Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
JA: Most of the experiences of Maggie are someone’s personal experiences. I did several interviews to prepare for this story. I’ll be honest, I’m unqualified to write a story like this. I’ve never had an abortion. But the story was so heavy on my heart that I had to write it. In order to make it real, I had to interview women who had been there. I spoke with several post abortive women, both women who had regrets and those who didn’t. I’ve had a few people tell me that Maggie’s phone conversation with the receptionist seems unrealistic, but that was drawn directly from one of my interviews. So Maggie’s story is the story of several women put together.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
JA: I love Lauren’s interaction with Melissa Randolf near the end. Writing snark is always fun.
How did you come up with the title?
JA: I didn’t. I’m great with chapter titles, but I couldn’t think of a title to save my life. It had a bunch of different names, none of which worked until one of my former students, Rachael, gave me “At What Cost.” The funny thing is, she doesn’t remember this. : )
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
JA: Probably that my main characters had no chemistry. Eek. That one hurts, especially when you’ve spent six months trying to write that chemistry. The best compliment was when my agent asked me if I’d be willing to mentor some young writers. I mean, I know he likes my writing or he wouldn’t have signed me, but for him to say that, I was like, “Wow, he really does like my writing.”
How does your writing process look? Consistent with regular amounts of word counts daily/weekly… or more sporadic with a gush of words all at once and then a dry bed for a while?
JA: I’m definitely more sporadic. I’m working between the baby’s naps, groceries, baseball games, kids activities. I write when I can. If I don’t get a lot done that day, I try not to fret.
What sort of Starbuck’s coffee would your characters order? Simple coffee, complicated soy-non-fat-extra-espresso-half-caff-nightmare? ￼
JA: Venti, nonfat, cinnamon dolce latte, with whip. Or Venti, nonfat, pumpkin spice latte with whip in the fall and Venti, nonfat, gingerbread latte in the winter… Oh, wait, that’s my order. Hmm, Okay, well, Ray, Maggie’s dad, is a regular joe kind of guy. Probably Pikes Peak. Maggie, she’s totally a Mocha, possibly raspberry mocha latte girl. Natasha, Maggie’s mom, would order a grande, decaf, nonfat, soy double pump vanilla latte, hold the whip. And Rachel would take a grande double shot cappuccino and a piece of lemon bread. ---Can you tell I go to Starbucks often?
I always like hearing about books other authors read. Or, what books they read when they were kids? What were some inspiring books?
JA: I love the Hunger Games. Pretty much any dystopian novel works for me. I loved 1984 by Orwell and The Giver by Lois Lowry. Growing up I read any Nancy Drew book I could get my hands on. I have an old set that was my grandmother’s. It’s bound in this jean fabric. Pretty cool .
I find it interesting to know what environment people write in. Do they use a pen and paper, laptop? Quiet room, music or what? Dog at their feet? Cat on the desk?
JA: Just whatever makes it comfortable to be productive.
For me, my environment changes. For the most part, I have a huge desk in my kitchen, on which sits a fish tank. When I get stuck, I lean back and watch the fish. Sometimes my baby sits on the desk in her little Bumbo. (It’s a huge desk, remember.) But that doesn’t work very well because she likes to try to grab the mouse and drool all over it.
I love writing at Starbucks. Before I had my baby, I’d go there and sit all morning and write. Yes, I’m the yuppy who walks in and is greeted by name there. Hey, what can I say, I love their coffee.
Most of the time I write on the computer, but I do find that if I’m stuck or if I can’t bring my laptop where I’m going, a notebook and pen work just as well. I plan out all of my novels using a large paper and a rising/falling action triangular diagram. (You know, the kind your middle school English teachers used to torture you with.—Remember, I was a middle school English teacher.) I don’t always stick to the outline exactly, but at least I know where my major plot points are.
What is best writing advice you can give?
JA: I think the best advice is to write…no matter who tells you you can or can’t. Read everything you can on writing. Test out the styles or advice those books/people give and find what works for you. That’s the key. Not all the advice you get is going to work for you, but you’ll never know if it does or doesn’t unless you give it a try. And lastly, READ!
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