Thinking in Threes: Brenda Drake

Today at Thinking Through our Fingers, we’re thrilled to host the inimitable Brenda Drake for another round of Thinking in Threes, where we ask an agent, editor, or author three questions and they answer with three (ish) answers. If you’re  not familiar with Brenda, you should know that she’s the genius behind Pitch Wars, #pitmad, and Pitch Madness (among other things) and is a huge champion of writers across genres and age categories. (And don’t miss the giveaway below!)

Brenda Drake is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. She grew up the youngest of three children, an Air Force brat, and the continual new kid at school. Her fondest memories growing up is of her eccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. So it was only fitting that she would choose to write stories with a bend toward the fantastical. She lives in New Mexico, and when she’s not writing or hanging out with her family, she haunts libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or reads someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).

Her newest book, Thunderstruck, came out September 11, and you can find it at Entangled, Amazon, B&N, iBooks, and Kobo.

 You can find Brenda online at her website, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Goodreads.  And now, to the interview!

What are the three easiest things about writing? What are the hardest parts?

I’d have to say the following are the easiest things about writing for me.

  1. It’s my favorite part before starting a story. I love finding cool ideas and settings for the world I want to write.
  2. I really enjoy planning a story.
  3. Creating characters. It’s a lot of fun coming up with the people who will populate the pages.

The hardest would be …

  1. Though this is my favorite easiest thing, it can also be the hardest. Sometimes there are many threads leading from whatever I’m researching, and I can get tangled up following them all. I’m easily distracted so I have to keep myself on task and not research all the things.
  2. Staying focused. With so much going on in my life, finding focused writing time can be difficult.
  3. Starting a story. It takes a few chapters for me to find my legs in the story and pick up a nice steady stride while writing it. Before I get a good grasp of the characters and voice, it’s slow going. Then, once I know them, the story flows faster for me.

What were your three favorite books as a child?

The books I read were quite old. They were the ones in my grandmother’s bookshelf that my mother and uncles read when they were children.

  1. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  3. The Nancy Drew series. My favorite is the Secret of the Old Clock. Probably because it was my mom’s favorite growing up.

Share three examples of art, photographs, or music that played a role in the writing of this story.

  1. The song that inspired me while editing this book was Something Just Like This by Coldplay and The Chainsmokers. It’s a perfect superhero song to go with the son of Thor.
  2. A photograph that inspired one of the scenes in the book was a shot of a guy helping a girl in the rain. The two are drenched and trying to get to shelter.
  3. This image inspired the many times Blake pulls lightning from the sky in the book.

About Thunderstruck:

 Stevie Moon is famous…at least to the subscribers on her comic review vlog. At school, she’s as plain as the gray painted walls in the cafeteria. So when Blake, the hot new guy at school, shows an interest in her, she knows trouble when she sees it. Been there. And never doing it again.As the son of the god Thor, Blake Foster’s been given an important mission—to recover the Norse god Heimdall’s sacred and powerful horn before someone uses it to herald in the destruction of the entire universe. But while Blake is great in a fight, the battlefield that is a high school’s social scene is another matter.

Blake knows his only choice is to team up with the adorable Stevie, but she’s not willing to give him even the time of day. He’ll need to woo the girl and find the horn if he hopes to win this war. Who better to tackle Stevie’s defenses than the demi-god of thunder.

You can also check out the book trailer for Thunderstruck.

And enter Brenda’s giveaway:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks, Brenda, for joining us–and congratulations on your new book! (And the upcoming Pitch Wars showcase).






An Interview with Lisa Mangum

Every Saturday, my sister Lisa Mangum and I get together to write, or to talk about writing, or to brainstorm new stuff to write, or to commiserate about how we can’t write anything at all. Anyway, the following is a recent conversation we had:

Me: So I have to write a new post for the blog.

Lisa: What are you going to write about?

