Name: Tiffany Brownlee
Novel: Wrong in All The Right Ways (Macmillan)
Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing?
The first story I ever remember writing was when I was in the second grade. It was something about a taco pocket (a common food that we ate in the cafeteria) and how it didn’t want to be eaten so it ran away from the table. Much of my writing from when I was a child had to do with food, which I find hilarious.
When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?
I’ve wanted to be an author since I was in grade school, but it wasn’t until I was in high school that I began to think about writing professionally. My good friend, Brad, and I would daydream about becoming professional writers and we’d trade off stories. But then, senior year happened, and I realized that I needed to get serious about college. So, I put my dreams away until after I graduated college, and when I picked writing back up, the first novel I wrote, which landed me an agent and ultimately a book deal, was Wrong in All the Right Ways.
Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?
Yes! Once I got my book deal, I joined a group called the Electric Eighteens. It’s a group of debut authors who have novels coming out in the year 2018. This group, collectively, has been so helpful on my journey to publication. Anytime I had a question about something—be it book swag, author events, the struggle of writing book 2, etc.—they’ve been there to advise me. My agent and editor have been really helpful and supportive as well, and without either of them, I’d be so lost. So, I’ve kind of gotten advice and support from a number of people during my journey; I can’t say give all the credit to one person.
Do you exclusively write contemporary YA (young adult) or have you written in other genres?
So far, I’ve only written in the YA romance genre. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a good romance—or “kissing books” as I sometimes call them. However, I have written pieces of novels in other genres, but I have yet to figure out how to write a good action scene. Maybe one of these days, I’ll figure it out and pick up one of the half-written novels I’ve started and work on finishing it.
What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?
I’m an English teacher, so for most of the year, my focus is on making sure I can deliver high-quality lessons to my students, and unfortunately for me, that makes it difficult for me to get an adequate amount of writing done. However, whenever I’m on vacation from school (especially summer vacation) and I get the opportunity to I write for extended periods of time, I crank out
How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions?
When I wrote Wrong in All the Right Ways, it only took my twenty days to write the first draft of that novel, and maybe three months on revisions before I began to query for an agent. I’m not sure how I did it, and I wish I could go back in time and write down my exact process because now that I have one novel out already, I feel so much pressure to repeat, and because of that it’s become more and more difficult to finish the first draft of my next novel. It’s getting there, though.
Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?
When it comes to preparation for writing a novel, I’m definitely a plotter. I love making outlines for the entire project before I begin writing. This helps me reveal every possible twist and turn, so I can write with those things in mind. For the most part, I try to stick to my outlines, but occasionally, I’ll get an idea in my head that throws the outline off a little bit, but I always know that it won’t be long until I’m back on track with the way I’ve planned the novel to go.
Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?
I’m kind of an open book, so I don’t have anything I wouldn’t want anyone to know, but one of my habits is that I listen to Disney songs while I write. And I’m talking all kinds of Disney music—from the animated films, DCOM soundtracks (High School Musical is my personal favorite), and even from albums that past and present Disney stars have put out (Hilary Duff, Bridget Mendler, Miley Cyrus, etc.). I don’t know, there’s just something about Disney songs that put me in the mood to write.
Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?
I wouldn’t say that I do any interesting research to write a novel because a lot of what I write is pulled from my own life experiences. When I do research something, it’ll be to fact-check something medical-related or get a little more information about the setting that I’ve chosen for the novel. Surprisingly, what I spend most of my research time on are names of characters. I will scour through baby name websites for days until I find the perfect one.
Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?
My inspiration for Wrong in All the Right Ways came when I reread Wuthering Heights a few months after I graduated college. But today, most of my inspiration comes from interacting with my students at school. They’re middle schoolers so they have plenty of daily drama for me to draw inspiration from.
Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites?
I love anything in the YA contemporary or YA romance categories. Reading those books remind me of when I was a teenager and was experiencing love and meaningful friendships for the first time. Some of my favorite novels are Jenny Hans To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series and anything by John Green. Occasionally I’ll try a YA fantasy, but it’s not really my style so it takes a very interesting premise for me to pick up a YA fantasy novel.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for?
