I love writing more than chocolate—and I really love chocolate. Sometimes I even send myself chocolates. Oh, you want me to talk about something besides chocolate? Okay. I live in Utah with my husband, two daughters, two dogs, two cats, and a pair of really cute tortoises. I’m lucky to be able to write full-time. If I were really lucky, I would be able to eat chocolate full-time (but I don’t have that kind of metabolism).
What got you started writing? What brought you to YA?
I started by keeping a daily diary in high school. Although it wasn’t particularly literary writing (way too much about boys), I do think it helped me develop my writing voice. I also learned to write without censoring myself.
I resisted writing for children at first because I wanted to be a “real” writer. Yet, the stories that my teachers and classmates enjoyed the most involved younger characters. I also continued to read YA and middle-grade fiction as an adult. I didn’t start writing for children until I had children. My first manuscript started as a way to teach my daughters about Mayan culture before our vacation to Mexico. I ended up writing, Jungle Crossing, a novel they weren’t old enough to read (it will be published by HM Harcourt in September 2009). After that I wrote another middle-grade manuscript, but soon switched to YA. I found that I gravitated toward YA novels in my own reading. And I had all those diaries full of inspiration for teen stories. My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters is my fourth manuscript.
Tell us about your most recent/ upcoming release?
Seventeen-year-old Jory Michaels wakes up on the first day of summer vacation with her same old big nose, no passion in her life (in the creative sense of the word), and all signs still pointing to her dying a virgin. In spite of her driving record (it was an accident!), Jory gets a job delivering flowers and cakes to Reno’s casinos and wedding chapels. She also comes up with a new summer goal: saving for a life-altering nose job. She and her new nose will attract a fabulous boyfriend. Jory survives various summer disasters like doing yoga after sampling Mom’s Cabbage Soup Diet, enforced-mother-bonding-with-crazy-nose-obsessed-daughter night, and discovering Tyler’s big secret. But will she learn to accept herself and maybe even find her passion, in the creative (AND romantic!) sense of the word?
Do you plot out in advance, or just start writing and see where things go from there?
I do some plotting in advance—it makes diving into those empty pages feel a little less scary. I have outlines that look like colorful rainbows, charts, and intertwining circles, but I used a calendar for My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters. I like to create a general sense of direction, but I always leave room for the characters to do what they want. When I started My Big Nose, for example, I was sure she would fall for an entirely different guy. Jory was, like, uh, no. That’s not happening.
Many authors have told me their characters talk to them, and sometimes even have different ideas of where the story should go than the author. Do you hear your characters?
Okay, I have to admit that my characters will sometimes talk while I’m in the shower or wake me in the middle of the night. While I’m writing, I just kind of become my characters and lose myself in their voices and actions. I like to write in cafés, and sometimes I worry that people think I’m crazy while I’m gesturing and making funny facial expressions as I really get into my characters. And, yes, my characters are stubborn like me. They tend to do what they want!
Who is your favorite character (of your own)?
Well, I do have a special fondness for Jory since I, too, spent my high school years hating my nose. Oh, and we both have driving issues, especially when it comes to delivery vans.
What hobbies do you have when you're not writing?
I love to read of course! I also enjoy hiking, skiing, cooking, baking, going to movies and rock concerts, and traveling. And when I’m traveling, I try to find excellent local chocolate!
If you had not become a writer what would you have done instead?
I might have stayed in school forever. I have a degree in English with a minor in Biology from Whitman College. I took writing classes at the University of Washington, women’s studies classes at North Seattle Community College, history and language classes at the University of Utah.... I love writing because I can satisfy my curiosity by researching novels, instead of collecting college credits.
Where can readers find you online?
Blogs: www.mybignose.blogspot.com and http://sydney-salter.livejournal.com
I love making new friends!
Your turn. What question do you have for readers of Want My YA?
What do you think about your own nose? Oh, and for extra credit: where is the best chocolate in your hometown?