Answers! (Part Four: UM, STUFF)

Featuring non-related pictures from an old summer vacation. Because (A) It's summer, and (B) I like tacky things.

Some quickies, because it's a vurry bizzy week . . .

Jolie asked:

How is that second book deadline coming along? Are you breathing? Sweating? Dancing? Eating everything in sight? Perhaps rolling bare-bummed in finished ms pages?


Snort snort snort.

[Stephanie wipes tear from eye.]

Choke snort choke.

It's, er, coming. In the sense that the actual deadline is rapidly approaching. (Four days. Accccck!) As I've mentioned here before — far too often — Second Novel and I are not exactly besties. She's pretty much kicking the tar out of me.

And taking enormous pleasure in it.

But . . . the last few weeks have okay! Okay-ish. The deadline is self-imposed, because I work much better under pressure. Productivity, creativity, and — most thankfully — my ability to focus ratchet up considerably. Because, as embarrassing as it is to admit, I am a hardcore procrastinator. I will wait until the LAST SECOND every time.

And I'm kinda in LAST SECOND territory now.

So it's a good thing! Sort of!

Buuuuuut yes. My daily habits have gone askew. I'm not dancing (I wish) or eating everything in sight (yet), but I'm drinking lattes at odd hours, staying up until six am, having panic attacks, emailing letters of desperation, canceling plans with friends, scribbling notes on my body in unwashable markers, and begging my husband to brainstorm with me about the same (stupid) thing again and again. And again.

I've also reached that stage where I edit my manuscript line-by-line while I sleep. (Do you do that? Please tell me you do. And then you wake up even more tired than when you went to bed?)

Oh! And there's a lot of uncontrollable sobbing.

In other words, I am SUPER FUN to be around right now!!!

(Thank you for thinking of me, Jolie. I've enjoyed reading about your progress this summer, too. Woo hoo! You're rocking it!)

I bought four pairs of retro sunglasses under this roof.

Kiersten asked:

When are you coming back to San Diego? Because Dojo misses his Aunt Stephanie, and our band seriously needs to practice.

Dude. We DO need to practice.

And I'll come back to San Diego when it stops being so:

flower-filled and . . .


I'll come back when you can hook me up with something substantial.

Something like THIS:

Anonymous asked:

Do you type up your stories or hand write them? I prefer to hand write mine. It's almost like a good luck charm with me :)

Ooo, I wish I could write my first drafts by hand! Lucky you. I always thought it'd be cool to be one of those writers with a fountain pen and a pad of legal paper who just went for it. So romantic!

But, alas, I am . . . what's the word?

Oh, yeah. Anal. I'm totally anal.

Whenever I write by hand, inevitably I get stuck on the very first page, scribbling out large chunks and re-writing new — often worse — lines in illegible print above it and sideways in the margins. And then scratching out those lines, etcetera etcetera.

This is essentially the same thing I do on my computer, but at least when I work in Word (one of these days, I SO need to switch to Scrivener), you can't see how many tries it takes me to write one freaking sentence.

Which is a very. long. time.

(Which is why I should go now. Nasty deadline and all.)

More answers comin' up . . .


Answers! (Part Three: MY NOVELS + TRAVELS)

Perhaps you've noticed something.

I'm skipping the hard questions.

You know, the ones about writing. But no worries! I'll get to them SOON. And to prove that I'm not a complete weenie (only a partial), today I'll answer two questions you might not have expected me to answer at all.

That's right. I'm going to talk about my novels.

Because Shelley had THE NERVE (!!!) to ask:

Okay, you said you'd answer anything soooo.....What is the name of one of your characters in your second novel? What are three words that describe this character? hehehehe.

I love you, Shelley, but YOU ARE EVIL.

But you're right. I said I'd answer anything, so here goes.


In Second Novel, there's a character named Max. He's not a main character, but he is an important one. Max is unusual in that he's the one of the only characters I've ever written — main or minor — who doesn't have a last name.

