I wish! I did give Meredith some of my own qualities – her love of school supplies, her desire to stay under the radar where authority is concerned, her need to control things she can’t. And, like Meredith, I adore my friends and my family. I’d like to think I’m loyal to a fault. But I’ve also been known to misjudge a person based on my gut instinct (which can be unfair).
Only I’m not Irish. I’ve never lived in Oregon. I’m not tall, athletic, or nearly as smart. I assume Meredith’s French is superior to mine, even though I’ve been working on it for two-thirds of my life. And I really cannot dance. Especially not with another person!
FUN FACT: I’ve never known a Meredith I didn’t admire. Not a single one, and I’ve known at least a dozen. So that’s how she got her name.
Are any of your characters based on real life people?
Let’s start with the good news:
Jamie & Molly Sullivan are loosely based on my parents (except they’re not Irish – they’re American). They are two of the kindest, most loyal souls you’ll ever meet!
All of the professors and the gardienne exist in real life. And Marie-France de Clavéry represents the best of the host families my friends and I lived with in Paris.
Anne, Harper, Kelly, and Dan represent four of the friends I studied with in Paris. They are all incredible people – they speak French like natives and have gone on to live fascinating lives. I didn’t do a single one of them justice in The Bridge, though I certainly tried.
If you’ve read the acknowledgements in my book, you know I studied abroad with two different groups. It felt awful to leave so many important people out of this story! Maybe someday I’ll post photos to celebrate them. They each mean the world to me.
And now for the (possibly) sad news:
I am an only child, so until halfway through the first draft, Meredith was also an only child. But then I realized she needed a wise soul helping her navigate life. That’s when Ian Sullivan came to life. I’m VERY glad he did. Ian is the best.
Drew Sutton and Pete Russell do not have real-life counterparts. Believe me, no one is more disappointed by that fact than yours truly! I gave both of these guys qualities that I respect, and a few negative qualities that I don’t. I also tried to show that while Drew and Pete share similar tragic pasts, each one of them has developed different coping mechanisms. Sometimes we forget that people are uniquely created, uniquely gifted, and uniquely flawed. And that’s what I wanted to explore with Drew and Pete.
Will there be a sequel to THE BRIDGE?
Yes! The second book in this series is called THE LONG WALK. The plot begins a couple of weeks after the last scene in THE BRIDGE and it’s set mostly in Ireland. I don’t have a release date yet, but I’m hoping it will be available sometime in 2017. Stay tuned!
Where do you get your ideas?
From everywhere. I must really annoy the people in my day-to-day world – you never know when I’ll yank out my phone start typing notes! When something strikes me as interesting, I can’t not write it down. This is especially inconvenient while I’m in the car. I have an hour-long commute both ways to my day job, so Siri takes a LOT of notes for me while I drive.
Also, I borrow anecdotes from other people. For example, the whole Nuit Blanche section of THE BRIDGE came into being after one of my former students e-mailed me while she was studying in Paris. La Nuit Blanche didn’t exist when I was living in France, and I thought her story was so cool! So I wove it into the plot. And now, that section is hands down my favorite.
Did you always want to be a writer?
Yes. I’ve always made up long, elaborate stories in my head to fill the time (hello, only child!). Sometimes they involve people I know, and sometimes they’re imaginary people that I wished I knew. As a child, I wrote little picture books. In high school and college, I wrote some short stories and some really, really bad poetry.
But once I started working full-time, I gave up on writing. I figured it was an impossible (and impractical) dream. Then a decade ago, I realized I should try again. Now, I write for as many hours a week as I’m able. I can tell when I’ve gone too long without putting my thoughts on the page. I start to feel that ache you feel when you miss someone you love. Which is why I carve writing hours into my weekly schedule, because that is a terrible feeling!
What is your favorite book and who is your favorite author?
How can I possibly narrow this down? I love a lot of books, a lot of genres, and a lot of authors:
Alone in Antarctica by Felicity Aston
A Moveable Feast and The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
The Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery
Big Magic and Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
British Chick Lit by Hester Browne, Jenny Colgan, and Helen Fielding
Contemporary YA by Elizabeth Eulberg, Morgan Matson, and Kasie West
The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
The Heist Society series by Ally Carter
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
Persuasion, Pride & Prejudice, Emma, and Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen
Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
Every single novel and novella by Sarah J. Maas
Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman
The Dark Is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper
The Illuminae Files series by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-éxupery
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Read, read, read. Then read some more. Read as many different genres as you can.
Keep a notebook of quotes that you like from the books you read – phrases you like, plot devices you find interesting, what you like about certain characters. I promise you’ll begin to see patterns, and this will help you create your own voice.
Don’t listen to people who say only a tiny fraction of people get their novels published. You know what? THAT IS TRUE. But who says yours won’t be part of that lucky 1%? As far as I’m concerned, if you’ve been given a story in your heart, you owe it to the world to tell it to the best of your ability. You never know who needs to read it.
Get involved in as many different activities as you can – think outside the box! At the very least, you’ll meet interesting people. At the very best, you’ll get story ideas. So step outside your comfort zone and don’t hole up in your reading nook all the time.
You don’t have to study English or Creative Writing in college to become a writer. Read the bios of your favorite authors. Many of them studied anthropology or history or theology, etc. J. K. Rowling studied French lit! If you want to study English or Creative Writing, go right ahead. But don’t assume you have to follow that route.
Write regularly. You need to decide what this means, but your writing brain is like a muscle: if you don’t work it out, it atrophies. Whatever your practice looks like is up to you. Just know it will probably look different than what works for someone else.
Lastly, guys – and maybe most importantly – spelling and grammar count. I’m really sorry to tell you this since the world somehow decided they’re not important, but in publishing, they still matter. Your manuscript can’t be polished if it has errors, and the gatekeepers (agents, editors, etc.) know their stuff better than any of us. You’ll have to be error-free to get past even the interns. Don’t give them a reason to dismiss you.
Can I send you my work-in-progress/manuscript to get your feedback?
Sadly, I have to say no to this request. Between my day job, my long commute, and other responsibilities, my writing time during the week is limited, and J. K. Rowling says, “Be ruthless about protecting your writing days.” But I can cheer you onward from the sidelines!
Could we invite you to our author event/book club/book festival/school?