Me: I don’t know. I’ve run out of ideas. I even tried crowdsourcing some ideas on Facebook, but I can’t seem to make any of them work.

Lisa: Bummer.

Me: I was thinking I should interview you instead.

Lisa: Me?

Me: Why not? After all, you’re an award winning author and editor, and you’re sitting right here in my living room. I bet people would love to get an inside look at what makes you tick.

Lisa: Good point. You can ask me three questions.

Lisa Mangum.png

Me: Awesome. Question one: What are your top three most pivotal books—the ones that changed you as a reader?

Lisa: The first would be Dragon’s Blood by Jane Yolen. I read this book in sixth grade, and it introduced me to fantasy. Up until then, I had no interest in fantasy whatsoever. Prior to that, I read a bunch of stories that were mostly “pretty girls who were dying,” and that sort of thing. But this book opened up an entirely new world and genre to me.

The next is Beloved by Toni Morrison. I read this in college. This actually pivoted me out of fantasy, and back into realistic and modern fiction. It also introduced me to a point of view that I had zero prior experience with. It was so beautiful and honest, and it made me understand the human condition in a way I never considered before. It helped me see the common connections that I could have with people, even someone from such a different background than my own.

The third is Dante’s Divine Comedy. I took a course in college that focused entirely on this book, and I loved every second of it. The book truly fascinated me: the language, the symbolism, the imagery—all of it. I resonated with the journey of man’s decent into the lowest regions of Hell, and then into the highest parts of Heaven. The book then lay dormant in me for another ten years, until the spark came for my first book, The Hourglass Door, and Dante’s writing became the main inspiration.

Me: And you even named your male protagonist Dante.

Lisa: Exactly. You never know what elements are going to combine to make a story come to life.

Me: Okay, so let’s go to the flip side. What three books made you so mad, you wanted to take them out behind the school and beat them up and take their milk money?

Lisa: You’re going to get me into trouble with this question.

Me: Hey, nobody said this was going to be easy.

Lisa: Right off the bat, I have to mention The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (makes gagging noise). I hated this book so much when I read it in high school. I hated that the pastor in the story was so awful, and yet was supposed to be a stand in for Christ. I didn’t like the structure of the story, I didn’t like the pacing, and I didn’t care about the Joad family’s suffering. I felt like Steinbeck was trying too hard, and he came across as arrogant.

Me: I hear you. And if there were time, I’d lay out my own dislike of Steinbeck. But that’s a rant for another day.

Lisa: Number two would be Speaker For The Dead by Orson Scott Card. Full disclosure: I didn’t really enjoy Ender’s Game, so take that into consideration. But this story was set a thousand years after Ender’s Game, and it felt like the author was simply trying ride the wave of the other book’s success. It felt “tacked on” instead of having legs to stand on its own. Also, I was acutely aware of the author writing the book, if that makes sense.

Me: I don’t follow. Aren’t you aware that authors write all books?

Lisa: Yes, but the author shouldn’t be “in” the story. I shouldn’t see the author sitting at his keyboard, madly typing away as I read. That’s all I could imagine as I read this, and it made me angry.

Me: Gotcha. What’s your third book you’d like to beat up?

Lisa: (Pauses). The Lord of the Rings.

Me: Gasp!

Lisa: I’m sorry. But when I tackled Tolkien in ninth grade, it was a horribly hard slog. I couldn’t keep track of all the characters; I hated all the singing and epic poetry, and I found myself doing other things to avoid reading it. In fact, when I finally got to the point where Frodo and Sam are on the slopes of Mount Doom, I closed the book and said, “I’m sure everything will turn out fine.”

Me: Really? Because there’s a lot of stuff that happens after that.

Lisa: I know. But I couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t even see them throw the Ring into the fire until the movies came out!

Me: Wow. So what did you think of the ending of the movies?

Lisa: I was right—everything turned out just fine. Now, in fairness, I love the story of Lord of the Rings. I just prefer the way Peter Jackson tells me that story instead of Tolkien.