I'm not sure why. He's just the kind of guy who doesn't need one.

Maybe he'll have one by the end, but somehow I doubt it. After all, I've known Max for eight years now, and he has yet to tell me! (Though I do know his name is short for Maximilian, as opposed to Maxwell.)

As for three words to describe him:

Spearmint. Cigarettes. Sex

Make of that what you will!

DJ FOX asked an EVEN MORE EVIL question:

What is the the plot of Anna? I know, I know, you may not answer that, I get it, but hey, I can't be the only one who's wonder from a title like that! =)

Okay, this one is rendered slightly less evil by the mention of my title. Thank you!

Still . . . so painful . . . gaaaaaaaaaasp . . .

I'm sorry.

I wanted to — I really, really did — but I have to back out of this a bit. I don't feel comfortable sharing her plot yet, but I WILL add another item to the Official List in your honor:


(1) It's a young adult novel.

(2) Hopefully it has some funny bits.

(3) There is kissing. Of course.

(4) Most of it takes place in Paris.

(5) There is an HBM. (Well, more like an HBM plus.)

(6) It’s called Anna and the English French American Boy Masterpiece.

(7) It's contemporary and realistic. In other words, no vampires or magic. Or magic vampires.

Okay, I feel bad about that. That's a pretty weak addition. How about a bonus?

(8) It's set in a boarding school.

Drat. That's kind of lame too. ONE MORE! I promise I'll make it good. Something with details.

(9) It wasn't (originally) intentional, but several important scenes occur on stairs. Though I shouldn't have been surprised when it happened, because the inspiration for the entire story came from a dream (ack, yes) in which I saw a beautiful boy sitting . . . on the steps of a famous monument.

These steps. This monument.

Phew! I've earned an easy question. Zoraida asked:

Can I present you on my blog when you have ARCS come rolling around? I LOVE the title of your book. please =)

YES!! Yes yes yes yes! A million times yes!

Also, I love your name.

(And thank you for the compliment. Titles are hard for me. The original — which I will NOT share — was totally lame and boring.)

DJ FOX also asked:

I agree with the above. I love the title of your book and I love the location! Paris! Have you ever backpacked around Europe? What's your favorite place to visit?

Thank you again! It's amazing to hear you say that. Because when I say my original title was lame, I really mean it. But I'm lucky to have wonderful early readers who tell me when things are boring! I'd much rather know something needs to be fixed BEFORE I send it out into the industry.

Oh. Wait. You had another question for me?

Right! Backpacking through Europe! No, I've not had that opportunity. I suppose I'd like to, though I confess the idea of backpacking is a little, um, what's the phrase I'm looking for?

An American Werewolf in London.

Yes, that's the one.

Typical American backpackers. Tra-la-la!


Hostel also comes to mind.

You see, BAD THINGS happen to people who backpack in Europe. They don't take showers every day and they have to share rooms with strangers and they get turned into werewolves and they get taken to remote buildings to be tortured!

I am just not prepared for that kind of drama.

But I have visited several European countries — England, France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, and Germany. Unfortunately, I was also eleven. Which is a lovely age, but not so helpful now, when I am needing to KNOW STUFF for my novels.

Things I don't remember, because it's been a while since eleven.

But I do remember enjoying the Tower of London, Notre-Dame, and Versailles! And Lucerne, Switzerland was astoundingly beautiful and bursting with friendly people.

It was also, like, the cleanest place on Earth.

Not to mention, werewolf-free.*

In a related question, Sarah asked:

If you could FedEx yourself anywhere, where would you go? PS: the name of your book? I agree with everybody else. It's long and funny and fantastic.

YAAAY! Thank you!!

This is making me so, so happy.

As for the question, my answer is — perhaps surprisingly — not Paris. I'm actually in the process of renting a flat there this January for some last-minute Anna research and for some early Third Novel research. (YAAAY again!) So I wouldn't want to waste my special FedEx-ing on a place that I'm already going.

That would be ridiculous.

