I read Sydney's first book, My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters (Harcourt/Graphia), which I adored and shortly after I met her at a book event where I first heard about her next book Jungle Crossing (Harcourt Children's Books). I asked Sydney to come to my book club with me as our feature author and we had a lot of fun playing a "who's who in high school" game, laughing about fungus toes and eating wedding cake (you'll have to read My Big Nose to understand). Her third book, Swoon At Your Own Risk (Harcourt/Graphia) had me at the title (and really it's an adorably fun book!).
So on with our questions then!
• What was the best advice you got before you were published (or on your writing journey)?
At my first SCBWI conference in New York, Linda Sue Park told us to read 100 books in our genre. Reading has taught me a lot about writing!
• If you could be one of your characters for a day who would you be and why?
I’d be Muluc from Jungle Crossing. I would LOVE to see how the ancient Mayans lived!
• If you could meet one of your characters for lunch who would it be and what would you talk to them about?
I’d love to dish with Jory (My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters) about body image issues. It would be a little like hanging out with my seventeen-year-old self!
• What’s been a fun perk of being published?
• Looking forward to anything in the future?
I have a manuscript out on submission right now, so please cross your fingers, toes, do your favorite voodoo spell… I hope to hear good news soon!
• Any upcoming events I can tell my readers about?
Happily I have some quiet time between now & the end of January. I’ve been traveling a lot!
• Biggest/hardest change since being published? (in writing or life, etc)
Learning to balance writing time, publicity, and family challenged me! I got more than a little stressed after my first book hit the shelves last year—and everyone around me suffered. Now I make my family the number one priority. Everything else can wait!
• What’s a good book you’ve read this year that you’d recommend to others?
I recently finished You by Charles Benoit. It’s written in the 2nd person point-of-view. Wow! I couldn’t put it down—incredibly compelling story and so well-crafted.
• People always get to ask Q&A’s when they go to author events. What’s the best question you’ve been asked? (What was your answer?)
I can’t think of a truly stand-out question—but every time I have a book signing I’ve been asked about the location of the bathroom!
• If your load was lightened what is a guilty pleasure you would partake in?
Many more massages!
• Have you gotten to travel anywhere fun/different because of your book(s)?
I love to travel—anywhere, anytime! I’ve researched stories in Mexico and Alaska. And I’ve done author visits everywhere from Las Vegas to New York, Kansas City to Orlando.
• You create little bios on your characters in the front of your notebook. Pictures of what they’d look like or where they’d live. Do you do this before you start the story or as you’re realizing their character? Do you do this for all of your WIPs?
I create my writing notebooks before I begin writing the actual story. Blank pages terrify me, so I like having a synopsis to follow and a notebook full of research notes, character profiles, and pictures of everything. My notebooks are my security blankets while creating my WIP. All of my stories have their own notebooks
• I saw you participated in Operation Teen Drop, did you put any contact info in there so they could write back to you? Tell me a little about that. Are you going to do it again?
I didn’t leave contact information. I considered the book drop an anonymous gift. I frequently leave anonymous gifts—sometimes lucky pennies to be found later, treats in vending machines, or lately, silly band bracelets. It wasn’t a stretch to leave a book. I will definitely do it again!
• I love your vlog posts. What made you decide to start doing those?
I’m quite camera shy, actually. (It’s that Big Nose thing.) When I received a Flip video recorder as a gift, I figured it was an opportunity to work through some of my own fears about being on camera. I figured short videos might make my blog more interesting. Blogging didn’t come naturally to me, but now I’m really enjoying it.
• You collect stuffed animals (is that right? Or animal trinkets?) How did that start?
I think it’s more like it never stopped… I’ve always loved toys. Now I collect little trinkets to inspire me as I draft my WIP. And I’m always a sucker for something cute. The Community Relations Manager at my local B&N does amazing crochet work, so, you know, I had to have an owl of my own… I’m worse than my daughters!
• I’ve loved all your books! Jungle Crossing was your 2nd book and a middle grade, did you find it harder to write for that age groups since your other two are YA?
Jungle Crossing is the story that—finally—got me to sit down and write a novel. I love writing both middle-grade and YA, but I’ve had an easier time selling YA (it’s more marketable right now). I hope to continue to write in both genres. As much as I love teenagers, I hope to always have ten year olds in my life. Middle-graders are simply nice people.
Thank you so much for stopping by. It was a lot of fun to learn more about you.
Below I've included the book trailers for the books, they're a lot fun.
Don't you want to run out right now and pick up one of these books?
You could win!
Sydney has kindly offered to let the winner choose their favorite book and she'll send it to you! Just leave a comment on this post by Nov 26th and I'll draw a winner.
My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters (book trailer):
Jungle Crossing (book trailer):
Swoon At Your Own Risk (book trailer):