Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?
Suzanne: The idea for GIRLS WITH SHARP STICKS began with a boarding school and a secret. But then I read a news story about a billboard that read: “Real men provide. Real women appreciate it.” True or not, that statement frustrated me. Women reduced to being grateful, whether they wanted those provisions or not. A system that would train girls to wait for someone to provide instead of going out and achieving things for herself.
I was also moved by the girls and women of the USA gymnastics team. They faced down a monster, faced down an entire system that allowed their abuse. Together, the girls became a force. Their bravery was inspiring and life-changing. I wanted to capture some of that courage with the girls of Innovations Academy.
What character do you most relate to and why?
My connection to the characters changes throughout the novel as different reveals take place. I definitely relate to Philomena, but I feel more connected to Annalise. She’s smart, eerily calm in times of horror, and funny. I like that she’s blunt and says what she’s thinking while the other girls are better at following the rules.
Why do you feel young adult books are so popular and have such a voice right now?
I love writing YA because I find freedom in the structure, plotting, and pacing. As a storyteller, I love the high stakes in YA novels — which can range from realistic to fantastic — and feature characters who are both relatable and flawed. I feel that YA books have the unique ability to reach readers in a way that empowers them, inspires them to change society, making it more equal and fair for everyone.
Please describe the content of your latest book and what can readers expect from the read.
GIRLS WITH SHARP STICKS lulls the reader at first with a group of well-behaved girls at a prestigious school. But as the story goes on, it becomes clear that something is very wrong at Innovations Academy. The professors are dismissive and threatening, the doctors misleading and controlling. Soon, one of the girls disappears and the horror that ensues is shocking. The pages of this story are tear-soaked and honest. The end could have turned into a revenge fantasy, but instead, the girls work together to become more powerful, finding that there are better ways to alleviate pain than murder.
What’s next for you in the book world?
I’m currently working on the sequel GIRLS WITH RAZOR HEARTS. It’s pretty explosive and exciting, terrifying, sad, and cathartic. I think fans of the first book will be horrified and delighted.
What’s your favorite writing method that you follow for inspiration?
I look for inspiration everywhere. From the news to the entertainment world to my kids – there is always something brewing in the back of my mind. My writing process changes for each book. Lately, I’ve found the structure of an outline easier to work with. I think being open to changing methods can help keep things on track. So now, I write chapter summaries, some character sketches, and then I try my best not to stray too far.