Second Star: Tell us a little about your latest book.
Emily: My book is about a girl named Riley who catches a glimpse of her mother in the grocery store . . . two years after her mother’s funeral. SIGNS OF YOU follows Riley and her three best friends as they set out to solve the mystery. It has a touch of a Da Vinci Code-type mystery in it, but it’s also about the power of friendship and how we move though loss and grief.
Second Star: What advice do you have for young writers?
Emily: My motto in life is to reach out! Get connected to others! The best way to hone your skills and stay motivated is to connect to others in the writing community. Sign up for a writing workshop or a class. Be on the lookout for writing groups for people your age. And if there isn’t one… start one! Being connected to other writers has been one of the greatest gifts and biggest motivators in my career.
Second Star: Give us an insight into your main character. What does she/he do that is so special?
Emily: My main character is a 16-year-old girl named Riley Strout, and even though she’s dealing with some really difficult things in life (her mother passed away two years ago and Riley thinks it’s her fault), she manages to keep her sense of humor. She makes funny observations about the world around her, she still summons the courage to take risks, and she’s a leader even though she doesn’t see it all the time. In short, she’s brave!
Second Star: How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on things – like the way it sounds or the meaning?
Emily: Names are really important to me. I start with temporary names as I write, but as the characters grow and change, so do their names. Usually by the third draft, I will know what names suit them by the way they sound and feel.
Second Star: Where do your ideas come from?
Emily: I wish I knew! I find the creative process to be very mysterious, and I have a lot of respect for it. The idea for SIGNS OF YOU came to me in the middle of the night. I woke up, drenched in sweat, and had a vision of a girl who sees her mother two years after her funeral. After that, I just started writing. I followed my ideas and researched anything that struck me as a solution to the mystery. In that way, ideas are like long trails of breadcrumbs that I follow.
Always follow your creative ideas; you never know where they made lead you!
Second Star: When did you decide to become a writer?
Emily: When I was five years old, I announced to my parents that I would be a writer. I started filling Strawberry Shortcake journals full of stories, and I never stopped.
Second Star: Why do you write?
Emily: I write because if I don’t, I become disconnected and uninspired pretty quickly. Writing is where I find my fulfillment and my place in the world. I need it as much as I need sunshine and fresh air. I just simply can’t do without it. Of course, I hope that the stories I create connect people and help readers in some way. But the reason I do it is that I must!
Second Star: Do you have any strange writing habits? (like standing on your head or writing in the shower?)
Emily: My desk is filled with many cups of tea, bubbly water, plain water, coffee, and sometimes soda when I write! I typically have three or four different drinks going at once!
Second Star: What book do you wish you could have written?
Emily: The entire Nancy Drew series.
Second Star: How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Second Star: If they ever made a movie about your life, which actor should play you?
Emily: Emma Watson because she’s Hermione. I was always that girl in school sitting in the front row and raising her hand to answer every question!
Second Star: Where is someplace you would like to visit?
Emily: I have visited many places like Russia, India, and Costa Rica, but I would love to visit Japan next!
Second Star: What secret talents do you have?
Emily: I worked on a Wyoming dude ranch after college (where guests come for the summer to ride horses). I did everything from staining decks to scouting wildfires to prairie dog control! It was one of the greatest adventures of my life.
Second Star: If you were a super hero, what would your name be? What costume would you wear?
Emily: I would be The Winged Woman! Birds are a big symbol of hope in my book, SIGNS OF YOU, and whenever I see one I get a little shot of comfort and peace. I hope I’m the type of person who spreads hope and healing wherever I go. And my costume would have beautiful bright blue wings.
Second Star: If you could be any animal what would you be?
Emily: A bird for sure! I would love to take to the skies.
Second Star: What literary character is most like you?
Emily: Nancy Drew! I’m so curious, and I love to get to the bottom of things.
Second Star: Do you have any pets?
Emily: Yes, I have a beloved dog named Nala. She’s a Tibetan Spaniel, and she is a treasure to me! She’s very peaceful and sits next to me when I meditate. I rescued her from a shelter!