1. The Blazing Star appears to have a strong sister theme. Do you have a sister? Or (like me) did you always wish for one?
So great of you to notice! I gravitate towards sisterhood in my writing as I’m one of three girls (no brothers, though I always wanted one). I’m in the middle (even though my little sister is significantly younger than my older sister and me, making her experience more like growing up as an only child). I had Portia and Alex (Portia is the protagonist of this story, and Alex is her genius twin) in my head for awhile before I started writing, but when I realized they were sisters, the words started to come. It was like, Oh, I get this relationship.
I also like exploring sibling relationships because in many YA stories, the protagonist is an orphan or any only child, or is much older than their siblings so they’re more like a substitute parent. I thought that was interesting, because so many people have siblings and outside of your parents, it’s the first relationship you’re navigating. No one knows you like your siblings. My older sister told me literally yesterday, “You’re the longest relationship I’ve ever had.”
2. What is your favorite weekend activity?
My favorite weekend activity is inactivity. My life can get hectic some (all of the) time, so when I get time to do nothing, I savor it.
3. Can you share some interesting things about Egypt (part of the TBS's setting) with us?
I find ancient Egypt fascinating! The Blazing Star is a semi-historical fantasy set in present day Chicago and ancient Waset (Thebes/Luxor). In the book, Portia has an encounter with a scarab beetle ornament in her history class (our inciting incident). Scarabs were sacred to the ancient Egyptians, represented in amulets and jewelry. The ancients were intrigued by the beetles as they seemed to emerge from the burrow from where they were born. The ancients called them kheprer and associated them with the sun/creator god Khepri. Portia wears her blue scarab throughout the book.
4. How does your writing process work? Do you stick to a certain formula, or does it vary from book to book?
The Blazing Star is my first book, so I had to discover my book-writing process. I’d written articles, short stories, plays, and novellas for my friends, but learning how to write a book was a different animal. When it comes to writing, I see the scenes first. The first scene I wrote in The Blazing Star is now Chapter 28-Swordplay. For awhile I was stringing scenes together (yep, pantser) and then after a lot of editing, I learned I had to start outlining. Even if the outline’s points change (AND THEY WILL), you need to have SOME idea of where you’re going. I also like to write in the morning (6 am-10am), and preferably away from home (and on a desktop).
5. Quick! Which is cuter: baby pandas or baby otters?
Baby otters! Have you seen the otter snacking video????
6. Please share a favorite line(s) from TBS.
Hahaha! I shouldn’t laugh but oh well, here are a few:
· “As expected, a dumb freshman had strayed and they batted her around like maniacal kittens with a ball of yarn.”
· “I didn’t know if she won the Academic Decathlon or the Miss America Pageant.”
· “You are like the sun.”
But when Portia holds an Egyptian scarab beetle during history class, she takes center stage in a way she never expected: she faints. Upon waking, she is stronger, faster, and braver than before. And when she accidentally touches the scarab again?
She wakes up in ancient Egypt—her sister and an unwitting freshman in tow.
Mysterious and beautiful, Egypt is more than they could have ever imagined from their days in the classroom. History comes alive as the three teens realize that getting back to the present will be the most difficult thing they’ve ever done. Stalked by vicious monsters called Scorpions, every step in the right direction means a step closer to danger.
As Portia and the girls discover that they’re linked to the past by more than just chance, they have to decide what it truly means to be yourself, to love your sister, and to find your way home.