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Interview: March 3, 2014

Some young adult authors have dreamed of being writers their whole lives. Not Elizabeth Scott --- she was an editor, an office manager, sold pantyhose and burned CDs for a company --- and only started her first novel as part of a dare! We're certainly glad she did though --- her 12 young adult novels are moving, funny, dark and everything in between. In this interview, Elizabeth talks about her latest book, HEARTBEAT, telling us about her favorite character from the book, her writing process and the research that went into the book (hint: having a lawyer for a husband definitely helped!).

with 12 young adult novels to her name, Elizabeth is 

Teenreads: What inspired you to write HEARTBEAT?

Elizabeth Scott: I read an obituary about a pregnant woman who died and thought, "What if the baby had lived?" And just like that, there was Emma, and I wanted to tell her story.

TRC: There’s a mix of hope and tragedy in HEARTBEAT. How did you manage to balance these themes as you wrote and edited the book?

ES: This is most likely going to make me sound like an idiot, but I don't really think about themes when I'm writing or editing (at least, not until my editor points them out), because what I'm always focused on is the story --- the characters and where they are, what's happening to them and how they are reacting.

TRC: You’ve written many young adult novels, including HEARTBEAT, MIRACLE and AS I WAKE. Do you always have the same writing process, or does it change with each book?

ES: It's pretty much the same for each book. I have to know the beginning and the ending, and I always think I know the middle --- and then as I start writing, the characters start doing their own thing and the middle of the book is never like I think it will be! 

TRC: Olivia, one of the characters in HEARTBEAT, hates technology even though both of her parents work in the field. Why did you decide to give Olivia this character trait? Were you trying to show teens a greater lesson about technology?

ES: Definitely not trying to teach! I grew up in the era of YA message books and I loathed them. Olivia was always someone who romanticizes the pre-internet era, motivated, in large part, to her parents' utter fascination with technology.

TRC: How much research did you have to put into HEARTBEAT about medical procedures and court cases?

ES: When I was writing the book, there was very little out there about brain-dead pregnant women who were being kept alive on child support, but I researched as much as I could. I didn't look at court cases at all, mostly because I couldn't find any! Luckily, my husband is a lawyer, so when I asked him, "What if X happened?" he was able to give me a direction to go in.  

TRC: Who is your favorite character from HEARTBEAT, and why?

ES: Emma. She's just so raw.  Her grief was just --- it consumed her, you know? And having her find her way out...I don't know. I think she's much braver and stronger than I am!

TRC: Did you have any say about the cover design of HEARTBEAT? What was your first reaction when you saw the finished cover?

ES: I LOVE the cover and I totally sent an OMG!!! email after I saw it. The really awesome thing about the cover is that Harlequin Teen originally shot an entirely different cover, which was pretty, but then they said, "No, this isn't right. You need another cover. A better one." And then they did it! I've never had that happen before. To have that much effort and support for a cover? Wow.

TRC: Can you tell us about a particularly meaningful experience you’ve had with a reader? What about a funny experience?

ES: My most meaningful experience happened when my first novel, BLOOM, came out. I got a very angry note from a reader who didn't like Lauren, the main character. And a year or so later, the same reader emailed me again, saying they'd read the book again and they'd realized that Lauren was really struggling with a lot of stuff. And that just...that just blew my mind. 

     As for funny, there was a time when I got an email from a reader and her name sounded sort of familiar and I asked her, "Do you know X?" And she said yes --- X (who is one my dearest friends) was her aunt, and she was so surprised that I knew her. And I was like, “I thank her in all my books --- of course I know her!” 

TRC: When did you know you wanted to be a professional author?

ES: I didn't. I totally fell into writing by accident. I wrote my first YA novel on a dare, queried an agent so my friends would stop asking me to do it, and was utterly, utterly shocked when said agent asked to read the book. We won't even get into the shock when I signed with the agent, or when the book sold. I had no idea that I could write, and the fact that I've been lucky enough to have 12 novels published is amazing. And a real honor. 

TRC: What other book of yours would you recommend to our readers who really enjoyed HEARTBEAT? 

ES: LOVE YOU HATE YOU MISS YOU would work, for sure. I'd also go with MIRACLE and BETWEEN HERE AND FOREVER. And if you like very dark reads, I'd also recommend LIVING DEAD GIRL. But LIVING DEAD GIRL is really dark, so that's one I'd recommend you check out the first couple of chapters first to make sure you're okay with it.