Q. What made you want to tell 'Hadley' story?
A. Back when I was in school I saw girls who would put up with being treated badly just to hang out with certain people and it bothered me. I remember being at the mall and a friend of mine came up to me with this girl. We were talking and the other girl kept making little jokes at my friend’s expense and saying passive aggressive things. Later, that friend asked me to spend the night at her house and I knew the other person would be there, so I said I was busy. I wondered why my friend kept hanging around this girl. So I wanted to write from that perspective, but also write about when you make one friend so exclusive and then they move and you have to start over, which is what happens at the beginning of the book when Hadley’s best friend Lexi moves to Dallas. I thought so many girls do that where they just have the one close friend and how shattering it would be to have that person move and then stop keeping in touch with you and you have to start over.
I also liked the idea of moving somewhere where you could have a fresh start and reinvent yourself. Plus, we’re all so bombarded with images of celebrities that I wanted to put that into the story, but with a realistic spin on it where you see things in that famous celebrity world aren’t what they appear to be. That even these seemingly perfect people have insecurities and sides of themselves that are just put on for the cameras. Hadley starts to see how even her favorite actress who she aspires to look like doesn’t actually look like that naturally. That was something I didn’t realize at her age—I didn’t get that images were altered and Photoshopped. I felt that was important to put in the story because that would have helped my self-image as a teen as I compared myself to the models in the magazines.
Q. What was the hardest part?
A. I think writing the scene where Hadley and Simone run into Nick and his girlfriend was the hardest. I felt the same sick feeling Hadley got as the guy she liked was blowing her off and with another girl. I also felt very emotional when writing about how Simone feels replaced by her dad’s new family.
Q. If you could tell 'Hadley' anything what would?
A. I would tell her to stop comparing herself to other girls and that fame and popularity isn’t what she would expect. We all get so swept up into these images in the media that make it look like everyone famous has the perfect life. Slowly, she starts to see that it’s not that way and she learns from Simone how manipulated the images are in reality.
Q. How is 'Next Door to A Star' different than 'Landry's True Colors Series'?
A. In Next Door to a Star, we see Hadley having one best friend who she spent all her time with and when her friend moves, she realizes she doesn’t have a lot of people to hang out with. When she tries to find a new squad, she encounters mean girls and bullies. So branching out to meet new people isn’t easy for her and she basically decides to reinvent herself when she moves to Grand Haven and she gets very swept up by celebrity and popularity. Landry from the Landry’s True Colors Series gets ignored by her best friends after a modeling contest and has to overcome the fact she’s an introvert at heart and find out where she fits in best. Both girls are trying to find their tribes, but they have different personalities. Landry wants to fit in and stand out, but she’s more afraid to step into the limelight. There’s a part of her that wants to just fade into the background when she gets uncomfortable whereas Hadley wants to be accepted by the popular crowd and the former teen celebrity, Simone. I think Landry is coming from the place of an introvert who wants to overcome her anxiety and stand out, whereas Hadley is trying to find her place in the world, learning who she is and being true to that.
Q. When writing what do you feel is the most important thing?
A. I think truth and vulnerability are the two most important things. You must be authentic and vulnerable to get to the truth and to write a story that will touch people.
Q. How long did it take for you to write 'Next Door To A Star'?
A. I actually started the story back in 2002 while I was in school. It got put aside a bit because I was going to school, working for a newspaper and then I moved overseas. I didn’t come back to the book until after my first novel, True Colors, was published. Then I edited it to make it more timely since technology changes make for huge differences in fiction. For instance, no one really stays at home waiting for a call now and things are cleared up faster and easier with texts, emails, and cell phones that people carry 24/7. So that impacted a lot. There were scenes I had to cut out for those reasons.
Q. Will there be a book two, to 'Next Door To A Star'?
A. Yes, the sequel to Next Door to a Star will be out on March 22nd. It’s called Competing with the Star and it picks up with Nick and Hadley’s relationship. You see Hadley dealing with some issues of Nick’s ex-girlfriend interfering and Hadley develops an unlikely friendship with someone you met in the first book. She also uncovers a secret about Nick and learns who her true friends are as well. I’m really excited for this one to come out and to work on the third book in the Star Series.
Q. What's your next writing project?
A. The third book in my Landry’s True Colors Series comes out January 12th. It’s called Landry in Like. I’m also working on the third book in the Star Series and working on an adult novel and another YA one.
Q. What has been your favorite book you've read this year?
A. Right now I’m reading Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing. It’s a must read if you like to write.
Q. Do you think Landry of 'Landry's True Colors Series' and Hadley of 'Next Door To A Star' could be friends?
A. I think Landry and Hadley could definitely be friends. Even though Landry is a touch younger, I think she’s a bit more experienced when it comes to deal with friendships and frenemies and they could definitely commiserate on that topic. I think they’d also talk about the boys in their lives although as you’ll see in the Next Door to a Star sequel (titled, Competing with the Star), Hadley and her boyfriend Nick are about to form a deeper bond after he confides in her about a family member going through a difficulty. Both girls wear their hearts on their sleeves and look at life with a sense of humor.