Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Pretty much! I wrote my first story when I was five, on a poster board. It was about a greedy king who made all of his people give him all their money, but when he saw how sad they were, he gave it back. Everyone lived happily ever after. Then in second grade, when I was Student of the Week (nerd, right?!), I had to write all about myself, and I wrote that I wanted to be an author named E. A. Laing.
Where did you get the idea for The Thirteenth Summer?
From my life as a rock star’s daughter. Ha, no, my dad is a preacher, so this book is definitely all imagination. In spring of 2004, I had just returned to our little bungalow house in Atlanta after a trip to L.A., and I had major jet lag. So at 3 am, as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep, this story came to me. I got out of bed and wrote the first chapter and an outline for the entire book. Even after seven years and umpteen million revisions, I ended up going back to a version of the first chapter that is very similar to that first middle-of-the-night draft. The only thing that wasn’t in the first draft was the Psycho Girl plot line. That just sort of happened by accident as I was writing! It’s funny what happens when characters start making their own decisions.
Crystal Waters spends most of the book getting to know her father. What is your relationship like with your dad?
So many of my friends don’t really know their dads, either because their parents divorced, or because their dads didn’t know how to open up and connect with them on an emotional level. I have always felt that a girl’s relationship with her dad has a profound influence on her self-confidence and on the way she views guys when she is ready to start dating. I feel so lucky, because I have always been really close to my dad. To this day, my dad and I “get” each other in ways no one else does. He’s the one who introduced me to my love of language! My dad is not very similar to Rage, personality-wise, but he does ride a Harley. I rode Dad’s Harley once, and I drew on that memory as I wrote the chapter about Crystal riding on Rage’s bike—as Crystal put it, riding a motorcycle is “terrifying beyond belief, but really amazing.”
Are you like Crystal?
I find that the main characters in my books tend to be some combination of the two teenage girls I have known the best: me and my sister. Crystal is a lot like me in that she is tangled up inside, always thinking things she would never have the guts to say out loud. When I was thirteen, I was very insecure and complicated (sometimes I still am!), and I tend to take life way too seriously, just like Crystal does.
What is your favorite part of the book?
My favorite chapters are “Pancake Confessions,” when Rage and Crystal finally talk honestly about their relationship and their past, and then “Motorcycles and Two-Stepping.” I love the way Rage admits his failures as a father, then immediately steps into the role he should have played all of Crystal’s life. He doesn’t sit around waiting for an invitation to act like her father—in typical Rage fashion, he jumps right in. He takes Crystal out, shows her a new way of experiencing the world, draws her out of herself, and helps her discover a confidence she never knew she could have.
I also love the way Crystal gets to know Luke, and the awkwardness of their first interactions with each other. (I was sooo awkward with guys when I was in middle school. I came home in tears after my first date!) And Crystal doesn’t realize it, but she has picked a guy who is a lot like her dad!
What are you working on now?
I am currently revising a Young Adult novel called The Love Doctor. It’s about a 15-year-old named Lailie Proctor who accidentally overhears a huge fight between a popular couple in her high school. Lailie gives them advice that ends up saving their relationship, and in so doing, she discovers her purpose in life: She appoints herself the Love Doctor of her high school. Lailie plans to save the love lives of her fellow students, one relationship at a time… but no one will ever know her true identity.