Rainbow Rowell, J.K. Rowling, Elizabeth Strout, Laini Taylor, J.R.R. Tolkien, Rebecca Traister, Allison Weir…..  The list is honestly never-ending since I’m constantly discovering new favorites, across pretty much every genre!


What’s your advice for aspiring writers?

My number one piece of advice is never stop reading.  I think you can learn something about how to tell a story from everything that you read—novels, essays, articles, even textbooks.  (Really!)


What’s your writing ritual like?  Do you listen to music?  Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I have to confess that I have a pretty dull writing ritual: I sit at my desk at home and write.  I’m a morning-person, so I write mostly in the mornings, and I almost always read before I begin writing for the day.


What are you favorite and least favorite forms of punctuation?

I love the semi-colon; it’s all over my writing.  But for some reason I really don’t like ellipses.  I try to avoid using that dot dot dot whenever I can.


What Kind of Girl covers some pretty tough subjects—including teen dating violence and self-harm.  What made you decide to write about these topics?

I tend to do a lot of research for each of my books—It’s always a little “which came first, the chicken or the egg”—sometimes I’ll come across a fact that sparks an idea, and sometimes an idea will lead me to start seeking out facts.

In the case of What Kind of Girl, I didn’t know many of the statistics about teen dating violence and self-harm before I started writing.  But as I began my research, the numbers I came across were chilling: I read that girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence—almost triple the national average.  Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year, and one in ten high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend.

And, approximately two million cases of self-harm are reported annually in the United States.  Ninety percent of people who engage in self-harm begin during their teen or preteen years, and females comprise 60 percent of those who engage in self-harming behavior.

These numbers and statistics made me that much more determined to turn the story I’d begun to write into a book.  I hope readers will feel that What Kind of Girl did these very important and all too common topics justice.


What was the inspiration behind A Danger to Herself and Others?

The very first spark for A Danger to Herself and Others began on Twitter.  An editor I know tweeted that she was looking for a YA novel where a character is confined to a single room for much of the story.  I realized later that she was asking for book recommendations—not for someone to actually start writing a book!—but at the time, it got me thinking about why a character might find herself in such circumstances, and it wasn’t long before I was picturing a teenage girl in a room in a mental hospital.

The second spark for the story was my main character’s voice—Hannah is smart, confident, even (I think!) occasionally funny—her voice was clear to me from the very first sentence.  I knew I was writing a complicated and not always “likeable” (or reliable…) narrator—but I loved slipping into her head with every page I wrote.


Was Faceless based on a true story?

In a way, the idea for Faceless popped into my head long before I started writing it—even before my first book, The Beautiful Between, was published, I began making notes for a book about a girl who got into an accident that changed her face forever, who would discover how much of who she was was tied to what she looked like.  A few years passed, but I was never quite ready to start writing, never entirely sure how I wanted to tell this story.

Then, my editor shared an article from The New Yorker about a full face transplant. I’m pretty sure I underlined more of the article than I left blank!  I know it sounds corny, but I honestly felt like it was meant to be, like this was the story I’d been waiting to write.  While that article (and the many more pieces of research I read as I wrote) certainly inspired and educated me, Maisie’s story in Faceless isn’t based on any one story.


What is your favorite thing about  R.I.P. Eliza Hart?

I have two favorite things—the two narrators, Eliza Hart and Ellie Sokoloff.  I love each of these characters, and it was such an exciting challenge for me as a writer to try to create two distinct voices.  My goal was that readers would be able to tell whether they were in an Ellie or an Eliza chapter even if they’d just opened to a random page in the middle of the book—I hope I achieved it!

Oh, and one more favorite thing—I love that the story takes place in Big Sur, CA.  It’s my very favorite place and setting the story in Big Sur was my way of getting to spend a little bit more time there.  (But I promise, my reasons for placing the story there weren’t only selfish—I also thought it was the perfect setting for the story!)


Will you write a sequel to Second Star?

No plans for a sequel at the moment. I have to admit—without giving too much away—I kind of love how the ending leaves it up the readers to decide where the characters will go next.  (Though of course, I do have some ideas of my own…)


What was it like working with the creators of The Haunting of Sunshine Girl to turn their YouTube series into a book series?

To me, one of the coolest things about The Haunting of Sunshine Girl is that it was a collaboration from the very start.  To begin with, the web series was a collaboration between Paige McKenzie, her mother, and their producer.  They created a rich world and compelling characters and brought me on to help figure out how to bring all of that good stuff to the page.  It was so exciting to be a part of something that had a life both outside and inside of the pages of a book.


Where and how did you get the idea for The Stone Girl?

I actually remember exactly when I came up with the idea for The Stone Girl.  I was in a car, driving from San Francisco through the city and across the Golden Gate Bridge.  Out of nowhere, I pictured a girl, crouched still as a stone by a toilet.  Suddenly, I knew everything about her: I knew her name, I knew she had a bad boyfriend and a complicated best friend; I knew exactly how she felt about her body and about food.  It took me a while to get the book down on paper—or on the computer screen, really—but I knew I was going to tell Sethie’s story one way or another.


Your second novel, The Lucky Kind is told from the point-of-view of a sixteen year old boy named Nick Brandt. What was it like to write from a male perspective?

I loved writing in Nick’s voice.  One of my favorite things about being a writer is getting to play ventriloquist.  I never really made a conscious choice to write the novel from a boy’s perspective, but as the idea for the story developed, it was a boy’s voice that popped into my head, narrating the novel.  I couldn’t have written the story any other way—it was always Nick’s story.


What does The Beautiful Between mean?

The title The Beautiful Between has a few meanings.  It’s the place Connelly has created somewhere between fantasy and reality—she has an elaborate fantasy life, but she’s not cut off from the real world either.  And, The Beautiful Between refers to the relationships in the book—between Connelly and Jeremy, Connelly and her mother, Connelly and Kate, and Jeremy and Kate—the things that go on between people.

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