How do you pronounce your last name?
It sounds like: Soar-ROSE-ee-ak, and it’s Polish!
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Write as much as you can. Write what you want to read. Just: write, write, write. You don’t need permission from anyone else to do what you love. Take advice from people you trust, and everyone else’s advice with a bucket of salt.
I also offer a lot of advice on the query process here.
What’s your writing process?
I talk a lot about it here.
How did you find your agent?
It’s a rather unhelpful story, I’m afraid, but I met her while I was working at a publishing house. She in came with one of her clients, and I queried her a few months later. Do see my advice on the query process!
Are you available to speak at this event/visit my school/do an interview?
Possibly! Please use my contact form or get in touch on Twitter. 🙂
So, If Birds Fly Back is your first novel, right?
Yes and no. I wrote my first full-length novel between the ages of nine and thirteen. While The Lady of the Tree was short on things like plot, character development and an original title, it was strong in enthusiasm. I knew deep down that writing was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. My family moved a lot—fourteen times before I reached university—so writing and books were things that I could hold onto when everything else was changing. To gain entry to my grad program in creative writing, I also began an adult dystopian novel called The Professor’s Wife. It was pretty terrible as well.
Did you major in English at university?
Not at first. Because I was really skilled in science, my grandparents decided that I would become a neurologist. (They saw me reading Oliver Sacks a lot, but didn’t understand that I liked the stories of science much better than the practical application.) So I applied to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to study biology with the plan of becoming a doctor. Then my beloved grandfather had a heart attack. I spoke with his attending neurologist, who said that ninety-nine percent of his patients were already brain-dead, and it was his responsibility to crush the hope of families. I dropped biology the next day.
But it wasn’t until my junior year at UNC that I transitioned to English. I was reading Fahrenheit 451 at the recommendation of Rory Gilmore, and I remember thinking: I love this. Why would I want to study anything besides literature? I spent the next semester reading American literature at Kings College London, and by the time I returned home, I had a plan to apply for a graduate program in English at Oxford, which was close enough to Hogwarts to excite me.
Who are your favorite writers?
I could go on forever about the authors who inspire me, but for the sake of brevity, here’s a condensed list: Jandy Nelson, John Green, Rainbow Rowell, Sarah Dessen, Stephanie Perkins, E. Lockhart, Katherine Applegate, R.J. Palacio, J.K. Rowling, Meg Cabot, Louise Rennison, and on the adult side of things: Jojo Moyes, Robin Sloan, Maria Semple, Helen Fielding, Kathryn Stockett, Sara Gruen, Donna Tartt, Mark Haddon, Kazuo Ishiguro, David Nicholls, Jess Walter, Ian McEwan, Elizabeth Gilbert… Okay, cutting it off here.
Where do you get your ideas?
Anywhere and everywhere. For Wild Blue Wonder, it started with the setting.
I also had the very fortunate (and sometimes unfortunate) experience of being a teenager, and those memories really are an endless resource for YA novel.
I, Cosmo was inspired by my complete love of dogs. As an only child, I grew up with dogs; they were my siblings, my best friends. My first dog (see picture below) was Sally, and she was a very good girl.
What’s next for you?
My second YA novel, Wild Blue Wonder, came out in June 2018, and my first MG novel, I, Cosmo, publishes in 2019.