When Carolyn Mackler went back to work on writing her next young adult novel, she decided to purge herself.
After ordering her husband and kids out the house, she unloaded boxes of unpublished novels onto the bed. Mackler, of New York, spread the pages across the bed and began to label them. She found five characters, four years and one page. The rest she threw away.
“I literally took them to the recycling bin and shredded them,” said Mackler, a best-selling novelist of six books. For her, it was cathartic.
In the next story she is writing, Everything in Between, four high school freshmen meet at orientation and make a pact to reunite on graduation day, only one of them won’t make it. It is the first time Mackler has written a story over a long period of time, as her previous YA novels occur within a span of three to six months.
Aside from taking a beginner’s novel writing class at NYU, Mackler said she didn’t receive any formal training.
As a child, Mackler was obsessed with reading from Beverly Cleary to Judy Blume. Born in Manhattan, in 1973, Mackler grew up in Brockport, N.Y. While attending Vassar College, her parents divorced and her mother moved back to New York City. Mackler had begun writing in poetry her senior year and while visiting her mother in the city, she knew it was where she needed to be.
“I felt I had to be in New York City where all writers are,” she said.
But after graduation, adventure on the West Coast lured her away, for a short while. She drove across country by herself to work in Seattle, and, soon after, she longed for New York City. Mackler returned and got an internship at Ms. Magazine.
“One day, I was looking for experience in the writing business and the next day I was sitting in editorial meetings with Gloria Steinem,” she said.
It was this experience, followed by a freelance career, that helped shape her fiction, she said. Mackler’s teen novels have been published worldwide. Her previous books include Guyaholic, Love and Other Four-Letter Words, Tangled, The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, which won the Michael L. Printz award, and Vegan Virgin Valentine.
Warner Brothers acquired the film rights for her most recent novel, The Future of Us, co-written with best-selling author Jay Asher. Now Asher and Mackler are in talks for co-authoring another book together.
Mackler is naturally attracted to writing YA novels. “It’s a time in my life where I felt really alive,” she said. “There is no other time in life where there is so much change and first times, discovering your freedom, moving away from home, falling in love.”
She said she loves to read teen novels, because the writing is tight and the stories are honest. “I try to learn by reading,” Mackler said. “I really try to understand what an author is doing and digest the words.”
Last summer, she read Carol Anshaw’s Carry The One, which helped her during revisions on Everything in Between to write from different points of view in third person.
When Carolyn Mackler is working on a new book, she abandons her fiction reading, opting for The New Yorker or New York Times, so as not to feel distracted from her characters. A mother of two young boys, Mackler cherishes every bit of free writing time she gets.
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