About Mara Dyer:
Q. Is The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer the first book in a series?
A. Yes! It's the first book of a trilogy. The second book, The Evolution of Mara Dyer, is also available now and the third book, The Retribution of Mara Dyer, will be out October 22, 2013.
Q. That's so far away! Why can't the third book come out sooner?
A. This is where I direct you to the eloquent and intelligent Carrie Ryan, who wrote about this very subject on her blog. The good news, though, is that if you pre-order the third book, it will arrive at your doorstep the very same day it's released. Stay tuned for pre-order links (they're not up yet)--we're working on something special.
Q. Who publishes the Mara Dyer books?
A. The incomparably wonderful folks at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Q. When will the books be published in _______ country?
A. I don't know, but you can scroll down here for a list of Mara Dyer's international publishers, and contact them to find out!
Q. How did you come up with the idea for The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer?
A. The short answer is that it was inspired by true events. The longer answer is here.
Q. How long did it take you to write each book?
A. For Unbecoming, ten months from the day I started writing to the day I submitted it to agents in March. Evolution took about the same amount of time, and I'm revising the third book now.
Q. Was The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer the first book you ever wrote?
A. Yes. I was twenty-seven when I started it, twenty-eight when it sold, and twenty-nine when it was published.
Q. Did you choose the titles for your books? If so, how did you come up with them?
A. I did in fact choose all of the titles for my books! I wasn’t sure that any of them would stick, because publishers can (and often do) change titles once books are sold, but mine did stick and that made me happy. I didn’t always know what they would be; The Unbecoming came to mind after a discussion with one of my brothers about four months into the rough draft--I wrote about that on Tumblr.
Q. What is up with the letter in the beginning of Unbecoming, and what is Mara’s real name?
A. :) That means I can’t tell you. But for the only answers I am able to give about this, click here.
Q. Who is your favorite character in Mara Dyer?
A. I truly and honestly like writing all of them. I love writing Daniel and Joseph for reasons completely unrelated to the actual books, and Mara, Noah, and Jamie are all interesting to write about in their own ways. Mara tends to be the most complicated, because of reasons that become apparent by the end of the first book, but Noah is the most unpredictable. I love writing him because he’s so different from everyone else; his voice is different, his experience is different, his motivations are different—he unfolded slowly for me. He’s complicated in a completely different way than Mara is, which makes him challenging (but fun) to write.
Q. Are any of the characters based on real people?
A. I’m invoking my 5th Amendment right against self incrimination.
Q. Who, if anyone, inspired Noah and Mara?
A. Mara was inspired by a real girl I met in 2008; check out the story behind the story for more about this. My idea for Noah initially developed in response to my concept for Mara--once I knew who she was, what she would be going through, and where she would end up (the ending has been written since August 2009, before the book even sold) I figured out who Noah would have to be in order to write their relationship in a way that would work for the kind of story I planned to tell. But as I've been writing the trilogy, he's surprised me--more than any of the other characters, really. He's a chameleon--how he seems depends entirely on who is talking about him or interacting with him. He's tricky, and I love that.
Q. That's great, but it doesn't help me picture Noah in my head which is what I was really asking you. So, what does Noah look like?
A. Click away.
Q. How did you choose the names for your characters?
A. I’ve loved the name Mara since I heard it used in a not-particularly-good ’90s movie. It has some interesting meanings, one of which is 'bitterness' in Hebrew, which was just right for her. Noah is also a name I’ve always loved, and the meaning in Hebrew fits the Mara/Noah relationship dynamic incredibly well. And their full names are absolutely perfect together, in the context of the series.
Jamie’s name has a story behind it (see Evolution), and most of the other characters were named after people I know—I put them there as placeholders until I had time to change them, and then a lot of them just stuck.
Q. Why is the book set in Miami?
A. I grew up near Miami, and while I took some geographic liberties, the setting accomplished a lot of things for the story that I wanted to get across. Mara needed a major change in scenery after what happens early in the book, but I wanted her moving somewhere alien and strange. I’ve always found Miami alien and strange, even though I grew up here—the lack of seasons, wild iguanas chilling in backyards, alligators showing up in pools—and certain neighborhoods there really have an otherworldly, awesome, foreign quality. It was just the perfect place. (I did take some geographic liberties, which I discuss here.)
Q. Is the ARC of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer different from the hardcover version?
A. Yes. See this post for the full (and the only) explanation I will give on this subject.
Q. Is the ARC of The Evolution of Mara Dyer different from the hardcover version?
Q. Will there be ARCs of the third book, too?
A. No. Retribution is under lockdown until the publication date, to prevent spoilers from circulating before everyone gets a chance to read it on the same day, 10/22/13. Therefore, no ARCs.
Q. Is there a love triangle in the books?
A. You'll have to read them and find out!
Q. Do the books have cliffhanger endings?
A. You'll have to read them and find out!
Q. Is _______, ______, or _______ going to happen in the first book/second book/third book?
A. You'll have to read them and find out! I'm not allowed to answer any questions about the third book other than the ones I've already answered. Which is harder for me than it is for you. Promise.