So I'd like to be delivered to Iceland, preferably in the middle of a Sigur Rós concert during an aurora borealis while eating skyr (a soft yogurty cheese thing).

Side note/video: If you like Sigur Rós and you haven't seen their film, Heima, you must rent it! Breathtaking! Trailer for the curious, filled with Icelandic goodness:


For the last few years, I've been Iceland-obsessed. The combination of dreamy music and woolen sweaters and volcanic rock and rerouting roads because of the elves is too tempting!

Sarah also asked:

Chocolate or vanilla?

I'm always a little ashamed to answer this question. But the truth is:

I'm a vanilla girl.

And if that makes me boring, SO BE IT. I'll take a single scoop of bean-speckled French vanilla ice cream over a chocolate sundae any day. Not that there's anything wrong with chocolate — I love chocolate, I do! — but there's something so satisfying about vanilla. So delicious. So pure.

Which leads me to a question in Tuesday's comments in which Ben asked:

Stephanie, is it just me, or is Chris Martin's chocolate slant perhaps tainted by your own? Just wondering.

HA!!! NO!!!!!!!!

You see? I tell the truth and ONLY the truth here on my blog.

You can trust me. I swears.

And as a special bonus for the other fans of Mr. Martin — I know there are a few of you here! Hurrah
! — here is one of my favorite interviews in which My Celebrity Boyfriend eats a lot of chocolate (the eating starts about halfway through):

The most awesome thing about that?

I had multiple videos of Chris Martin eating chocolate to choose from.

More answers, coming soon!

*pretty picture by adlin


Answers! (Part Two: LIGHTNING ROUND)

This will be quick-ish, as I'm sleepy and anxious to hop in bed. Because bed is awesome. It's where you SLEEP and DREAM and DON'T WORK. Things like vacuuming and laundry and Second Novel are VERBOTEN in bed.

As a follow-up to my last post, Lexi asked:

what is your best pie recipe for attracting the HBMs to your house?

Mmm . . . piiiiiiiiie.

I assume you're recalling the strange occurrence a few months ago, in which I discovered several coded messages regarding pie underneath my weeping cherry tree. Matthew Macfadyen and Lee Pace were somehow involved, but the details remain unclear.

What are you up to, Pie Maker?

However, one thing was made clear that afternoon: Hot British (and non-British) Men care about pie.


So I called my HBM Celebrity Boyfriends to ask what type of pie would be the most likely to lure them to your doorstep. Here's how they responded:

CHRIS MARTIN: Chocolate! Anything chocolate! Chocolate cream, chocolate marshmallow, chocolate peanut butter. Double chocolate is always wicked . . . ooo, with one of those Oreo crusts? And served with a drizzle of hot fudge? And a glass of chocolate milk?

Do meat pies count?

Blackberry, with one of them fancy lattice tops.

THOM YORKE: Pie? It's two in the [#$%@#*^] morning, and you're [#$%@#*^] calling me about [#$%@#*^] pie? Are you [#$%@#*^] mad?

Hope that helps! As for your second question:

if i traded you an ice cream, would you let me read your book? every one else is asking to read it as well, but i figure i have an edge because i have ice cream.

I like the way you think, Lexi. This will get you far in life.

My answer is a two-parter:

(A) Anna is on the verge of another monstrous edit, so even though I am incredibly (!!!) flattered by the interest, she's not at a stage where I'm comfortable sharing her.

BUT . . .

(B) As soon as she is — if you're still interested — I am quite devoted to cake.

And pie.*

Natalie asked:

If you couldn't dye your hair blue anymore, what would be your fall back color?

Last autumn, I wanted to dye the streaks a bright yellow-gold (so my hair — combined with the natural red — would kinda/sorta look like fall leaves), but my stylist refused on the grounds that after being blue, my hair wouldn't take gold well. Something about blue and yellow being on opposite ends of the color wheel? Maybe?

Something like that.

