Quantcast Author Essay by Alex Flinn from HarperCollins Publishers
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Photo by J. A. Cabrera

Alex Flinn

The three biggest influences on my writing were law school, junior high, and my mother. Law school strikes people first because my characters are usually embroiled in the legal system. But law school was last.

My mother was first. When I was five, my mom asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. “How about . . . an author? An author is a lady who writes books.”

Well, that sounded fine to me, so I agreed. From that day, we both assumed I’d be a writer. Mom did her part by sending poems I wrote in school to Highlights magazine. I was collecting rejection letters at age eight!

Although my other ambition was to be a musical theater star (and I would attend college on a voice scholarship), writing was never far from my mind. I wrote poetry, journals, and, especially, plays for the neighborhood kids to perform. I had an ordinary, happy childhood. Nothing much was going on, but I had fun.

It wasn’t until I was twelve that something interesting happened. My family moved from Long Island to Miami, Florida, just as I was starting junior high. I was painfully shy, and I had tremendous difficulty making friends. So, lacking friends, I watched other people. Watching is something all writers must do, and it was in junior high that I learned to do it.

Perhaps because of all the watching I did in junior high, I eventually decided to write for teenagers. When I close my eyes and visualize myself, I am twelve or thirteen, running around the school track, wearing an extremely unflattering baggy white gymsuit. So I try to write books that gymsuit girl would enjoy—exciting books where something happens because nothing was happening in my real life at the time. I was very impatient—I was always waiting for something to happen.

It was junior high that taught me empathy too. I have a great deal of empathy for anyone who’s having a hard time. I believe this ability to see another’s viewpoint has served me well as a writer. I love when teens write to me, asking if my stories are true or saying that they feel that I’m writing about them. I feel like I am writing about them too.

Oh, and the lawyer thing: Well, I learned to write in law school. Legal writing requires a great economy with words, the ability to get one’s points across quickly. That helps in writing for teenagers. In addition, a lot of the inspiration for my stories comes from law. I often go back to the law library to research my books, as I did with Nothing to Lose, which involves a murder trial. But, fascinating as I find the legal system, my first love is writing, and I’m so happy to be doing it!

I no longer practice law, but I still read, write, and sing. I live in Miami, Florida, with my husband, Gene; two daughters, Katie and Meredith; a cat, Ravel; and a dog, Ginger.

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