By Lauren E. Smith
Internationally bestselling author, Robyn Schneider found her way into the hearts of millions of teens through her relatable and beloved coming of age stories. Her critically acclaimed novel, The Beginning of Everything, published by HarperCollins, has been translated widely and has received major credit as an iTunes Editor’s Pick, a B&N Teen Buyer’s Pick, an Amazon Best Book of the Month, an Indie Next List Top 10 book, just to name a few. While studying English Literature and creative writing at Columbia University, she published her first books for teens and younger readers, including the middle grade Knightley Academy series—Knightly Academy (Aladdin Books 2010) and The Secret Prince (2011)—under the pen name Violet Haberdasher.
When she isn’t writing the next young adult must read, she’s keeping us up to date with the latest fashion trends and schooling us in nerdy trivia. We were thrilled when Robyn took time out of her busy schedule to tell us about her journey as a writer and how she can help you finish the next bestseller in her course, A Novel Approach: Mastering the Long Story Format (7 Wk) at the Pad.
1.) How did you become interested in writing Young Adult fiction? What drew you to the genre?
One of my favorite things about teenagers is how they’re at a point in their lives where they’re deciding who they are. So many adult readers only pick up books to pass the time on an airplane or at the beach, but teen readers aren’t like that. They read to find themselves, and I think that’s really something. As to what drew me to the genre, I’m convinced that there’s a type of magic specific to stories about growing up. It’s somehow easier to believe, when reading a coming of age story, that when the main character walks away from the book irreparably changed, you might come away a little bit different as well.
2.) How much of your own experiences as a teenager do you draw from writing your novels?
In The Beginning of Everything, Ezra’s inner monologue is very much my own. I like to joke that we have the same soul but different stories. But I suppose the truth is, I wrote a book that was so emotionally autobiographical that I had to force myself to fictionalize it somehow. I was never a star athlete, but I know what it’s like to question the ideas everyone else seems to have about your future. I was never the victim of a hit and run accident, but I know what it’s like when your friends disappoint you. And I never had a mysterious girl break my heart, but I’ve been that girl, and it made me realize just how wrong I was when I wrote about it from the perspective of the lovelorn boy. I try to borrow the themes of what I learned while growing up, rather than sharing the stories.
3.) You also studied medical ethics in college. Has that influenced your writing in any way?
I studied it in grad school, too. I’m technically a bioethicist, or MBE, which really does go to show that you can study anything in college and still become a writer. I think most of my writing is influenced by my medical background. There aren’t enough stories for teens that are told through illness, and getting sick or injured are things that everyone encounters, but are rarely folded into YA fiction.
4.) Where do you find inspiration for your video-logs on your Youtube channel and what makes them a hit?
I’ve been really bad at keeping up with those videos lately! Mostly, I talk about whatever’s on my mind at the moment. Books take years to come out, and there’s so much waiting time between writing one and having your first reader. But videos are a way to put something out there immediately, and I really love that.
5.) You’ve recently made the transition into script writing, particularly exploring the science fiction realm/world. Tell us a little about making that jump.
My books are all realistic, contemporary fiction, so if I want to go outside my brand and play in a fictional universe, I do that by writing genre scripts. That way I never get burned out from writing, because I can always switch it up and try something different. Plus, television and film are so structured and the scripts need so much planning that I think my books have also become more fast-paced and cinematic. So it’s a win-win.
6.) What can we expect from you in your upcoming novel and when can we get our hands on it?
My next book, EXTRAORDINARY MEANS, comes out May 26, 2015 from HarperCollins and is a story about two teens at a modern-day tuberculosis sanatorium who fall in love on the brink of a cure. I like to think of it as Never Let Me Go meets The Secret History.
7.) What can students expect to learn from your Novel Writing class at Writing Pad?
I think learning how to internalize a critique is so important: if everyone really loves a side character in your story, that’s a note. You should figure out what it is about that character that resonates so strongly with readers: Quippy lines? Relatable flaw? Sexy sexiness? Identifying your strengths as a writer is just as important as knowing your weaknesses. I’m also super into pacing. Every novel has its own flow, and so does every scene. Some scenes only need a paragraph, others need five pages. When you nail the pacing of a story, that’s when readers say they read the whole thing in one sitting. Mostly, though, I think my students will learn to trust their inner editor as well as their inner writer. And that Harry Potter references are always a win.
8.) What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Everyone always says to read critically, which you should, so I’ll say something else: for those of you querying agents and editors, rejection isn’t the opposite of acceptance; it just means “I don’t love it” not “it isn’t good enough”.
Thank you so much for those words of wisdom, Robyn. Catch her class A Novel Approach: Mastering the Long Story Format (7 Wk) at the Pad.