Anyway, it would have turned a very NON-golden color. So I stuck with blue. There's nothing else I'd really try, because most colors would clash with the rest of my hair. I'll probably keep the blue streaks for a few more years and then return to 100% redhead.

But . . . once my hair turns gray, I'd LOVE to dye the whole thing Run Lola Run red.

Because Lola is the coolest.

More answers on the way. Hope you all are having fabulous Tuesdays!

*For me, strawberry rhubarb. Or lemon sour cream! With whipped cream, the REAL kind, not the kind from a can. Although I'll take the can if that's all you have. You can spray it directly into my mouth. Please.


Answers! (Part One: BOYS)

WOW. Thank you, everyone, for the fantastic questions. Your response made me so happy!

I’m answering them out of order, so I can group the related questions together. And because I'm rather long-winded, this will take a few posts. So no worries if any of your questions appear to have been skipped! I’ll answer all of them.

Please allow me to begin with THE EASIEST QUESTION:

Mariah asked:

Darcy or Rochester?

[Steph jumps out of chair and screams at top of lungs.]


Ah hem.

I absolutely, positively loved meeting Mr. Rochester during my Shameful Bookfest, and I tooooottallly understand the devotion of his fans (such as yourself, if I remember correctly).

I get this. I mean, I get this.

BUT . . .

The number one two* place in my heart will always belong to Fitzwilliam Darcy. Haughty and reserved, generous and kind, and completely smitten with the most intelligent woman of his acquaintance.

I'm hooked on Darcy for life.


Which leads rather nicely to jckandy’s question:

Why do you always rant about hot guys and HBMs when you're married? You are married, right? Or am I just shooting myself in the foot?

You may put down the gun! You’re correct — I am, indeed, married.

But here is THE SECRET about marriage: attractive people are still attractive once you get married.

It’s true. It's simply impossible not to notice them.

This is why it's crucial to only date/live with/marry people who are NICE. Someone understanding, who won't get jealous when you're like, "Mmm, Mr. Darcy." And this is why it's equally crucial to be nice and understanding in return when he's like, "Mmm, Audrey Tautou."

Jarrod's Celebrity Girlfriend

It must go both ways.

And because this is something I feel strongly about, forgive me for discussing this a bit further.

It's true that for the first few months (or years, if you're lucky) of meeting someone special, you forget the rest of the world exists. People like Mr. Darcy and the cute guy who works at Starbucks cease to register on your radar. ALL YOU THINK ABOUT is your significant other, and you can't FATHOM being attracted to anyone else, ever again.

But . . . this feeling ends. And it's actually a good thing! Can you imagine feeling that delirious and consumed for the rest of your life? You'd never get anything accomplished! (Plus, your friends and family and coworkers would hate you. I know mine were sick-to-death of hearing "Jarrod Jarrod Jarrod" every time I opened my mouth.)

This doesn't mean your special someone still won't be the center of your universe. Jarrod is most CERTAINLY the center of my universe. He is my favorite person EVER IN THE HISTORY OF TIME!


And here's the other important bit.

He knows it, because I tell him every day.

Maybe he'd have a problem with my Hot British Man fascination if I didn't tell him I love him the best. It's important to remind significant others how attractive they are and how much we love them! Otherwise they might think we are leaving them for that cute Starbucks guy. And that leads to broken hearts and/or cheating.

[Which, dear readers, is way completely uncool and if you are EVER cheated on, you dump that jerk IMMEDIATELY, okay?]

But the fact that you'll forever register certain people as attractive is the most important reason to marry someone you're also friends with. Because if your entire relationship is based on lustylicious** hormones, the marriage won't survive. Because those insane-in-love feelings WILL calm down (not disappear, just calm down), and then what will you be left with?

It'd better be a friend.

Best Friends

One last thing:

Knowing the people your significant other finds cute can actually be helpful. For instance, if early in our relationship Jarrod had shown interest in Pamela Anderson, I'd have known that it WOULDN'T WORK between us. I'll never be a Pam! But he likes quirky girls, and even though I'll never be as gorgeous as Audrey Tautou or as hip as Christina Ricci, at least these are women I respect.

