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A Conversation with Becca Fitzpatrick

 

Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush saga, including Hush, Hush; Crescendo; Silence; and Finale all debuted as New York Times best-sellers. Her next novel, Black Ice, is a riveting romantic thriller set against the treacherous backdrop of the mountains of Wyoming and will be available in October.

Becca, congratulations on Black Ice. You’ve got several novels under your belt now. Do you still feel the same buzz of excitement now as you did when you first started out?
The same buzz of excitement, the same nervous anticipation, and the same disbelief and gratitude that I’m doing something I love. If anything, now that I know what to expect, the feelings are probably heightened. Fortunately, with each new book, I feel better prepared to handle the highs and lows. No matter what, at the end of the day, I wrote a book, I put my heart into it, and that’s something to feel good about. 


I read online your husband enrolled you in a writing course for your 24th birthday? How important was that to your development was a writer? Would you have persisted with writing if you hadn’t taken that class?
The writing course forced me to put the ideas in my head down on paper and share them with others. It was what got me from dreaming up stories to actually writing them, finishing them. After the course ended, several of the students and I formed a critique group and continued to share our work with each other. We also shared the excitement of sending out query letters, and the disappointment that comes with rejection. If I hadn’t taken that course, I would likely still be stuck in the dreaming stage. On a side note, at the time, I was upset that my husband had enrolled me in a writing class — I’d specifically asked for Japanese cooking lessons!

Has writing or storytelling always been an important part of your life, or did that passion blossom later on?
Even before I could read, I loved to tell stories. When I was little, and my parents would ask me about my day over the dinner table, I would embellish the truth. If I got caught, I would explain that I was only trying to make the truth more interesting! Halfway through kindergarten, my family moved, and I had to attend a new school. My sister and I hated the school. At night, I would tell her stories I called the “School Bus Adventures,” where the kids who were mean to us were trapped inside the school bus as it went over a cliff. Morbid, yes, but these stories made us feel better, almost like we had some control over our circumstances. As I got older, I wrote class plays and held auditions at recess. In high school, I started several stories, but always gave up after ten or so pages. However, I was very dedicated to writing in my journal. I rarely missed a night. I still have a box in my basement filled with volumes of journals from my teen years.

You’ve previously mentioned Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson as a novel that greatly impacted your writing. Could you please elaborate on why you value that book so much?
When I started the writing class mentioned above, my teacher told me, “You can’t write books for teens if you aren’t reading books for teens.” So I went to the bookstore. I picked up Speak and read it in one night. I remember thinking that if all YA books were as powerful and genuine as Speak, I would never be able to get enough of them.

Beyond Speak, what other novels, or which other authors have had the greatest influence on your writing?
Novels: Nancy Drew, Trixie Beldon, and Wuthering Heights. Authors: Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, and Sandra Brown. 

There were four books in the Hush, Hush saga, but I understand it was initially intended as a standalone novel when your agent shopped it around. That suggests you didn’t have the entire plot outlined before you started writing? Or did you, and it just evolved in the process?
You’re right, I didn’t have the series planned out. After finishing Finale, I promised myself I would never write another series without having all the books plotted beforehand. I love reading series . . . I just don’t love writing them, ha! Which is probably why Black Ice andSapphire Skies (due out in 2015) are standalones.
The YA genre has grown increasingly sophisticated, covering a wide range of subjects, but do you ever find it restrictive? By this I mean, is there a darker, ‘more adult’ novel simmering inside you, or does YA allow you to explore the themes you want?
I don’t find the YA genre restrictive; if anything, I find my own fears and doubts are what censor me. What I loved about writing Hush, Hush was the blissful unawareness of reviews and criticisms that were to come. I’m trying to find my way back to that place of not worrying what people will say or think, but it’s hard to get that innocence back, you know? I am very much aware that I’m writing for an audience.
Black Ice is your first novel after the Hush, Hush saga. Was there something in particular that you wanted to achieve with it, beyond providing your readers with another rip-roaring yarn?
I wasn’t consciously thinking about achieving or proving anything (except, maybe, to prove to myself that I could write something outside the Hush, Hush world). I was following my instincts and writing the story that felt most important to me at that moment. I wasn’t even aware that I was switching genres. In fact, there were ghosts in the early drafts of Black Ice, leading me to believe I was still writing paranormal romance. During the editing process, the ghosts were cut and the criminal and psychological aspects took center stage. Being a bit oblivious to the fact that I was switching genres definitely made the leap less intimidating.
I love the first line of Chapter One of Black Ice: “If I died, it wouldn’t be from hypothermia.” What do you feel needs to happen on page one of a novel to make for a successful book that urges you to read on?
I try to include a bit of mystery on the first page, something secret woven into the lines that readers might miss the first time, but if they go back, they have an ah-ha! moment and realize there was a clue hiding there all along.
Are you still able to immerse yourself in novels despite being engaged with writing your own? If so, what are you reading now?
I’m reading The Maze Runner by James Dashner. My 11-year-old son has finished the series, and has urged me for a while to read the books. He is very proud of the fact that he introduced the books not only to me, but to his friends. They’re all reading them now. But to answer your question, I’m always reading. I find it tedious to read only what I’m writing, especially the early drafts, which aren’t very good!
When and where do you like to read?
I have books spread around the house: in the kitchen, for when I’m cooking dinner; next to my bed; in the car, for when I’m waiting for my son’s football practice to end; in my purse. I even find myself buying a different shampoo every month so that I have something new to read in the shower. I like reading the labels on the bottle, those parts that promise shiny and bouncy hair. This keeps me from getting bored. Is it weird that I just admitted that? 
Tell us about your favorite book of the year – so far, at least.
Probably Four by Veronica Roth. I’m a huge Divergent fan, and a huge Four fan, and gaining a deeper understanding of his character was very satisfying.
Finally, Becca, what’s next? Are you already writing your next novel, or are you able to enjoy a bit of a break between projects?
I’m working on Sapphire Skies, a YA romantic suspense about a girl who enters the federal witness protection program after witnessing a murder at the hands of dangerous criminals. There’s lots of suspense, and of course, romance. 

Check out Becca’s YA recommendations!