I have tremendous respect for teens who navigate the quagmire that is modern religion. If there is any message in my books, I want it to be that it's okay to ask questions, and it's okay to come up with a belief system all your own. Teens who change their worldviews in the face of tremendous social pressure are heroes to me.
I saw 'Star Wars' for the first time when I was four years old. Sure, I thought Princess Leia was awesome. But the character I identified with most was Luke Skywalker. I left the theater certain the Force was strong with me, that I could train to be a Jedi and wield a lightsaber just like Luke.
Competing in pageants made me hyper-aware of the unfair expectations society places on women in terms of youth and beauty. But it also gave me empathy for women who use beauty as a creative exploration. When expressed healthfully, dressing up, doing hair, crafting makeup, etc., is an art form.
I miss my family and friends from Cali a lot. I also miss late-night business hours, hiking in the Sierra Nevada, and house boating in Gold Country. But in Ohio, housing is cheaper, everything is green year-round, and we get glorious thunderstorms. In California, I lived in a place that was infested with black widow spiders.
I dreamed about this as a kid, that I would write - and people would read - a whole series of books. I feel accomplished, giddy, and tired. Mostly, though, I feel thankful. A trilogy is a huge investment on the part of author, publisher, and reader, and I'm grateful that so many people were willing to invest along with me.
When you write about faith, people will be upset with you no matter what. I've heard from readers who were disgusted with the depiction of monotheistic religion. I've also heard from readers who were upset because my portrayal of faith did not adhere to their specific doctrines. Fortunately, I have high risk tolerance.
I grew up in a cloistered, conservative culture that adhered to strict gender roles. So it's easy to understand why the 'girl dressed as a boy' trope resonated so much. In a world that didn't want to give people like me adventures or significance, books with cross-dressing girls were treasures.
I was a teenage girl once. I was not an overweight teenage girl, but I had really bad acne when I was 11 or 12 years old. It was heart-rending, and people made fun of me. People whispered when I walked by in the hallways, and I was sure they were whispering about me. My adult perspective is maybe they weren't.