I've been writing since I was old enough to peck out bad poems on my dad's electric typewriter. In elementary school, I had a long bus ride and no friends on my route, so I used to make up stories in my head; they were like soap operas, because they'd get discontinued at the end of the bus ride and I'd start up another episode the next day. In high school, I got more serious about it and wrote a short story that won an award and got published in the local paper. When it came time to apply to colleges, I chose one that had a strong writing program. I believe that everyone is a writer, but I also know that the drive and the need was pretty strong for me. I'm not happy if I'm not making stuff up!
I think the inspiration to write is similar to the inspiration to dance, or cook, or build things, or run as fast as you can, or whatever else is someone's passion. It's something you need to do in order to feel alive, and like you. And of course, I've always been a big reader. When you love books and you love to write, it's only natural to put them together. However, I got a little sidetracked in my 20's and 30's and wanted to write for TV and film instead of books. I only had limited success there; it was only when I went back to fiction that my writing career took off, so now I'm extra sure I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing.
I used to be really into acting, too. I took a lot of drama classes, and I understand now how they help me as a writer. When you're writing, you have to really live inside a character's skin. You have to have a lot of empathy for who they are and what they're experiencing, every moment. And you also have to be observant, in your head, and take note of what you see, feel, hear, taste. It does take a while to get to that place where you're really "channeling" a character as you write his or her story, but once you're there...yes, it does feel natural. And I really love it. I get to be someone else for part of my day...
For writing advice, I always say, "Trust your voice." For general life advice, I'll say what I tell my daughters: "When you're good to people, good things happen to you." Kindness is everything to me.
Ah, that is a big question! I had a lot of fun writing "Playing Keira," which is a short story written from Keira's point of view; you can download it for your e-reader from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or the HarperTeen website. I am thinking about writing a sequel that would of course visit the characters at age 21. It depends on how this book is received...but yes, I feel we haven't heard the last of Justine, Rory, Keira, Nate, and Felix. I'll do what I can to keep their stories going in some way!