Q. The main character in The Six Rules of Maybe, Scarlet Hughes, is always taking care of others over herself. While selflessness is a great trait, do you think sometimes that it can backfire?
A. Absolutely. And why is it that people who are selfless tend to be HUGELY selfless? Selfless to the point of resentment and exhaustion? Even to the point where “self” starts to disappear? Too, selfless people can end up marked with some invisible X that only selfish people seem to see. (As Scarlet says, you’re certainly also the one the dog stares at during dinner.) I guess like every other thing in life, balance is the key. Looking after your own needs is not a bad thing, but an important one.
Q. Even though Scarlet and Juliet are sisters, they are incredibly different from each other. Do you have any siblings? If so, is the relationship depicted in The Six Rules of Maybe modeled on your experiences?
A. Like Scarlet, I do have an older sister. She couldn’t be more different than Juliet, though. Actually, she’s much more like Scarlet with her endlessly giving heart. Not much in their relationship is anything like ours. Of course, like Scarlet, as a little sis, I did think my sister and her friends were Gods who might (maybe-please-oh-please) let me play with them. Figuring out what in a book actually happened to the author and what the author made up is a tempting but tricky endeavor. Sometimes even we have a hard time unwinding those strands.
Q. Scarlet couldn’t have picked anyone more unattainable than her brother-in-law, Hayden, to have a crush on. Why do you think Hayden is so appealing to her? Have you ever had a completely unattainable crush?
A. I think Scarlet generally seeks out the unattainable, at least in the beginning of the book. She often tries to control the uncontrollable and manage the unmanageable. Like a lot of us, she’s linked “struggle” with “love.” Something easy and available just isn’t that interesting to her. But, too, Scarlet sees Hayden as being more like herself than like Juliet. And it’s true–they are two of a kind. Hayden is also a giver who struggles for the unattainable. Scarlet recognizes herself in him.
As for me? I’ve never really had a completely unattainable crush, unless you count Robert Ganning, seventh grade, who might have been attainable if I’d have had the guts to say one word to him.
Q. The Sixth Rule of Maybe is, in a nutshell, knowing when to give up. Why do you think this is such an important lesson to learn, especially for teens?
A. I think we are hit over the head lately (teens more than anyone) with the idea that WE CAN ACHIEVE ANYTHING! All we have to do is set a goal and put our minds to it, right? But it’s not true, not really. What I think is more important to know is not that we can reach that goal, but that we can be resilient when we don’t. Resilience is a much better “key to success” than even success itself.
Q. What was your greatest challenge writing The Six Rules of Maybe?
A. Six Rules was actually a tough book for me to write. It’s funny, but some books fly from your fingers like magic, and others have to be wrestled into submission (literally). The trouble with Six Rules was that life kept intervening in ways that posed great challenges to my work. I was moving to the city from my long-time home in the country, staying in a houseboat temporarily, and dealing with the illness of someone very close to me. Everything was upside down (or missing in some box somewhere), and yet Scarlet and Juliet and Hayden were waiting, waiting, waiting for me to get them out of the mess I’d gotten them into. It was one of those times when life piles it on. When I write, I find it’s best when the emotional stuff is cleared off of the mental desk as much as possible. That way, the emotion is saved for the work itself.
Q. In your Through the Wardrobe essay “Just Another Crazed Narnia Fan” (which is being re-released this fall), you discuss the beauty in C.S. Lewis’ wording and say that language gives Narnia its true power. Even though you don’t write fantasy, did Lewis’ writing style influence your own?
A. I don’t know if his style influenced mine, really, but his style taught me some things that are important for any writer to know: Remember the lushness and power of setting. A simple, true word can have more beauty than many elaborate ones (think “snow.” Think “lamppost.” Think “fawn”). Good writing is often about the rhythm of a sentence, how it sounds. And, if at all possible, strive for something that lasts.
Q. It’s clear from your essay that you love all of the Chronicles, but which book in the series is your favorite?
A. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Q. Your essay came out in the first edition of Through the Wardrobe about two years ago. In the meantime, did you ever get your beloved copy of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe back?
A. Lisa Miller, I’m still waiting.
Q. What are you working on right now?
A. I’ve just turned in Stay, which is about a girl and her father who run to a remote beach house to escape her obsessive boyfriend. While there, she meets two young brothers who captain a beautiful sailboat, a lighthouse keeper with a secret, and an old friend of her father’s who reveals secrets of his own. Stay is moody, fast-paced, and atmospheric, and it flips between the tumultuous past relationship and the present. It’s about what we owe others, and what we should never, ever owe anyone. the tumultuous relationship in her past and the sweet, growing one in her present present, STAY talks about the things we owe others and the things we should never, ever owe anyone. :)
Q. If you could tell us to read one book this year (other than yours, of course!), what would it be?
A. I am too much of a book lover to ever choose just one. Still, if I must choose only one… The Lion. The Witch, and the Wardrobe, of course.