Recently Jane and I chatted about how the book came to be,
over beignets, naturally.
Where did you get the idea for The Scenic Route?
When I sat down for the first time and started typing The Scenic Route, I had only a loose plan of what Hazel and Darin would be encountering. Instead, I had was an idea for some characters that interested me. They were the sort of people that I liked and would be willing to wake up early every morning to spend time with (it helped that they have interests similar to mine!).
After learning more about Hazel and Darin, I eventually remembered that books tend to have plots, and decided that mine should have one too. From there, I began to think about how Hazel, Darin and Gussy would react to different situations.
Before this, the idea to write a book at all came from the same place that most of my good ideas came from – my sister told me to. For as long as I can remember, I have been creating stories. The ones lucky enough to be written down usually ended around page ten after I became bored and moved onto another story. It wasn’t until my sister told me that I needed to write a book that I finally sat down everyday until I finished something. (I always do what my big sister tells me too.)
Ha. I am glad you do. It always seems to work out well that way. But, back to the story, what traits and other tidbits do you share with your main characters?
Hazel and I share an unhealthy love for beignets and New Orleans cuisine! I take it as a personal duty to eat as many beignets as I can while in NOLA. And while I would love to have Hazel’s artistic talent, the closest I can come is appreciating it. Also like Hazel, I cannot take anything resembling spooky or scary. I skip the haunted houses and go straight for the hot chocolate at the end!
However, I actually have much more in common with Darin, and not just his enthusiasm for ancient history and tweed. Both of us are more comfortable with data than we are with people, and both of us like small rooms and large sandwiches. It is a little thing, but I also become attached to particular pens and have a difficult time returning borrowed pens that I like. (I wonder where Darin gets that from?)
Did any of your inspiration for this book originate in your real life experiences?
Much more than I’d like to admit! To begin with, Lune Gully is not a real place, but Door County is. I have been lucky enough to visit twice. As you could probably guess, it made a hefty impression on me. (I would like to take this moment to apologize for all the incorrect driving directions in the book, and to state that I never had a problem with cell phone reception. Artistic license!)
I also grew up close to Chicago, just like Darin and Hazel. And although I have never had a permanent address in New Orleans, I do visit my sister, niece, and brother-in-law there as often as I can. I can only go so long without beignets!
Although I am lucky enough to have known several of artists, the idea for Hazel to paint a mural was entirely inspired by the mural decorating the entrance to an elementary school in greater Chicago, where my mom is the principal.
Are there any specific authors whose writing styles or subject matter inspired your book?
The subject matter came from my own imagination . . . but writing style? There are dozens of authors that I should be apologizing to for attempting to copy their style, except that I do it because I LOVE YOU!
My favorite books at every age of my life have been hugely influential on me. When I was younger, the ones I went back to time and time again were Anne of Green Gables (Lucy Maud Montgomery), Grimms Fairytales (Grimm Brothers), Tales of Tom Sawyer (Mark Twain), The Witches (Roald Dahl), Number the Stars and The Giver (Lois Lowery), From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (E. L. Konigsburg), Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM (Robert C. O'Brien), Hatchet (Gary Paulsen), and Island of the Blue Dolphin (Scott O'Dell).
Now that I’m older, I still favor classics, but will happily read almost anything from Leo Tolstoy to Neil Gamin to the back of a cereal box.
So, what is coming next? Not to give any spoilers for book 1, but book 2 is in the works. How did you settle on focusing on Lana?
Lana was never supposed to be much of a character. As I was writing Hazel for the first time, I remembered at the last minute that she was a poor artist, and probably had a roommate and . . . voila! Lana was typed into existence. But almost from the start, I was fascinated by Lana. She came off as tough but kind, and a great friend to Hazel. I began to wonder about how Lana would manage in New Orleans by herself for several months while Hazel was away. Would she become obsessed with work? And then I wondered, why is she alone? Where does her family live? What kind of people are they?
And, because I am always thinking about the next story, Lana’s tale slowly grew in my head.
Excellent. I am looking forward to reading it as soon as you have a draft. OK, that is good for now. Now, back to these beignets. . . .