PW spoke with Sarah Mlynowski about Frogs and French Kisses, the follow-up to Bras and Broomsticks, which was her first book for kids.
Before writing Bras and Broomsticks, you wrote five successful novels for adults. Why did you decide to make a switch and write for teens?
I've always wanted to be a part of that experience of writing to an audience that is just starting to fall in love with books. When I felt that my writing for adults had become cemented, I decided to write a YA series. At the time, I had a three-book contract, so I could finally write fulltime.
How is writing for a teen audience different from writing for adults?
I feel more pressure when I'm writing for teens. I'm very aware that my audience is impressionable. Therefore, I'm far more careful about what I say and the language I use.
What gave you the idea to write a book about a teenage witch overshadowing her mortal sister?
My sister! Well, not the witch part, maybe.... But after she was born, she became the center of things. just as the character Miri becomes the center of things when her magical powers are discovered. Actually, I've written quite a few stories about a sister taking center stage.
Was writing in the genre of magical realism difficult for you?
No, it comes very naturally to me. It's fun and very freeing not to have to stay anchored in reality.
Did you have as much fun writing the sequel, Frogs and French Kisses, as you did writing Bras and Broomsticks?
Yes, when it came time to write the sequel, I'd already made all the decisions about characters and tone, so I was free to go wild with the plot.
You have a good ear for teen voices. How do you keep up with the current teen trends, concerns and lingo?
I watch a lot of teen TV and read a lot of YA novels. I also talk to teens whenever I can. There are cultural differences between when I was a teen and now, but emotions—anger, angst, love—are the same.
What do you think is the key to drawing and holding the interest of a teen audience?
Just being honest and not talking down to your readers. I think that if you write what you love to read, that will be what your audience wants to read, too.
Your third book about Miri and Rachel, Spells and Sleeping Bags, is due out next summer. Will that be the last title in the series?
I think that it will be the final installment. I've tied up loose threads and I've said my good-byes to all of the characters, but you never know....
What projects are you working on now?
I'm finishing the copyediting phase of Spells and Sleeping Bags, and I'm working on a novella to be included in Fireworks, a collection of stories by YA authors. I'm also writing a joint book—Fly on the Wall—with two other authors, Lauren Myracle and E. Lockhart. I love the communal aspect of this project. As we write alternating chapters, we discuss the plot and we push each other to do more and go further.
It doesn't seem that you're the type of individual who needs much pushing. You've accomplished so much, and you have your hand in so many projects. Do you ever worry about burning out?
No, I actually keep a very strict writing schedule. I'm up at 8:30 every morning and I write from about 9:00 a.m to 7:00 p.m.—with some breaks, of course. I really try to see writing as a career that I turn off when my husband comes home from work. Otherwise, writing could very easily become all-consuming.