Q. Okay but just tell me this one thing--
A. I can't!
Q. Okay but just tell me if what happens at the end of Evolution really happens--
A. I really can't!
Q. BUT I'LL DIE IF YOU DON'T TELL ME.
A. Then you'll never find out what happens!
Q. Fine, then just tell me if you would ever write a sex scene. Just tell me that much. (Yes, this is a frequently asked question.)
A. Asked and answered on Tumblr.
Q. Alright, change of topic: who designed your book covers?
A. The eminently talented Lucy Ruth Cummins, who also designed the cover of Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick. The cover images were photographed by Heather Landis.
Q. But there are no underwater scenes in any of your books, so what is up with the underwater photographs on your book covers?
A. I posted a really thorough explanation of what book covers are for, and why I believe mine are a good fit for my books, here.
Q. Who made your book trailer?
A. The trailers were a collaboration that involved a dozen people, but they would never have happened without my genius brother Jeremy Hodkin. He's just 21-years-old and a senior in college, but he was the one who orchestrated the videos from conception through editing, from developing the concept to choosing the directors. I’m so lucky to have him.
Q. What songs were used in the book trailers?
A. Black Dog by Kelli Schaefer for The Unbecoming trailer - you can (and should!) buy it here, and City Morgue by Kelli Schaefer for The Evolution trailer - you can (and should!) buy it here.
Q. I haven't seen these book trailers you speak of...where can I view them?
A. You can view all three of the book trailers (for The Unbecoming, The Evolution teaser trailer, and The Evolution trailer) here.
Q. How were they made?
A. Read the MTV Hollywood Crush article here!
Q. Is Mara Dyer available as an audiobook?
A. Not yet, but we're working on that, so I hope someday that the answer will be yes! For more info (including the choice of narrator), click here.
Q. Is Mara Dyer going to become a movie?
A. I wrote about this in detail here.
Q. Who would you cast as Mara, Noah, Jamie, etc.?
A. If a movie were to be made, and I have very little control over that, I would also have pretty much no say in casting. That's how these things work; see this awesome post by Ally Carter for more. That said, check out popular fancasts here. YMMV. As for how I feel about specific fancasts, I've answered that here.
Q. How do you feel about Mara Dyer fanfiction?
A. I think it's awesome. I can't read it for reasons, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write it!
Q. Where were you born?
A. In Florida. In a city slightly north of Miami and south of Boca Raton.
Q. Do you still live there?
A. Nope, but my family does, and I visit a lot!
Q. Where do you live now?
A. I am in the process of moving, so I am going to be non-committal until everything is finalized. Don’t want to jinx it.
Q. What do you do when you’re not writing?
A. Read! Or rescue naughty animals. Or write about rescuing naughty animals. Or mess around on the internet. I also like to travel to my favorite cities, New York most of all. I’m there pretty often.
Q. Who is your agent?
A. Barry Goldblatt of Barry Goldblatt Literary.
Q. What authors have inspired you?
A. So, so very many. Vladimir Nabokov, Lev Grossman, J.R.R. Tolkien, Steven King, Daniel Handler, R.L. Stine, James Hogg, Richard Preston, Oscar Wilde, and Katherine Dunn, just to name a few.
Q. What are your favorite books?
A. I have far, far too many to list. But a few of my favorite adult books are The Magicians, Lolita, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, The Shining, and Geek Love. I can’t begin naming names in YA, because my answer would take me fifty years to write, and ten for you to read.
Q. Can you come visit my school?
A. I WOULD LOVE TO! I have to be invited, though—kind of like a vampire. Simon & Schuster handles school visits and stuff, so check out the information here for more details and fill out the requested form here.
Q. Can you do a signing in my city?
A. I WOULD LOVE TO! I also have to be invited to these. I'm super excited to have been invited to a number of amazing places while on tour for Unbecoming & Evolution, and I update the list of appearances whenever I can. If you don't see your city on there, the best thing to do is to get in touch with your local bookstore and tell them that you'd like me to come to your city for a signing; use this independent bookstore finder to find the store closest to you. Then they can contact my publisher and hopefully something can be worked out, because I really and truly can't just show up. I have to be invited, and you have more control over where I am invited than I do! But no matter what, you can always order a signed or personalized copy of my books at Books & Books.
Q. Can you send me swag (free stuff like bookmarks, signed books, ARCs, etc.)?
A. I WOULD LOVE TO! But I can't. Because a) a lot of the things people ask me for don't exist and b) I don't have enough to send to all of the people who ask for it anyway, and sending stuff to some and not others wouldn't be fair. But I regularly hold blog contests where I give things away—and if you're a blogger, and you enter, and win, you can give your winnings away on your blog!
Q. Can you donate a signed (or unsigned) copy of your books for my blog giveaway/charity/school?
I WOULD LOVE TO! But I can't. The requests vastly outnumber the copies of books that I actually have; my publisher only sends me fifteen copies of each book, and those get sent to my family because they put up with me.