Me: I’d like to pause and remind anyone reading this to send hate mail to my sister instead of me.

Lisa: Bring it.

Me: Okay, last question: What are your top three most memorable lines from books?

Lisa: Number one is easy: “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” That’s is the opening line from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, and I love it because it opens with action, and sets the tone for the entire series. The man in black is not just running, he’s fleeing. And it’s across a desert—a harsh, unforgiving environment. And the gunslinger is following, determined and unrelenting, like a shark or the Terminator. When I read that line, I didn’t know who these characters were, or what would happen when they eventually met, but I knew I wanted to be there when it happened. And it was awesome!

Number two is: “He looked at Jimmy, a direct look, unsmiling. ‘I’m counting on you,’ he said. Then he slit her throat.” This is from Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood. I love this line because I absolutely did not see it coming. Oryx, Jimmy, and Crake are the main characters, and it’s rare enough that one would die, let alone in such a startling manner. In that moment, every character’s actions were both unexpected, yet inevitable. The story couldn’t have gone any other way, and it took my breath away when I read it. That’s good storytelling.

Number three is: “I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”

Me: Point of order: that’s not from a book. That’s what Ripley says in Aliens.

Lisa: Fair enough. But it’s such a good line! And I’m surprised at how frequently I quote this in my real life—almost on a daily basis. I find it applicable in so many different ways, such as when I’m working on a story, or an edit where things just aren’t coming together, I mutter “let’s just nuke this from orbit,” and I feel better. A good line like that becomes a classic when it finds its way into your regular vocabulary. It’s the kind of line I’m always trying to write in my own stories.

Me: I’ll let it slide if I can ask one Secret Random Bonus Question: What is your favorite snack at Disneyland?

Lisa: Ugh, I can’t pick just one! It depends on what time of day, and where I am. For instance, at 11:45 PM, when I’m on Main Street on my way out of the park, I have to stop and get a Mickey Mouse shaped rice krispie treat. On the other hand, if it’s two in the afternoon, and I’m on my way over to Toy Story Midway Mania, I have to stop and get a Mickey Mouse ice cream from the cart on the boardwalk. And of course, if I’m in the Tiki Room, I have to get a Dole Whip, regardless of time of day. It’s the law.

Me: Awesome. Thanks for letting me interview you. Anything else you’d like to add?

Lisa: Yes, I’d like to say that you’re the best brother in the whole world, a brilliant writer, a true inspiration, and a champion among men. I wouldn’t be who I am today without you.*

Me: Don’t mention it.

*Author’s note: this line may have been added after Lisa left.


Dennis Gaunt has worked as a slushpile reader for Deseret Book and Shadow Mountain publishers since 2000. All those years of reading other people’s words inspired him to take a crack at writing himself. His first book, Bad Guys of the Book of Mormon, was published in 2011, and he has since published other books and magazine articles in the LDS market, and has even recorded talks on CD for LDS youth and young adults.

Though primarily a non-fiction writer (for now), he loves reading and talking about what makes great fiction stories work. His years of wading through the slushpile from the other side have given him a unique perspective on the writing and publishing processes, and he’s excited to be a part of Thinking Through Our Fingers.

Dennis lives in the Salt Lake City area with his wife, Natalie, who still has the text he sent her all those years ago that read “Holy cow–I think I’m writing a book!” In his spare time, he enjoys photography, playing the guitar, cooking (hold the onions, please), going to Disneyland, and Godzilla movies.

Thinking in Threes: Triple MG Interview


Today on the blog, we’re featuring triplet debut authors Jill Diamond, Elly Swartz, and our own Elaine Vickers! These three authors’ books were released just this week, and they each agreed to answer three of our interview questions. Bonus: They also agreed to do a giveaway! Check the end of the post to find out how you could win a critique from all three authors. But first, the interview…

finding-perfectWhere did your initial story idea come from?

