How did you become a writer?
I don't know if I ever really "became" one. I've been writing stories since I was a little kid, they just gradually got more ambitious and—I hope—a little better written.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).
I've never been good at pinpointing specific influences for my writing. It just distilled from a mixture of everything I've absorbed over the years and I have a hard time defining a hierarchy. There are a handful of authors I could name that were significant to me at some point in my life but my tastes and interests are always on the move so I can't really stand behind anything I liked more than a few years ago, and I think people are too eager to latch onto "influences" as short-hand for "this is what I do." I could list Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy, Charlie Kauffman, and so on, but my writing isn't really anything like theirs, so...I don't know if it's helpful!
When and where do you write?
Since I started writing full time I've done most of it in coffee shops, first thing in the morning. I like being able to leave the house and "go to the office," it helps establish some kind of structure for my day, and I feel like the ambient human energy in the air does something for the writing. The downside of this is the high potential for distraction—like when an annoying guy sits at the table next to me and starts humming and dancing in his chair or doing a Skype call at full volume, etc. I have been trying to wean myself off of the coffee shop setting because it would be very convenient and clean to write from home, but so far it just hasn't clicked in my brain.
What are you working on now?
I just finished editing another draft of THE LIVING, which is the final book in the Warm Bodies Series. There will be more editing to do on that one, but when that's done, it will finally be time to leave that series behind and start a whole new era of writing, which is daunting but thrilling. I have been circling a story that I wrote in a primitive form a long time ago, about an alternate reality that people access via dreams and the alternate selves that live there. We'll see.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
Yeah, it happens. Ideas are ephemeral things that emerge from a complex alchemy of experience and you can't force them into existence when they aren't ready. So I've had terrifying moments when I just don't know where to find the story. But it usually just takes a few long drives and sweaty night jogs to reopen the valve.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
The only bit I can think of is a surprisingly practical one from Hemingway, something about always trying to end your writing session on an "easy" part so that you have something welcoming to jump back into for your next session. Until I heard that, I had always tried to just keep writing until I got stuck and couldn't continue, but that means every writing session is going to start with an obstacle. I learned that leaving something juicy for tomorrow makes it much easier to plunge back into the flow.
What’s your advice to new writers?
Don't treat your writing like a product. Don't do market research to find out what genre is hot right now. Don't tailor your writing to fit a trend or to please a particular audience. Doing these things will make you a successful writer who sells lots of copies. Most writers are trying to do these things. Please don't do these things. My advice may not be entirely in your interests. I may have other motives, like when an ecologist advises you not to dump your garbage in the river even though it's easier than recycling. If your goal is to write to a formula in order to satisfy the mainstream market and keep the shelves of department stores stocked, my advice will not sway you, but I will say it anyway. Please don't write to appease others. Not the market, not a demographic, and not your family. Write the story that fascinates you in the way that electrifies you, and ignore everything else.
Bio: I wrote the Warm Bodies Series. The first book was adapted into a movie and was a big deal for a minute. I continued the story in three more books, the last of which is called THE LIVING and will be released soon, after which I will never speak of zombies again. I live in Seattle with my cat Watson and play a weird synth thing in the band Thing Quartet.