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Q: Which of your Grimm Legacy books should I read first?

A: You can read them in any order. The Grimm Legacy takes place a few years before The Wells Bequest, which takes place a few years before The Poe Estate. But each book has a separate story and mostly new characters, so start with whichever one appeals to you.


Q: Will you write more Grimm Legacy books after The Poe Estate?

A: No, that's it. I'm currently working on a new fantasy novel, with a whole new concept, setting, story, and group of characters.


Q: Will Elizabeth ever get her sense of direction back?

A: You’ll find out when you read The Poe Estate.


Q: What about all those enchanted princesses in The Grimm Legacy? Will they be stuck as dolls forever?

A: Don’t worry—Jaya is on the case! She succeeds at most things she sets her mind to, especially when Leo agrees to help, so I think there’s hope for the princesses.


Q: What else have you written?

A: Besides the three Repository novels, I’ve written Enthusiasm, a novel about a pair of best friends in high school. Julie, the narrator, is rather shy, while Ashleigh, her friend, is prone to wild enthusiasms. When Julie gives Ashleigh her favorite book, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Ashleigh goes mad for Austen and drags Julie off to crash a dance at an all boys’ school, hoping to find their own Austen heroes.


Q: Where do you get your ideas?

A: The same place you get yours. Think about a good idea you had recently. It could be a soccer play, or a science-fair project, or a party theme, or a way to get your brother to stop borrowing your favorite sweater and leaving it in his locker—anything. Even a story plot! Where did your good idea come from? Probably one of three places: From your own life (e.g., you broke your finger and decided to do a science project on how bone repairs itself); from someone else (e.g., you saw your favorite player make a similar move in a World Cup game); or from the clear blue sky (you have no idea why you decided it would be fun to turn everything in the family room upside down).


Well, it’s the same with me. I write about my own life, I make things up, or I get inspiration from other writers.


Q: Where did you get the idea for The Grimm Legacy?

A: When I was in high school, I worked as a page at the New York Public Library. It was an enchanted place and an amazing job, and I thought it would make a great setting for a fantasy novel. But while books can be magical, they don’t have the same physical variety as objects, so I made my fictional library a library of objects. I always loved fairy tales, and somehow (see “clear blue sky,” above) I got the idea of having a collection of fairy-tale objects in the Repository basement. For the story I borrowed elements from fairy tales.


Q: Where did you get the idea for The Wells Bequest?

A: I had already invented the New-York Circulating Material Repository for The Grimm Legacy, and I knew I wanted to use the science fiction collection in the next book. I’ve always loved reading and thinking about the past, so the idea of using a time machine intrigued me. (Working out the details of the time-travel plot so that I didn’t end up with too many unintended paradoxes almost made my brain explode! It was like solving a very hard math problem. Luckily, I love math.) The idea of having my characters visit Tesla’s lab came from my high school friend David Bacon, who’s a computer scientist. “The lab burned down in the 1890s, so nobody knows what was actually in it,” said David. “Tesla was working on all kinds of crazy inventions. You could have a lot of fun with them.”


Q: Where did you get the idea for The Poe Estate?

A: I love ghost stories and knew I wanted to write about a haunted house. The clear-blue-sky part was realizing that the main ghost should be the narrator's overprotective sister.


Q: Where did you get the ideas for Enthusiasm?

A: Jane Austen, Shakespeare, clear blue sky.


Q: What’s your favorite fairy tale?

A: I have so many favorites, it’s impossible to choose just one. Some of them are:

  • “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” from the Grimm Brothers (I always loved the idea of going through a trapdoor in your bedroom and finding an enchanted palace at the other end).
  • “The Snow Queen,” by Hans Christian Andersen (I always loved the way Gerda gets to rescue Kai).
  • “The Day Boy and the Night Girl,” by George Macdonald (I always loved the way the two characters learn from each other)—and his novels The Princess and the Goblin and its sequel, The Princess and Curdie.


Q: Who’s your favorite writer?

A: Diana Wynne Jones, the author of the Chrestomanci series and many other fabulous fantasy novels. Jane Austen and Shakespeare are pretty good too.


Q: When did you start writing?

A: As soon as I learned how. In school I mostly wrote poems and stories. After college I went to work for a newspaper and wrote lots of book reviews. I also wrote magazine articles about science. I wrote my first novel—Enthusiasm—when I was 40.


Some writers start early, and some start later. No matter how old you are, now is a great time to start (or continue) writing.


Q: What’s it like working with an editor?

A: A smart, thoughtful editor like mine—Nancy Paulsen—is the best thing that can happen to a writer. No matter how great your story and your writing style, there will be things in your manuscript that you’re too close to see, things you haven’t thought of, things you think are clear that really aren’t, and things you’re too fond of to cut, even though they don’t really fit in your story. Of course, it can be painful to hear that your story isn’t perfect. But your editor can help you get it a lot closer to perfection.


Q: I’m writing a story. Do you have any tips for me?