You know?

Besides. Jealousy is silly.

Now, speaking of hotties, Natalie asked:

Just how many HBM's live at/visit your house? Also, is there room for me when I visit someday?

I am so glad you asked. Here’s the breakdown:

There is only one live-in HBM (Hot British Man), My Celebrity Boyfriend Chris Martin.

The One

The reason? Lifestyle compatibility! Not only is he super-nice and polite and funny, but he's also willing to wash dishes and feed the dogs. He bakes cookies and likes our favorite movies. And he and Jarrod can talk music geek FOR HOURS.

Unfortunately, he's on tour this summer, so we're only seeing him every few weeks.

(The house is empty without you, love! Come home soon.)

Official HBM Celebrity Boyfriends

Wee James McAvoy is a frequent house guest, as well as Jim Sturgess. They are both Official Celebrity Boyfriends. And Thom Yorke has been My Celebrity Boyfriend longer than anyone, but unfortunately we don’t see each other often, as he's vurry busy being Brilliant and all. (He also doesn't like crowds. And he's particularly wary of Chris.)

Matthew Macfadyen appears to want inside my house, but has yet to work up the nerve.

And I wouldn’t mind watching TV with Clive Owen, but he hasn't expressed an interest.

Official Non-HBM Celebrity Boyfriends

There are also several non-British visitors. Cillian Murphy (Irish), Lee Pace (American), and Gael García Bernal (Mexican) have all attended kilt parties here.

And Rufus Wainwright (Canadian) is totally My Celebrity Gay Best Friend.

Take a moment to admire his fabulousness.

As for the second half of your question, OF COURSE there’s room for you to visit. There will always be a place for you in my home!

You may just, er, have to share a bunk bed with someone.

[This = KEY to having Several Celebrity Boyfriends and a regular-sized house. Many, many bunk beds. They also each have one drawer for personal items. Except Chris, naturally, who received his own dresser for his last birthday.]

Begy asked:

do you mind if your book is read by a guy? and how do you think about guys who read your book (or blog)? because, you see, i'm a GUY! i'm just wondering... ;D

Begy, I will WORSHIP you if you read my novel.

I’ll be over-the-moon ecstatic when anyone expresses interest in my book! Male, female. Teen, adult. Gay, straight. American, international. Any race, any religion, any anything, and my jaw will drop to the floor like I’ve just won the Pulitzer.

YOU: I read your novel.
ME: Reeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaallly? You DID?
YOU: Yeah, it was great! [Okay, I’m taking liberties here. Forgive me.]
ME: Please allow me to wash your feet and feed you bon bons.
YOU: Er.
ME: Can I sign your book? Do you need another copy? For a friend??
YOU: Um, isn’t Meg Cabot around here somewhere? I’d better run, before I miss her—

So you see? I already think you’re amazing just for asking the question. And I’m thrilled and honored by everyone who reads this blog.

Especially when the posts are this long.

(More answers coming soon!)

* = Numero Uno is Jarrod, of course

** = Thank you, Kiersten — and Evie, for the vocabulary



This comic has nothing to do with the rest of this post, but I had to share. The Asheville Dilettante and her husband recently introduced me to Hark! A Vagrant, and I'M IN LOVE. A history and literary comic! Kate Beaton — the artist — is my new hero.

More favorites from her site:

Dude Watchin' with the Brontës (major points for the title)
Adams and Franklin

Okay, onto my actual point . . .

I’ve never done a blog Q & A before, mainly because of my near-constant state of paranoia that believes no one would leave me ANY questions, and then I’d look like a doofus tool buttbag.

(Also among my paranoia’s chief concerns: the pungent smell wafting from Mr. T’s litter box, sharks evolving into land animals, and discovering my iPod has been replaced with one that only plays “Who Let the Dogs Out.")

But perhaps you have a question regarding writing or agenting or publishing that I could help you with. Films or books or HBMs or My Celebrity Boyfriends. Working in a library, having blue hair, or . . . er.