Elly Swartz, author of Finding PerfectOne day, I woke-up with Molly in my head, and she wouldn’t leave until I told her story. At the time, I knew a number of adults and kids whom I was very close with who had OCD. I was awed by the disconnect between how they saw themselves and the world saw them. I then spent the next 7 years researching OCD, writing Molly’s story, and working with OCD pediatric specialists to authenticate the manifestation, discovery and treatment of Molly’s symptoms. Between research and the writing, I learned so much from Molly. She has stayed with me long after wrapping up my final draft. Truly, I think a piece of Molly will stay with me always.

Jill Diamond, author of Lou Lou and Pea and the Mural MysteryI actually came up with Lou Lou and Pea’s names before anything else. I adore naming things! After that, I knew I wanted to write a story inspired by the people, traditions, art, and culture that I love about my neighborhood, the Mission District in San Francisco. I also knew I wanted it to be a mystery and a friendship story. It all kind of fell into place from there, and Lou Lou and Pea were born!

Elaine Vickers, author of Like MagicFrom an editor’s tweet to an agent. (Neither of whom I ended up working with! So you’re not wasting your time on Twitter, folks. 🙂 There was an article about an American Girl doll being checked out from the New York Public Library that this agent and editor felt would make a great middle grade novel. I agreed, and I couldn’t get it out of my head, so I wrote the story. The doll was replaced by a hollowed-out book box after several revisions, but that tweet and that article started it all.

lm-coverTo whom is your book dedicated, and why did you choose that particular dedication line?

Elaine: My dedication line reads:

for my mom

and my daughters

who make my life

like magic

Like Magic is a story of connection—between friends, but also between mothers and daughters. My mom has been my greatest support all my life—the kind of mom I hope to be for my own daughters. So it felt just right to dedicate it to them.

Jill: My dedication line reads:

For Nancy Diamond, known to her students as The Best Librarian in the Whole Wide World, known to me as Mom

I dedicated the book to my mom because it could never have existed without her. My mom was an elementary school librarian and a true champion of children’s literature. I began working on the book when I was caring for her during a terminal illness. I thought it was a fitting way to honor her, particularly because my mom greatly influenced my love of both reading and creative writing.

My dedication line says, “To James, Joshua and Gregory. You make my heart smile every day. I love you.” James is my husband of 26 years, and Joshua and Gregory are our sons. I dedicated this book to them as they are truly my whole heart. On this long journey to YES, their belief in me never wavered. They make me proud and so very happy. I am beyond grateful. And lucky.

lou-louWhat is the best reader response you’ve ever had for this book?

Jill: My favorite feedback thus far was from someone who won an ARC of LOU LOU AND PEA in a raffle. She tweeted: “My daughter LOVED Lou Lou & Pea! She gobbled it up in one night, told me it was super funny (her highest praise), and said she wants to learn Spanish. So – THANK YOU!”

Elly: I had the privilege of Skyping with a class whose teacher had an arc of Finding Perfect that she had read aloud to all of her students. When we Skyped, we spoke a lot about Molly and her unattainable definition of perfect. In response, this fourth grader shared his interpretation of what perfect meant to him after reading Molly’s story and participating in our discussion. I was truly moved.


Elaine: When I read this book to my daughter for the first time, she surprised me with a Lego recreation of a key scene in the book. I think it will be hard for anything to top that, ever.


And now for the best part…

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway and win a critique of the first five pages of your MG or YA manuscript by Elaine Vickers, Elly Swartz, and Jill Diamond!

Good luck!

