Thank you so much to everyone who has written to me! I am so sorry that I have been a bit delayed in responding to your letters. I appreciate each and every letter I receive. It is such a joy to open my P.O. box and find a missive waiting inside.

Alas, I am no longer able to reply to your mail with a paper letter unless you include a SASE, or self-addressed, stamped envelope in your letter to me. I have more on that in my FAQs, here. If you do send an SASE, I will reply with more than just a note (meaning: swag!), but the craziness of my life at the moment makes it hard for me to reply if there’s no SASE.

However, I wanted to reply to some of the letters I have received, and so I’m going to answer your questions here, Letter Writers!

What gave you the idea for No Safety in Numbers?

I have tackled that question in an earlier blog. Check out my answer here!

What’s your favorite animal?

It changes, but today, since I’m reading Harry Potter with my kids, it’s a Niffler.

If you were trapped in the mall, how would you survive?

Mozzarella Sticks. And coat hangers used as defensive weapons to protect the mozzarella sticks.

What is your favorite topic to write about and how do you come up with your topics?

My favorite topic to write about is choices. Each of my books can be framed as a choice. For example, in Dogs of the Drowned City, Shep has to choose between staying loyal to the big and powerful dogs like his best friend Zeus and helping all the dogs, including the yappers like his new friend Callie. In No Safety in Numbers, Lexi has to choose between obeying her family and breaking rules with new friends.

In terms of how I come up with these choices, I wait for a spark of inspiration. With Dogs, it was a sign in the elevator of my parents’ apartment building warning residents that, in the event of a hurricane, dogs could not be taken to emergency shelters. With No Safety, it was a late-night movie at a megamall. As a writer, you have to stay open to these moments when your imagination says, What if?I know some writers who keep a notebook on hand to capture these moments. Maybe try that! Even a quick voice message on your phone (which I have done, to limited success) can provide that spark when you sit down to write.

Here are some questions with spoilers, so if you haven’t finished the No Safety in Numbers trilogy, skip to the ***!

Of all the people to find the bomb, why Marco?

The first draft that I wrote of the book had that same plot. As I mentioned in my previous blog, when I had the idea, I came home and typed out the beginning chapter and Marco was just there, in trouble, only to find himself (and everyone else) in more trouble. So there’s that: that’s how the idea came to me. 

Also, structurally, by having Marco, who is being bullied, find the bomb, it sends the reader a message that this bomb is more than just a force of destruction, but something that’s going to terrorize the characters in the way that Mike has terrorized Marco.

Finally, by having Marco, who already feels a bit desperate and scared, be the one who finds the bomb, I was able to make the kinds of extreme thinking and extreme actions he ends up taking over the course of the story feel organic to his development. As a writer, one thing you always want to do with your characters is to keep putting pressure on them, to keep raising the stakes.

How did the senator not notice the sounds of gunshots?

This is a big mall, bigger than most malls. So big that even a gunshot would get lost in the vast space. Remember, the mall is full of thousands of people, at least in the beginning. All of them make noise, and that noise reverberates off the glass and the linoleum; even gunshots can get lost in that cacophony.

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Thank you to everyone who wrote to me! Keep sending me mail, and if you include an SASE, I will send you a written response and a little swag!

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