Do You Have a Process?


I’ve been reading the Alice books since I was about 9, and I’m 15 now. I
still love them very much and I continue to be impressed at how
realistic your characters are. One of my favorite parts of your series
is Alice’s strength as a person. In many books, teenage girls come
across as pathetic–they don’t ever think about grades or work or
anything except being good enough for a guy. When books, movies, and TV
shows try to stray from the “weak girl” image, they usually end up with
a totally unrealistic “violent girl” character. They end up
overcompensating by creating a machine that doesn’t feel emotion or
empathize with other people at all–she just goes around kicking butt.
What I love about Alice is her honest feelings. She’s upset when she’s
having friend problems or going through a breakup. She thinks about sex
and relationships, but she also thinks about school and getting a job,
keeping up with friends, and herself as a person, as we all do. When she
has a problem she overcomes it in time, even if she sometimes needs
help. Overall, she’s got strong convictions and values.

I’m wondering how you strike the balance between realism and power. Do
you have a process to come up with characters, or do they just come to
you? Has Alice ever done something that “surprised” you as you wrote it?
Do your characters evolve or do you have a plan for them from the start?

Thank you so much for your time! I can’t wait til the next book!

Phyllis replied:


I guess they “just come to me.”  I don’t have any process.  I simply try to become whichever girl I’m writing about–the whole girl–what her family sees of her, what her friends see, how she feels inside, what she worries about–all the things that are going on in her life.  Writing is always “striking a balance” with humor, serious stuff, body worries, boyfriend problems, philosophical questions….  I have a very good memory of myself growing up and what was happening to me–what I was thinking about–at all ages, and these probably form the basis of my books.

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