JillDiamond_Headshot.pngJill Diamond has loved children’s literature for as long as she can remember, thanks to her school librarian mother and the long, cold winters in Maine. When she’s not writing, Jill practices law, dreams about her next travels, eats soft serve ice cream, and wears cowboy boots. Jill now lives in San Francisco with her husband and their son. Visit her at or on Twitter @jillinboots

ellyElly Swartz’s debut novel, Finding Perfect (FSG) is about twelve-year-old Molly, friendships, family, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that will determine everything. Through the years, Elly’s been a Sesame Place ride operator, messenger, lawyer, legal author, and college essay adviser. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two sons and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly or learn more about what she’s working on, you can find her at, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.

profile-picElaine Vickers is the author of Like Magic (HarperCollins) and loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. You can find her at on the web, @ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption.

Thinking in Threes: Debbi Michiko Florence

I’m so excited to have my fun and talented friend, Debbi Michiko Florence, on the blog today. Before we get to her interview, I want to first share a little about our friendship.

I first got to know Debbi years and years ago (something like 14!) in the then hopping and exciting world of LiveJournal.

There were quite a few of us, writers and authors who stumbled across each other in one fashion or another, who started blogs there. We formed a community, talking and chatting through posts and comments, learning about each other’s lives and families, discussing writing and books.

I lost track of many of those friends through the years, reconnecting with some when Facebook became the thing. But there was one friend I hadn’t found again. Debbi.

In April, I went on an impulsive and exciting trip to Boston and NYC with my CP and friend, Elaine Vickers. Elaine arranged a fun night out on the town with her agent and many of her agency sisters while we were in Boston.

 So, let me paint this picture for you. Elaine and I were sitting at a long dining table in a private room in a beautiful restaurant. We were some of the first to arrive. Ladies were trickling in every few minutes. We’re chatting and getting to know each other. And then in walks Debbi Michiko Florence. I jumped up from the table, rushing to throw my arms around her. Here was my friend! In real life!

 manddebbiWe walked next to each other on the way to the theater after dinner, talking and chatting a hundred miles a minute, trying to share and catch up as fast as we could. We’ve emailed back and forth, asking questions, and sharing bits and pieces of our lives. It’s been fantastic!

Maybe this is a cautionary tale. Writing friends are the best kind of friends. And when you find good ones, make sure you keep track of them! You won’t always be as lucky as me and find them again in Boston.

Now for the interview!



Hi! I’m Debbi Michiko Florence, author of the early reader chapter book series Dorothy and Toto (Picture Window Books/2016) and the upcoming chapter book series Jasmine Toguchi (FSG/July 11, 2017). I’m an animal lover and a former zoo educator. I live with my husband (Bob), 2 ducks (Darcy & Lizzy), a bunny (Aki), and a betta fish (Samurai).

Planner, Pantser or Hybrid? Give us three insights into your drafting process.

1. Fast draft a shitty first draft.
2. Spend a lot of time getting to know and developing characters, and studying my
3. Revise, get feedback, revise (rinse and repeat).

Top three places you love to write?

The Word Nest (my awesome writing studio)


The screened-in porch (on cooler summer days)
On retreat anywhere with writing friends (good company keeps me focused)

What are your go-to craft books?dorothy2

Make A Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time by Jorden Rosenfeld
Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
and while not strictly a craft book, I re-read often
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott for inspiration

Thank youuuuuu!

Thank YOU for being here, Debbi!

Erin Shakespear writes middle grade fantasy full of magic, adventure, and quirky creatures. With six kids, her days are full of the same things (heavy on the quirky creatures). She also likes to dabble at photography, longboarding, and pretending she’s a grand artist.

Thinking in Threes: Tricia Lawrence

It’s time for another round of Thinking in Threes, where we an agent, editor, or author three questions and they answer each with three(ish) answers. Today’s guest: the fabulous Tricia Lawrence of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. We were able to snag this whip-smart agent for the Writing for Charity conference this year, so in advance of that event, Tricia agreed to answer a few questions for us. I met Tricia several years ago and she’s felt like a friend since that very first meeting–so kind and funny and warm.

Tricia is the “Pacific Northwest branch” of EMLA—born and raised in Oregon, and now lives in Seattle. After 20 years of working as a developmental and production-based editor (from kids books to college textbooks, but mostly college textbooks), she joined the EMLA team in March 2011 as a social media strategist.