Yes, there are some secrets that only a few people will know about, such as my first kiss, that made it into the novel. There are two instances where I wrote about first kisses in the novel, and I’ve told readers that my first kiss is written in there, so readers will have to guess which one is from my life. But unless I or the guy it happened with spills the beans, no one will ever know which one is the real one.
Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life?
Some of the characters are inspired by people in my real life, but one in particular is a mash-up of people I’ve met across my lifetime, and that character is Karmin Ortega. Karmin is Emma’s best friend in the novel, and she was inspired from every best friend I’ve ever had in my life. When I was younger, my dad was in the military and we moved around more than I would have liked to. Because we moved so frequently, I was never able to keep a best friend for very long.
Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.
I have two, actually. One is the book Holes by Louis Sachar, and the other is the Delirium series by Lauren Oliver. Holes is a book that made me fall in love with reading at a young age, and the Delirium series was one of the first book series I read when I just started getting into the YA dystopian genre. I will never get tired of reading those books.
Be honest: Do you Google yourself?
I used to Google myself a lot more prior to publication, just to see what people are saying, but I’ve tried to stay away from that because it gives me anxiety. I don’t want to know what people are saying about me or about my book, so I’ve stopped. Maybe one day, I’ll resume Googling myself, but today is not that day (haha).
As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus?
My patronus is some kind of rodent (a possum or a ferret or something along those lines), and I don’t think that fits me very well, so I like to think that my mascot would be a dolphin or something fun like that. They’re so playful, which is SO me.
Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with?
I feel like I should be better at writing authentic dialogue, but I find it difficult to do sometimes, especially when I’m attempting to write dialogue for a male character. I’m always second-guessing myself, like “is this what a guy would say?” Usually, I seek advice from my boyfriend or brother when I start to feel self-conscious about the authenticity of my male characters’ dialogue.
What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?
1) Don’t give up! And 2) do your research before deciding to get into the publishing business. There are a number of different routes that aspiring writers can take to publish their novel—self-publishing/traditional publishing, small press/large press, etc.—so be sure to do your research and choose the path that works best for you.
What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author?
Here’s the greatest advice I can give any newly published author: Whatever you do, do not check your book reviews on Goodreads. I wish someone had told me this earlier, but I fell in the Goodreads trap early on my journey to publication. I think ignorance is bliss when it comes to reviews. I don’t want to know how many people are reading it, and I don’t want to know what they think about it. The second you realize you have a one- or two-start review, you’re going to start doubting yourself, and enough self-doubt can really hurt your future. So, one more time for the people in the back row: DO NOT CHECK YOUR BOOK REVIEWS ON GOODREADS! You’ll thank me later 🙂
In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?
I try to help other aspiring authors by giving them as much advice as possible about what I learned from my journey to publication. Aspiring writers are always looking for advice on querying/publication do’s and don’t’s from an experienced author, and I try to help them out any chance I get. I’ve gotten messages from writers asking about my process and what they should do, and I don’t mind answering questions or telling them how I did it, but I always give them the disclaimer that just because I did things a certain way doesn’t mean that they have to do the same. Every author has a different publishing experience and they should choose the route that works best for them.
Would you like to know more about Tiffany?
- Visit her website
- See what she’s posting about on Facebook
- Follow her on Twitter
- Check out what she’s sharing on Instagram
- See what Tiffany is reading—and writing—on Goodreads
Wrong In All The Right Ways
An attraction between foster siblings sets fire to forbidden love in this contemporary reimagining of Wuthering Heights.
Emma’s life has always gone according to her very careful plans. But things take a turn toward the unexpected when she falls in love for the first time with the one person in the world who’s off-limits: her new foster brother, the gorgeous and tormented Dylan McAndrews.
Meanwhile, Emma’s AP English class is reading Wuthering Heights, and she’s been assigned to echo Emily Bronte’s style in an epistolary format. With irrepressible feelings and no one to confide in, she’s got a lot to write about. Distraught by the escalating intensity of their mutual attraction, Emma and Dylan try to constrain their romance to the page―for fear of threatening Dylan’s chances at being adopted into a loving home. But the strength of first love is all-consuming, and they soon get enveloped in a passionate, secretive relationship with a very uncertain outcome.
Tiffany Brownlee’s Wrong in All the Right Ways marks the exciting debut of a fresh voice in contemporary teen fiction.
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