I’m out of things.

I’m willing to bet you’re a lot more creative than I am. So if you’re feeling kind and giving and a little curious, please leave some questions in my comments.

I’ll answer anything you ask in a few days. Thanks!


Innocent Koala or Dangerous Mogwai?

I found this bathing koala picture while doing yesterday's post, and I've decided I need to share it with you.

Because . . . WHAT'S THE DEAL?

I realize it's supposed to be "cute," but isn't one of the three golden mogwai rules not to get them wet?

Mogwai + Water = MORE MOGWAI

And these mogwai will not be nice like Koala Gizmo. They'll have DANGEROUS MOHAWKS, and they'll TRICK US into feeding them after midnight, and THEN:


I'm just saying, the zookeeper who gave that creature a bathtub needs to watch his back.

(Also, thank you so much for all of the supportive comments yesterday!)


Oh Yeah, That Writing Thing

To combat the down-ish nature of this post, I’ve enlisted the help of Adorable Baby Animals.

Perhaps you've noticed a decline of writing talk here. Perhaps you've picked up on my aggravation and frustration towards Second Novel.

Perhaps these incidents are related.

For the last several months, I’ve had some . . . difficult things happening. And as these things have grown, they've merged and festered upon the other difficulties in my life, most notably, Second Novel.

It was inevitable that everything would become intertwined, so completely enmeshed that it'd become impossible to see where one problem ended and the next began. And it was inevitable that Second Novel would receive the brunt of the blame, an unwanted bounty of expectations heaped upon it. It's kind of like a parent seeking to rectify his own life disappointments by forcing his child to attend medical school.

OMG. Is he real???

In other words, Second Novel has suffered — from both a lack of attention and too much attention. From endless brooding and constant avoiding. From comparisons to award-winning work, comparisons to my friends’ work, comparisons to my own work.

It’s safe to say that I pretty much beat the crap out of Second Novel.

It’s no wonder I felt beaten in return.

Those EARS! That smile!

But this isn’t (necessarily) a pity post. Because I’m happy to announce that for the last two weeks, things have begun falling back into place for me, and Second Novel is moving forward again.

Slowly, but — most certainly — steadily.

During difficult periods, I tend to set MORE writing goals. This many words per day/this many hours per week/this many chapters per month. And the more goals I set, the more likely I'm setting myself up for failure. Maybe you can relate.

I’m learning that sometimes I need to cut myself a break. Which doesn’t mean giving up or taking a vacation, but it does mean going easy on myself when the writing isn’t moving as quickly or as smoothly as I’d hoped.

It’s okay that it’s hard. It’s okay that I dread it. It’s okay.

In the last couple months, I asked for and received a lot of advice regarding Second Novel. Most of it was logical and positive and good, but a handful of people wondered if the reason why I'm struggling so badly is because there's something wrong with it. Perhaps it's time to move on, and this story isn’t meant to be.

But I know this is untrue.

Anyone else want to rub the fuzzy panda butt?

For all of the horrible curses I've wished upon it, I love Second Novel. And I believe in it for the simple reason that I believe in these characters.

They fascinate me and torment me and push me. I want to know how they fit together and how they pull themselves apart. I want to know why they haven’t let me rest for the last EIGHT (gulp, yes) years. Why won’t they go away? What story are they really trying to tell?

I keep asking them questions, scribbling down their answers, and trying to make sense of it all. And I’m not there yet, but certain aspects are becoming clearer. I just have to keep moving forward. I have to remember that I don’t need all the answers yet.

Besides, I’m a firm believer that the equation for writing a book is simple:

Time + Effort = Novel

Snouters + Grippy Claw = Beh-Be Anteater

Of course, there are variables. But basically? Yeah. You sit for an ungodly number of hours, you work harder than you’ve EVER worked on ANYTHING before, and eventually it happens.

That’s how I finished Anna.

And that’s how I’ll finish Second Novel.