Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Author Rap Sheet: Margaux Froley, Author of ESCAPE THEORY

Today we're bringing in new author Margaux Froley for questioning concerning the March 12th release of her first book, Escape Theory!

Margaux Froley grew up in Santa Barbara, California, and attended not one, but two boarding schools during her high school years in California and Oxford, England. She studied film at University of Southern California, and has worked for such television networks as: TLC, CMT, Travel, MTV, and the CW. She currently lives in Los Angeles and still loves Nutter Butters. Escape Theory is her first novel.

The first of the Keaton School Novels, Escape Theory takes us inside the mind of the school's first peer counselor, Devon Mackintosh. What happens when her first crush at school commits suicide? Devon has to use her counseling sessions with those closest to her crush, Hutch, to figure out why he would do such a thing. But what if she discovers so much more lying under the surface of the Keaton School?

Where did you get your inspiration to write Escape Theory? Do you have any unique experiences or background that drove you to develop this story?

I've always wanted to write a boarding school book. One, because it's always been a world that I've been intrigued by. And two, because I went to two different boarding schools and have a decent amount of interesting stories to bring to that world. It was my editor, Dan Ehrenhaft, who wanted to set a mystery in boarding school. With that as a kickoff, and the desire to have some sort of love story in this world, we landed on the world of Escape Theory. I have never been a peer counselor, but I was a psychology geek in high school and have always thought therapists were fascinating characters. Having a teen therapist felt like a very fun set-up for a character. 

What was the most challenging thing about writing a mystery for the YA market? What was the most rewarding?

Mystery in general, I think, is tough because audiences are so smart these days. I've never written a mystery, so I was very concerned about making sure my reader couldn't solve my mystery by page 10. The most rewarding part has been that I somewhat succeed in making the mystery work. Even my mystery-buff friends say they didn't know my killer until they were at least 80% done. So that was a huge relief. The thing about mysteries that I've really fallen in love with is the challenge to keep the reader guessing and turning the pages. It's absolutely a challenge, but when it works and people describe my book as a "page-turner," I feel like I did my job well. 

What is your writing process like?

I'm pretty strict with my writing schedule when I'm really in the nitty-gritty of writing pages. I start by 10, don't check emails until 1. Take a lunch break, and try to go from 2-6. But before that phase, I outline pretty extensively, from writing free-form character bios to writing up color-coded grids of story and clues, and what I reveal when. I try to make sure all the heavy-lifting is done, story-wise, so that when I start writing pages I really have a clear direction in mind. At that point, who knows...the characters will probably do something that ends up de-railing that outline. But, I know it's a balance between planning the book I'm going to write, and then letting the book I actually end up writing emerge. My final product pretty much never ends up being the same as the outline I started with, but without that outline, I would have never gotten those words on the page. I've heard writers, and even teachers complain about outlining because they say it makes them feel too penned in. I know everyone has their own process, but I am a HUGE proponent of outlines. Without that basic roadmap, guaranteed I would end up with a meandering storyline, and HUGE amounts of rewriting to do. And I like to solve as many story/character problems as I can upfront, so when I am writing my second and third drafts I am really improving my story and enriching my characters, vs. trying to salvage my story from an overwritten jumble. 

Do you have any writing quirks like listening to the same song while you write or only writing in a specific place?

I used to never be able to write at home. I always had to be in a coffee shop or a library. But, I've turned a corner and can only write at home these days. I need to be able to talk to myself, wear pajamas until 5pm, etc. It isn't always a pretty process, I can tell you that. I also have to make a playlist for each project. Spotify is amazing for that. I can find music that I know influences my characters, music from a specific era, all of that helps me write better.

What is something that nobody knows about you?

I have a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I got it when I was 30. It took me almost 7 years to get there.  Learning Tae Kwon Do was a great spiritual experience even though I'm a very goal-oriented "I must attain this NOW!" kind of person. When I was younger I gave up on a lot of sports or hobbies because I wasn't immediately good at them. I don't have a lot of patience for being bad at something. But I equate martial arts to writing...both are disciplines that are defined by the effort you put in. You're never done, you're never the best, but all you can do is show up and do the work. I find that both humbling and inspiring, but it also got me to stop thinking of things as black and white/ win vs. lose. With writing, I am always getting better. As long as I show up and do the work, I'm improving...even on days when I write complete crap or take my story in a terrible direction. I remind myself to trust that writing is a craft, a discipline, and is more about me showing up to the desk, or my dojo, than it is worrying about the end result. I'm a big fan of Bruce Lee. His quote "Be Like Water" is pretty much my personal motto. (I'm still working up the courage to get that as a tattoo.) 

What advice would you give to young writers hoping to one day become published mystery authors? 

Just keep going. Embrace the crappy drafts because I find it's always easier to improve upon crap than it is to improve upon nothing. And just have faith. As long as you're writing, you're getting better. But, you have to keep showing up and generating material. As writers, as our own mini-businesses, our only commodity is our material. So put the time in wherever you can, even it means writing for 45 min during your lunch hour, or showing up to work earlier in the mornings so you can squeeze in an extra hour at the top of the day. No one will ever know how brilliant you are if you aren't getting the work done. 

Watch the Escape Theory trailer here!

Learn more about Margaux Froley on her website, check out her tumblr, or follow her on Twitter.


  1. I loved hearing about your process, Margaux! And I appreciate your words of wisdom -- "As writers, as our own mini-businesses, our only commodity is our material." Yes! Looking forward to reading ESCAPE THEORY and to seeing what you'll write next. Thanks for let us haul you in for questioning!

  2. Fascinating interview! As a side note, Margaux, I saw you up at Cate last year -- I went there, too! (And to Choate, where I believe your editor went:-)

    Looking forward to crossing paths again in LA.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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