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Author Interview - Tiffany Schmidt

Friday, September 28, 2012
Today, I am delighted to be interviewing author Tiffany Schmid, author of Send Me a Sign!

Mia is always looking for signs. A sign that she should get serious with her soccer-captain boyfriend. A sign that she’ll get the grades to make it into an Ivy-league school. One sign she didn’t expect to look for was: “Will I survive cancer?” It’s a question her friends would never understand, prompting Mia to keep her illness a secret. The only one who knows is her lifelong best friend, Gyver, who is poised to be so much more. Mia is determined to survive, but when you have so much going your way, there is so much more to lose. From debut author Tiffany Schmidt comes a heart-wrenching and ultimately uplifting story of one girl’s search for signs of life in the face of death.

I saw that your origins as a writer started by telling stories to your dog. Would you tell us more about this and how you progressed to where you are now?
I spent half my childhood in timeout—my mother might argue that it was more than half. Being forced to sit still and entertain myself definitely played a part in becoming a storyteller. My first audience was the family dog, then my younger brothers, then classmates. Eventually my stories grew too long to narrate and I began to write them down.

One of my earliest memories is sitting in time out with the family dog. I went on space adventures with him. What made you decide to write a story about a cheerleader diagnosed with cancer?
I always start a story by getting to know my characters. If you asked Mia to describe herself, cheerleader would be toward the top of her list. Probably just below friend, daughter, and scholar.

She’d admit that she’s superstitious. She’d admit that she’s confused about what she wants from her on-again, off-again fling, Ryan. But she wouldn’t confess to feeling the pressure of others’ expectations or just how very out-of-her-control her life feels.

Starting with a character like that, I needed something that would push Mia from manageable-stress into full-blown crisis. Cancer would do that for anyone, but for someone like Mia, who already doesn’t feel like she’s in charge of her life, cancer was the impetus for a much more disastrous set of choices.

Cancer is a big subject. What kind of research did you do for the story?
I spent a great deal of emotional and exhausting time researching leukemia and treatment. I called in favors to doctor-friends and borrowed access to their journal databases—printing out articles that took hours and multiple highlighters to decipher. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I read a lot of children’s books about cancer. I needed to be able to understand it deeply, but also explain it simply.

There were also a million other small things I researched: cheerleading terms (I spent FAR too long debating pom-poms, pom-pons, or just poms), superstitions (how many spots on a ladybug make it lucky?), and bands (though, luckily, Gyver inherited a lot of my musical tastes).

I find the fortune telling aspect interesting. What superstitious fortune telling do you find the most fascinating and why?
I truly wasn’t a superstitious person before writing this book. I might have had little good-luck rituals (for instance, I HAD to listen to Dave Matthew’s “Dancing Nancies” on the first day of school every year) but I wasn’t someone who looked for signs.

AFTER writing Send Me a Sign, I’m so much more aware of my new superstitious tendencies. I may laugh at myself while indulging them, but that hasn’t stopped me from holding my breath every time I crack a fortune cookie.

I saw that Mia also begins to look for signs in songs. Is there a song in particular that you would associate with Mia?
There are so many songs and playlists sprinkled throughout the book. Two that are VERY Mia-relavant are Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” and Our Lady Peace’s “4am.”

Phillip Phillips - Superstition
(I love this Phil Phillips version because he sounds a lot like I imagine Gyver would!)

Our Lady Peace - 4am

What three words would Gyver use to describe Mia?
Stubborn, superstitious, stunning.

If you could send Mia a sign, what would you tell her?
I’d tell her to trust herself. Mia is very swayed by what others want for her. When she needs to make a decision, her first reaction is to think of others’ opinions or look for a sign. I’d tell her to believe in herself and her own instincts.

What are you working on right now?
My edits for my second book, Bright Before Sunrise, (Walker, winter 2014) should be coming soon, so I’m getting excited to work on that again. Bright is dual-perspective and takes place over the course of one night. It tells the story of Brighton and Jonah—teens with very different backgrounds and preconceptions of each other, and what happens when they’re forced to reevaluate each other… and themselves.

I’m also working on a brand new project which is the first novel I’ve written that isn’t straight-up contemporary. I’d tell you more about it, but I don’t want to jinx it… (I guess there’s a little of Mia in me after all!)

I'm excited to hear about your new works and can't wait to read them!

Tiffany's Website | Facebook | Twitter
Tiffany Schmidt grew up in Massachusetts where she spent a significant part of her childhood getting into mischief and sitting in the naughty chair, where she honed her storytelling skills. She now lives in Pennsylvania with her saintly husband and impish twin boys. She's repped by Joe Monti at Barry Goldblatt Literary. She still gets into mischief, she still has dogs, and she still tells stories. She very much hopes you like them.

1 comment on "Author Interview - Tiffany Schmidt"
  1. I've been seeing this book all over the blogosphere on it's tour. It sounds really good and the author seems awesome! One of these days when I'm ready for this kind of book I'll definitely have to give it a shot!


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