Frequently asked questions
When did you first start writing?
According to my mom, I was writing before I was reading - I told my Grandma some stories about two dogs who solved mysteries together, and she wrote them down for me. I started my first novel when I was 15 and finished it when I was 17. It was about twins with superpowers, and it was bad, because of course it was! But I kept practicing, and wrote a lot more, and I got better.
What kind of research did you do for LYCANTHROPY?
The short answer to this is, lots. I wrote this book out of my own experiences with chronic illness, but I also wanted it to reflect the world around me. I started by doing research on all the different kinds of experiences I wanted to include, from race to illnesses to gender identity to historical werewolf myths to working in animal control to living in Pennsylvania or New Jersey.
Then, I did interviews with people for all of the above, and visited Pennsylvania to get a feel for it. The interviews changed the way that I wrote the book, and the things that happened in it - for example, driving tends to be okay for my chronic illnesses, but my friend Tracy told me that it can be difficult with Lyme, so I moved Brigid and Priya closer to each other. I also got sensitivity reads, especially for Priya's Indian-American identity - one after I finished the first draft of the novel, and another that went through my editor at Quirk first.
Are you chronically ill?
Yep, I have two autoimmune disorders and a number of other problems & issues with my body. I'm managing it better than I used to, but I still have flares somewhat regularly.
How did you come up with the idea for LYCANTHROPY?
I've always been obsessed with werewolves as "monsters," because to my mind, they were always just people with a chronic illness that affected them at regular intervals - just like me. Also, they're extremely cool, and I wanted more female werewolves. In the frustration as I was coming out of a long and difficult flare, I wrote a prose poem called "How to Be a Werewolf." As I was talking to my friend, Hannah, about the concept of a girl in a support group who meets a werewolf there, she stopped me and said, "oh, that's a book." And it turned out it was.
What's your writing process like?
I definitely look before I leap - I like to flesh out the characters with playlists and images, dig into the specifics of the research, and make a detailed outline before I start writing. But all of this shifts as the story pulls me in. And there's not just one way to write - it's whatever works best for you.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Focus on the work, and keep your eyes on your own paper. I don't mean don't read - that's the best way to learn how to write. But it's easier now than ever to get caught up comparing yourself to others, or trying to write something you think might be on-trend. Write the thing that makes you feel most alive - the thing that you're in love with. In 30,000 words you're going to be half-sick of it, before you remind yourself the reasons you loved it in the first place. Writing is hard, but it's fun, too. So play, try new things that might not work, and have fun!
Can you read my short story/novel?
No, sorry! Keep working on it, though - you're doing great!