Q. Can I send you my unsigned book for you to sign?
A. I wish! But I travel too much for this to be possible. At this time, the only way to get a signed book is to order one from Books & Books, order one from a store at which I am doing an event, or win one from a giveaway.
Q. I am an aspiring writer, too! Can you critique my novel/poem/blog/manuscript/shopping list? Pretty please?
A. Oh man, I so wish I could. But because of time constraints and legal reasons, I can't. So if you send something to me anyway, I'm afraid I'll have to delete it sight unseen. And that would make me sad.
Q. Are you in a critique group?
A. Kind of but not really? I have a small group of super close friends who held my hand every step of the way and helped me polish up Unbecoming and Evolution. But a formal critique group? Nope. I do recommend them, though.
Q. How did you get published?
A. The short version: An experience I had on May 14, 2009 held me hostage. I started writing about it because I couldn’t not write about it. I had 5,000 words and then 25,000 words and then 47,000 words and then 95,000 words. And my book was barely a book. And so I threw out 60,000 of those words and rewrote them. Rinse and repeat about five more times. Then I signed with an agent on April 15, 2010. I revised my book again. The book was submitted to publishers. Publishers wanted to buy it! There was an auction! And Simon & Schuster won on May 25, 2010! It has been awesome and I am grateful every day.
The longer version is here.
Q. Did you always want to be a writer?
A. Nope! I thought books were these magical, wonderful things that sprung fully formed from the heads of geniuses. I honestly didn’t think writing a book was possible—it never even entered into my mind as something a real person could actually do. Which is funny to my family and super close friends; none of them were shocked when I told them I was writing a book. The person most surprised by my becoming an author was me.
Q. Are you an outliner or a pantser?
A. For The Unbecoming, my plot outline basically looked like this: “Something is happening to Mara Dyer.” In other words, I was a pantser. Big time. For the sequel, I had to write a synopsis during the auction, which forced me to outline. So the process has been different, but very fun, too.
Q. How did you stay inspired to finish your first book?
A. I had cheerleaders. Once I told people I was writing a book, I felt like I couldn’t quit. So I wrote. Every day. Even when it was hard—and it was, often. Even when I didn’t enjoy it—and sometimes, I didn’t. I wanted it badly enough and so I made myself do it. I locked my internal editor in a basement and didn’t let myself worry about whether my rough draft was crappy (it was) or whether anyone besides me and my friends would want to read it (they did!). You can’t fix a blank page. So sometimes I listened to music to help get me in the right headspace for a certain scene. Sometimes I went to a neighborhood I was writing about, or looked for images online of scenery and places to help get me going. But the bottom line was that no matter what, I kept going.
Q. Do you have a writing routine, or a place where you consistently write?
A. Not so much. I have a dedicated office, and a guest bedroom, but I like writing on the sofa, squeezed between the pets. And in bed. Also in coffee shops, with headphones blaring.
Q. Did you take any classes to become a writer?
A. No. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English & American Literature from NYU, and my focus was on medieval literature. So most of my classes for my major were on Dante, Boccacio, Chaucer, those fellows. I loved my literature classes the most and actually read a book in one of them that inspired many aspects of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, but I never took any actual writing courses, including Freshman Composition. But for virtually all of my college classes, I had to write academic papers. And in law school, I had to write essays and papers and briefs as well, and there was a ton of legal writing I did as a lawyer. So all in all, I wrote a lot, but it was analytical, persuasive writing, not fiction. I do think my studies and background helped, though, because it taught me that I could actually produce that much text.
Q. Do you listen to music while you write? What kind of music?
A. Sometimes! When I’m writing a rough draft, usually I listen to music. When I’m revising, usually I don’t. I have playlists of music I listened to while writing Unbecoming and Evolution-you can find them here.
Q. Why did you want to write for teenagers?
A. I did not set out on my journey to publication thinking: “By jove, I want to write a book for teens!” Though that would have been cool. The truth is I just had an idea, and the idea was for a Young Adult novel. But as I started, I realized how much I loved writing for teens. The voice of the characters felt so natural and all of my other ideas for novels are for YA novels right now, too. So there you go.
Q. Where do you get your ideas from?
A. Candy Mountain. But seriously, everywhere. Including the internet; Trogdor made it into Unbecoming, and there are tons of pop culture references and allusions such sprinkled throughout the series. My writing has been inspired by song lyrics, conversations with friends, weird things I've seen in real life or read about in the news. The world is a wild place, and reality can be (and often is) stranger than fiction.
Q. Is there any one author who inspired you to start writing?
A. I didn't start writing until I was 27, and because I read (and love) so many different types of books, I can't really say that there's any one author who inspired me to write. That said, when I was younger, I devoured every single book R.L. Stine wrote and I think that his work inspired my love of horror, which has definitely crept into my books.
Q. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
A. Write the story that only you can write. Write the story you have to write. Finish it. Have passion. And finally, novels are fueled and informed by life experience—so more than anything else, live.
And if you have any other questions I haven't answered here, check my Tumblr archive; I try to answer questions there regularly, and you can ask questions, too!