Tricia represents picture books/chapter books that look at the world in a unique and unusual way, with characters that are alive both on and off the page, and middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction that offers strong worldbuilding, wounded narrators, and stories that grab a reader and won’t let go.
Tricia loves hiking, camping out in the woods, and collecting rocks. She loves BBC America and anything British. She has way too many books and not enough bookshelves.
Without further ado, here’s the interview, including a bonus question and answer!
TTOF: What are the differences between “Similar to another project – I want!” and “Too close – I can’t”?
It’s usually “Too close – I can’t.” But if I’m on the fence about someone’s work (usually the author newly submitting), I’ll have a discussion with them and ask questions about the direction the work is going. That’s often where most situations either are found to not be an issue or we realize it is an issue. But most of the time, I just have that sense that the work seems really familiar and especially when thinking about editors I would send it to, if I’m already sending and submitting something, I just can’t take on another.
TTOF: What forthcoming or recently released projects are you excited about?
I have two amazing MG novels coming in fall 2016 and I’m so excited about both. The first is Heather Bouwman’s A CRACK IN THE SEA, from Putnam, and it’s a multi-protagonist historical fiction tale that examines the circumstances around finding new homes in this world . . . or in another world. It’s sort of a new mythology for immigrants who set sail in perilous seas. The second is Elly Swartz’s FINDING PERFECT, from FSG, a contemporary about a young girl who is trying to gain some semblance of order on her life that has gone upside down. Both are beautifully written, and I’m so excited for them to be published.
TTOF: What’s on your wish list right now?
I’m really hungry for novels, novels, novels. I want something I have not seen before, something historical and rich or fantasy and world-building. Give me a dose of magical realism and I’m usually hooked. Picture books are tough for me now because I have such amazing folks on my list and so I have to be very careful, but I’d love to find something dark (huge fan of Jon Klassen’s I WANT MY HAT BACK) and I’m a big fan of beautiful prose picture book texts. I rep some good rhymers, though, too, so surprise me!
TTOF: What do you enjoy when not reading slush or pitching books to editors?
I’m always reading something (ha, so what’s new?) and my newest thing is running with my dog, Rue, a Husky shepherd (she LOVES it!). On weekends I’m at the beach near my house with hubby and both dogs and I’m picking up rocks and shells. I am also addicted to THE WALKING DEAD series still. This has been a multi-year obsession and it just won’t quit!

TTOF: Thanks so much for your time and for these thoughtful answers, Trish!

Interview by Elaine Vickers

Thinking in Threes: Pat Zietlow Miller

Today we’re thrilled to have an interview with award-winning picture book author Pat Zietlow Miller, who’s celebrating the release of her latest, THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE. To get a sense of how hardworking and inspiring Pat really is, I highly recommend listening to her Golden Kite acceptance speech. To get a sense of how brilliant she is, I highly recommend buying her books–all of them. 🙂 But for today, we’ve got her playing Thinking in Threes and have convinced her to give us three answers to each of these three questions:
TTOF: What were your most significant “ah-has!” when revising/editing this book?