A: Tips for Writers:

  1. Read a ton.
  2. Keep writing, even when it's hard. Don't give up.
  3. It’s great to have an outline or a general sense of the shape of your book before you start. But don’t think you have to write the whole entire book all at once. Just write the next scene, and then the next scene, and then the next. Once you’ve written enough scenes, you’ll have a book! (Feel free to write the scenes out of order, too.)
  4. If you get stuck, try going for a walk or a bike ride or a swim or a turn in your wheelchair—anything that moves your muscles and changes the scenery. That can help get the ideas flowing. Train rides and showers are also good.
  5. Having a writing partner helps, so you can read each other's writing and encourage each other.
  6. Don’t worry too much about how good your book is. You can always make it better.
  7. Most important: Have fun with it!


Q: I’ve written a novel. Will you read it and give me advice?

A: I wish I could! So many people ask me this, and I just don’t have time—if I helped everyone with their books, I wouldn’t be able to write my own books or make a living. But I’m sure there are other people in your community you can find to work with. Maybe your school has a literary magazine or club. Or maybe there’s a writers’ group at your library. Or ask a teacher you like and respect.


Q: Are you going to make the Grimm Legacy books into movies? Can I play Elizabeth? Can I play Leo? Can I play Kitty’s ghost?

A: I don't make movies myself. That's the job of filmmakers, and I'm a writer, not a filmmaker. Several producers have expressed interest in making the Grimm Legacy books into movies or a TV series, and a big Hollywood studio even optioned The Grimm Legacy for several years. (That means they paid me money to give them—and nobody else—the right make a movie or TV show, for a limited period of time.) But they didn’t actually make a movie, and the rights to the series are currently available. If you know any filmmakers or producers you think would do a good job making the books into movies, tell them to talk to my agent!


If you’re serious about wanting to be an actor, the best thing for you to do is get experience acting. Join your school drama club or your local theater. Take voice lessons and dance lessons. Write a play with your best friend and put it on together.


Q: I’m doing a school project on your book and I need to know what the themes/climax/figures of speech/major conflicts/etc. are. Can you tell me?

A: I’m very flattered that you’ve chosen my book for your project, and I hope you have a good time with it. But it won’t help if I tell you what I think the themes, climax, conflicts, or whatever are. For one thing, your teacher has no interest in my opinion on the subject. He or she wants to know what you think. And your teacher is right! If I tell you what I think the themes, climax, metaphors, motifs, etc. are, you won’t get practice finding them on your own.


Furthermore, I’ll tell you a secret: Writers don’t think that way. Themes, climaxes, motifs, metaphors, and so on are the realm of critics, scholars, and (to some extent) readers—people who analyze books, not people who write them. I’m not saying it’s not important to learn about these things. It can be lots of fun to notice them, and it can certainly help with your schoolwork. But no writer I know thinks “What themes should I introduce?” or “Now’s the time for a simile.” Instead, they think things like: “Would this character actually say that to her mother?” “This section seems to be going on for a very long time. Is it boring? Maybe I should cut it.” “How can I get the villain to seem evil enough to do the bad deed without making him so obviously horrible that readers won’t believe the hero would ever trust him?” “What does my narrator look like?” “Is this the right word?” “Is there a more beautiful, more striking, or clearer way to express this thought?” “How can I describe this house so that it feels spooky and mysterious, but readers can still picture the layout clearly enough to follow the action?”


Q: I’m doing a school project on you and I can't find enough biographical information about you. Please tell me more things about yourself.

A: Take a look at the bio section of this website. If you still need more information for your project, you can find some interviews with me by doing an online search on my name and the word interview.


Q: Are you going to write a sequel to Enthusiasm?

A: No. If I did, to make it interesting I would have to make the couples split up, and that would be way too sad.


Q: Parr is so dreamy. Swoon! Will I ever find True Love?

A: Yes. The perfect guy or girl for you is out there, and someday you’ll meet them. Well, okay, they’re not actually perfect—nobody is—but they’ll seem close enough to perfect, to you.


In fact, there are several close-enough-to-perfect possible True Loves out there for you. It’s just a question of which one you meet when the time comes.


Q: I’m just like Julie, and my best friend is an enthusiast like Ashleigh. Are you an Ashleigh or a Julie?

A: I think of myself as a Julie, but my friends keep telling me I’m an Ashleigh.


Q: Will you do a Skype visit with our school/class/book club?

A: I love doing Skype visits! Ask your teacher or librarian to email me.


Q: Will you come visit our school/library/book club?

A: I’d love to, but if it’s farther away than a subway ride, I probably can’t. But I can do a Skype visit if you like.


Q: Will you write back if I write to you?

A: I love hearing from readers, and I always write back.


I answer email MUCH more quickly than paper mail. If you write me a letter on paper, please make sure you include a full return address, including your last name.  If you use your school’s address, tell me your teacher’s name so I can write to you care of her or him—otherwise the post office will send me my letter back, you will think I didn’t bother to answer you, and we will both be sad.


Q: Why is there a hyphen in “New-York Circulating Material Repository”?

A: That’s how people used to spell New York a century or two ago. The New-York Historical Society still uses the hyphen too.


Q: Does the New-York Circulating Material Repository really exist?

A: Not in this universe. But I haven’t been to all possible universes—maybe there’s one where it does. If you ever find it, please let me know.


Still have questions? Click here to email me.