"This is a charming, keen collection of creatures and treasures where even the darkness crackles and zaps with tiny electric lights." -Leesa Cross-Smith
If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing with all of your free time?
Piano and guitar lessons. Maybe song writing.
How do you handle writer’s block?
I do everything I can to get out of tired patterns. I explore new music, walk different streets, hit a new museum exhibit, and get out and people watch. Reading poetry aloud late at night and showering in the dark also rewires my brain.
Have you ever given up on a writing project?
A handful of years ago I started a novel about the opiate epidemic in Staten Island, where I grew up but left after my family moved away after I graduated from college. The story and characters grew out of a series of short stories, beginning with a couple who sells pot out of their ice cream truck. But then as I began to get serious about the project, the New Yorker published an exhaustive article about oxycodone busts on the island, and a few authors published books on the subject, along with Hurricane Sandy’s destruction. I didn’t move quickly enough and the market became saturated. Plus, I had qualms about writing about a place I’ve been away from for so long. My characters still feel real to me and I think about them often, but I’ve let go of their story.
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
It’s twofold: Just sit down and do it for 20 minutes, and everyone else faces the same blank page.
What single book has been the most influential to you as a writer?
I read Robert C. O’Brien’s children’s fantasy/sci-fi novel The Silver Crown as a child. The protagonist’s house burns down, she witnesses a murder, and escapes a kidnapping by sheer gumption and by use of a magical crown only she can control. Ellen uses the gifts she’s been given to survive a dangerous world—what a feminist heroine! I loved how O’Brien mixed realism with magical fantasy and I think I’ve been chasing that combination ever since in my own writing.