  1. How many rewritings and reworkings this book needed to come together. I wrote a blog just about all the step this book went through from the initial idea to the final, saleable manuscript. You can read it here. If you want a start-to-finish look at picture book creation, this post is it.
  2. How cool Wilma Rudolph was. She overcame illness and poverty to win three Olympic gold medals in 1960. She handled the subsequent fame with grace and contributed to the eventual desegregation of her hometown, Clarksville, Tennessee, by insisting that her welcome home victory parade be integrated.
  3. How recent segregation really was. Wilma won her medals in 1960 when many U.S. towns were segregated. And segregation didn’t officially end until the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. That seems like forever ago to kids today, but many people are alive who lived through segregation.
TTOF: I love the dedication for this book. Could you tell us where it came from?
I dedicated the book to my husband, Mark. The book’s dedication says, “To Mark: Who believed it was possible from the very start.” I dedicated the book to him for three reasons:
  1. His support. When I decided I wanted to write for kids, I went to the library and came home with more than 50 picture books. I was sitting on our living room floor, surrounded by the books, reading, when Mark said, “I’m more proud of you than ever before.” I said, “Why? I’m just reading.” And Mark said, “You know what you want and you’re working toward it.” He’s so sweet.
  2. It was a perfect fit. Each of my daughters inspired my first two books, so it only made sense to dedicate those books to them. And my third book was a family-inspired Thanksgiving book that was dedicated to my parents. But THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE was perfect for Mark. It’s about two girls who want to be just like their hero, Olympic gold-medal sprinter Wilma Rudolph. And Mark, who is a sportswriter, ran track in high school, so it was a perfect fit.
  3. Just because. Not dedicating a book to my husband would be weird.
TTOF: Can we see a “right now” pic of your work space?
Umm … sure. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. If you look at the photo closely, you’ll notice:
  1. The location. It’s the kitchen table in my house. I don’t write in a charming stone cottage on a Scottish moor with peaceful sheep gazing through the window while I work. I don’t write in a funky coffee shop in downtown Manhattan surrounded by creative hipster artist types. It’s just my house, surrounded by the detritus of my everyday life.
  2. The debris. Oh, look. There’s a lone Chapstick. My credit card. A bunch of marketing postcards waiting to be mailed. I believe there’s a dirty dish by some books. And, is that a basket of unfolded laundry in the background? Why, yes. Yes it is. I could spend lots of time cleaning this up, but then I wouldn’t be writing.
  3. My laptop. Everything is on there. My drafts. My final manuscripts. My ideas. Sometimes, I pack the laptop up and go to the library where I can write without feeling the accusing eyes of the laundry basket on me, but usually I stay right where I am and type away. It’s not beautiful, but somehow it works.
Thank you so much, Pat, and congratulations on another really wonderful book!

Interview by Elaine Vickers

Thinking in Threes: Sara B. Larson

We are thrilled to welcome our Thinking in Three’s  Sara B. Larson, whose final book in her Defy series is out TODAY!!!

Sara B. Larson is the author of the acclaimed YA fantasy DEFY, and the sequels IGNITE and ENDURE. She can’t remember a time when she didn’t write books—although she now uses a computer instead of a Little Mermaid notebook. Sara lives in Utah with her husband and their three children. She writes in brief snippets throughout the day (while mourning the demise of naptime) and the quiet hours when most people are sleeping. Her husband claims she should have a degree in “the art of multitasking.” When she’s not mothering or writing, you can often find her at the gym repenting for her sugar addiction. She’s online at

TTOF: Which three authors (alive or dead) would you most like to meet? 

C.S. Lewis
J.K. Rowling
Jane Austen

TTOF: Planner, Pantser or Hybrid? Give us three insights into your drafting process.

I’m a hybrid—I usually know the beginning and the end of my book, and some of the major events along the way when I start. I start with a document where I keep all of my character information, world building notes, and a loose outline of the book, and then I start writing. I keep the document open so that if I think of anything while I’m writing (any scene ideas, plot arc stuff, character insights, etc.) I can quickly switch over, jot it down, and then go back to the manuscript and keep going. I do this until I’m about 1/3 – 1/2 through and then I usually have enough threads going that I have to actually write out a synopsis of how I’m going to write the rest of the book, scene by scene. It helps me make sure I’m keeping it all together and know where I’m going so I can keep drafting as quickly as possible.

TTOF: What are your three recent favorite reads? 

Sometimes I get to read books early, so some are early 2016 releases, but I loved them all!

BURNING GLASS by Kathryn Purdie
TRUTHWITCH by Susan Dennard

Thanks Sara!