Meet Stephanie Morrill, author of The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet and the fantastic follow-up The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet.
Publicity intern Naomi Downing’s interview of BHP author Stephanie Morrill reveals how The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet changed from the first draft to the last and touches on Morrill’s writing process.
For you, what is the hardest part of writing?
Coming up with an ending I like. That part of the story always takes more drafts than others because I want something that’s surprising but also inevitable and satisfying.
Where did you get the idea for The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet?
That story came together in several stages, so it’s actually hard to remember! Originally Ellie wasn’t a teen writer. My first draft was much more about Ellie trying to reconcile the fact that she had become very different from her childhood friends. That topic interested me because I moved so often as a kid that I always just traded in old friends for new friends. I started wondering what life would have been like if I had never moved, because I know my path would have eventually diverged. The first draft came in crazy short and was clearly missing something. Turned out Ellie was a writer! That wound up being the missing piece that made the whole thing work.
What do you do to keep yourself writing when you really don’t feel like it?
Fortunately, I usually feel like it. On the days that I don’t, however, I usually set a timer for 25 minutes and tell myself I can’t do anything else until I’ve written for 25 minutes. By the time the timer goes off, I’m usually motivated to keep going.
What is your goal as a writer?
To tell a good story that challenges the reader to think differently about the world, but that also brings hope to their current situation.
What is your writing process like?
I could talk about this for a while, but I’ll try to be succinct! I tend to hang out with an idea for a while before I try to write it. When I have a good idea of how I want it to open, I’ll write a chapter or two and then pause to brainstorm how I think the rest of the book will play out. It typically takes me about 8-10 weeks to write my first draft if I’m getting good writing time. Then I take time off to get away from the book. It’s a lot easier to edit without mercy if I’ve been away from the book for at least 6 weeks. Because I write bare bones first drafts, editing can take me quite a while, often a few months. I like to edit a book twice before I let my writing friends see it. Once they’ve seen it, I make their changes and at that point, I usually send it to my agent.
It doesn’t always play out this way, but it often does!
What made you want to start writing?
How much I enjoyed it. As early as first grade, I loved writing stories and wanted to be an author.