But you did give fans a glimpse at her in another book.
I wrote her into Catalyst. I had so much fun writing the high school environment of Speak, and I thought, I have my location, I have my teacher characters. Kate [the main character of Catalyst] is a talented-and-gifted kid trying to ignore the pain in her heart. She's focused on her intellect, and so she’s perceived differently than the way Melinda was. So many readers still wanted to know how Melinda was doing, so when Kate is reaching a low point, she comes across her in the hall putting together an art project for the art club.
What was your favorite book growing up?
It took me a little longer to learn to read, because I was dyslexic. By third grade I was like, This is fun, and by fourth I was ripping my way through the Little House on the Prairie books. Maybe it wasn't great history, but it was about having a character I strongly identified with and learning through her adventures. They ignited that passion in me to understand how America came together. In high school I mostly read sci-fi and fantasy. In high school I was so depressed, I didn't want to read about real life. I understand people who are like, give me Twilight. There was one terrifying book, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, and the main character’s life is very, very bad. Every time I would finish it I'd sigh and think, At least my life’s not that.
What are you working on now?
I was sick there for a year—my pituitary gland has become quite a diva—so there’s been a delay in my books, but I’m back on it. I’m coming to the end of my next Y.A. novel. The title hasn’t struck me yet; it often takes a long time. The book looks at being the kid of a parent who is loved desperately but is trapped in his own disease. In this case, it's post-traumatic stress disorder, and self-medication. It's a dad and a daughter. My dad was 18 at the end of World War II, and he was with the units that got to Dachau a few weeks after the war ended. He's 85 and he still wakes up screaming, and that colored my own life. My nephew is home after two tours in Afghanistan and a tour in Iraq, and I'm looking at him and my dad and multiplying how many families have experiences like these. We do such a terrible job in America of helping our soldiers heal.
There’s also a love story, the first I’ve written. When I was on the Wintergirls book tour this one kid looks at me and goes, "Man, why don’t you let somebody fall in love?" I thought I should do that now. Cross your fingers, the book should be out next fall, or very close. My editor still hasn’t seen the book, I want it to be so good before I give it to her!
What's your writing process like?
I’m in my 18-hour-day writing mode. I live out in the country, and I have this kick-ass cottage that my husband built for me, but the only heat in this building comes from a wood stove. So, I get up at 5, have breakfast, tweet once or twice, and start working. Do you ever get to that place while working out where you catch your second wind and think you’re a goddess, you’re a viking warrior? That’s what 18 hours a day of writing feels like. In the last couple of weeks, all of the story threads are in my head all of the time.