Ask the Author: Camryn Garrett

What would you like readers to know about you?
Uh, this is a really big question. I’m honestly not sure what I want my readers to know about me. I guess that I’m a lot like Simone, my main character and that I got to sort of sneak in a lot of stuff about my high school experience with her story, even though it was completely different. My friend read this book and was like, “Wow, Simone sounds like you sometimes,” which was fun.
What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
So my book is about a teen girl named Simone, with HIV, who moves to a new school after an incident at her old one. Someone finds out that she has HIV and tries to blackmail her at the same time she falls for her first boyfriend.
What has been your inspiration for writing it?
I was really inspired by adoption blogs written by parents of kids with HIV and then my own high school interest in sex, honestly. I wanted to write about what it would be like to have HIV and want to have sex and have to deal with the stigma associated with it.
What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?
My favorite scenes were probably the ones with Simone and her love interest, Miles, because they were so sweet and fun. My second favorite (a very close second) were the scenes with Simone and her best friends. There’s a lot of banter and sex talk and silliness and it reminded me a lot of my friends in high school.
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
A ton, honestly. I was super into Rick Riordan and Percy Jackson when I was younger, like around ten, and then in middle school, I was super obsessed with Laurie Halse Anderson. I loved that she wrote historical fiction and contemporary and I thought she did both so well. I still think she does. I have a copy of her books Chains and Fever 1793 and they’ve both been read so much that the covers are falling off. It’s bad. They’re the biggest names I remember loving, but as I became a teenager, I was really into a lot of POC writers who inspired me to write about Black girls, like Renee Watson and Angie Thomas. I’m just a really big reader and I love that I now get to meet some of the authors of my favorite books.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
So the biggest hurdles I had to jump were
1) You’re not going to write something completely original. I used to drive myself crazy thinking about how my idea was too close to another book or that no one would be interested in my idea because it was boring or that I’d never be able to write something “completely original” the way some books are marketed. A lot of books are really creative and different, but it’s not necessarily because of the concept, it’s because of the execution. Everything comes from something. Some concepts are more original than others, but honestly, don’t worry yourself so much about that. There’s a fine line between a concept that’s been done to death and a concept that you can make different because of the way you’ll write. Like… you can take a concept that you’ve seen tons of times before and it’ll be cool and different because of your voice or the characters or your execution. I think learning that a lot of writers are inspired by other stories, including Shakespeare, helped me with this a ton.
2) Nothing you write is going to be perfect right away. It probably won’t be perfect after three rounds of revisions, either. But when I first started writing books, I had a really hard time because I’d write a chapter or something and then go open one of my favorite books and wail about how what I’d written was so horrible in comparison. First of all, don’t compare yourself to other writers (unless you’re trying to improve or something, not to put yourself down) and second, you can’t compare your first draft to a book that’s gone through tons of revisions and edits and copy edits and has been read by the author about a million times. I don’t think I realized how much time went into a book. When you’re first writing, I recommend just getting the whole thing out. I don’t edit as I go along, just write the first draft and let it sit because I’d never finish otherwise. I don’t think you can finish the first draft if you’re just judging yourself the entire way through. I sure couldn’t.
3) Have fun! This sounds so corny, but seriously, remember why you wanted to write. I wrote FULL DISCLOSURE after two books went on submission and didn’t sell and I told myself I was going to write something really fun that I’d enjoy spending time with. I think readers can tell if you love the work (you don’t have to love it all the time, but you know what I mean.) Have fun and not everything has to be about publishing and remember why you started writing in the first place.

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