An interview with author Wendy Heard for The Children’s Book Review
Welcome, Wendy! We’re so happy you’re here and can’t wait to talk about your first YA book, SHE’S TOO PRETTY TO BURN. Now that I’ve finished the book and have taken a few deep, calming breaths, I’m in awe of your plotting and unveiling techniques and just so darned excited to let people know about this story! Let’s get into the book, shall we?
Denise Mealy: Let’s start with the book. We’d love to hear what it’s all about in your own words.
Wendy Heard: When Veronica meets Mick at a party, she knows she’s found the muse her photography needs to make it to the next level. Just one problem–Mick has a fear of photography and a home life that’s falling apart. When Veronica’s best friend Nico meets Mick, he thinks she’s special too. He sees a darkness in her that he shares, and he draws her into his art crimes. The three end up in a power struggle with deadly consequences.
What’s your previous adult work like compared to this book? Are they similar? How is your creative process the same or different?
My adult books are a little darker, a little more raw. My creative process is the same, though, and I think if someone likes one of my books, they’ll enjoy the others.
What was your inspiration for this book?
There was one initial concept: Dorian Gray but with photography instead of a painting. The rest went from there!
Mick – right from the beginning, we’re drawn into her sad story, her hope for love. Her horrific mother. Without us revealing the twists in your plot, what do you think makes Mick do the things she does?
I worked so hard on this character. I wanted to show how easy it is to fall into a self-destructive spiral when we don’t have a solid foundation. When we don’t provide that foundation, we leave young people open and alone. Mick is just that—alone, simmering with anger and grief, and just the person who is vulnerable to getting pulled into something dark and deadly.
Veronica’s awesome mother and supportive household are the antitheses of Mick’s life. How do you think that influenced her choices, like taking Mick’s picture and posting it on Instagram to go viral even though Mick hated to be photographed? Was she perhaps naïve to the pitfalls for someone like Mick of a viral photograph?
I wanted to contrast Mick and Veronica; they both have absent fathers, and I wanted to show how it really only takes one good parent or guardian to keep a kid stable. Veronica has that and Mick doesn’t, and it’s Mick who ends up in a darker and deadlier spiral as a result of her vulnerability.
Veronica feels confident, perhaps belligerently so. She acts first and thinks later. She simply doesn’t understand how Mick feels about being photographed until she gets to know her better. It’s not something she can relate to at first, and she acts accordingly. Nothing in her life has prepared her for Mick’s level of deep self doubt and her self-destructive urges. It’s not that Veronica lacks empathy; she’s just a bit headstrong and self-involved, caught up in what she’s excited about without taking time to think about the other person.
How did you so thoroughly nail teenaged dialog/angst/every detail about these characters?
A lot of rewrites? Haha, I don’t know, maybe I’m just a teenager at heart. I’m sure teen readers will find moments that feel a bit inauthentic.
With a thriller like this, it’s important not to give too many details away! That said, I’d love to know what drew you to this particular type of antagonist? I was screeching internally while reading the end, RUN! RUN!
I love villains. They’re so much more fun than protagonists. In this story, I wanted the line between villain and hero to really blur, to the point where we aren’t sure—do we love this person? Do we hate them? I think it’s clear that I kind of love them. I wanted to write someone charismatic, a hero who had gone too far and was too willing to make dark sacrifices for what they think is the greater good.
Who was your favorite character to write, and why? Who do you most identify with?
Nico was my favorite character to write because he’s just FUN, and Mick is the most like me, as she and I share that fear of photography.
Which character would win in a staring contest? Mick, Veronica, or Nico?
Nico, hello! Of course!
Will we see more in this series? What are you working on next?
I would love to write more books in this world, but so far there are no plans in that vein. Next up is a semisecret project about smart girls turning their minds to crime.
What YA or children’s books influenced you and your writing growing up?
I read highly inappropriate books as a kid. I stayed up all night at a sleepover in fifth grade reading IT and had read most of Stephen King’s available books by the end of middle school. I also loved Anne Rice (obviously) and read anything I could get my hands on, from Tolkien to l’Engle to every single Baby-Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High book I could find. My favorite young adult/middle grade book was HOMECOMING by Cynthia Voigt.
Any recommendations for YA or Children’s books that readers of your book might enjoy?
You’ll like books by Mindy McGinnis, Diana Urban, Caleb Roehrig, Tom Ryan, Kit Frick, Malinda Lo, June Hur, and so many more, I’ll just stop there.
Thank you for joining us, Wendy! I can’t wait for SHE’S TOO PRETTY TO BURN to hit shelves!
Thank you so much for having me!
Written by Wendy Heard
Ages 15+ | 336 Pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company | ISBN-13: 978-1250246752
Publisher’s Synopsis: An electric romance set against a rebel art scene sparks lethal danger for two girls in She’s Too Pretty to Burn, an expertly plotted YA thriller by Wendy Heard.
The summer is winding down in San Diego. Veronica is bored, caustically charismatic, and uninspired in her photography. Nico is insatiable, subversive, and obsessed with chaotic performance art. They’re artists first, best friends second. But that was before Mick. Delicate, lonely, magnetic Mick: the perfect subject, and Veronica’s dream girl. The days are long and hot―full of adventure―and soon they are falling in love. Falling so hard, they never imagine what comes next. One fire. Two murders. Three drowning bodies. One suspect . . . one stalker. This is a summer they won’t survive.
Inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray, this sexy psychological thriller explores the intersections of love, art, danger, and power.
“An exciting read that you’ll devour in a single sitting, She’s Too Pretty to Burn will keep your heart rate up and adrenaline pumping. Highly recommended.” —Denise Mealy, The Children’s Book Review
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About the Author
Wendy Heard is the author of She’s Too Pretty To Burn, as well as two adult thrillers: The Kill Club and Hunting Annabelle, which Kirkus praised as “a diabolically plotted creep show from a writer to watch.” She is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, and Mystery Writers of America, is a contributor at Crimereads.com, and co-hosts the Unlikeable Female Characters podcast. Wendy lives in Los Angeles, California.
For more information, visit https://www.wendyheard.com/.
This interview—Wendy Heard Discusses She’s Too Pretty to Burn—was conducted between Wendy Heard and Denise Mealy. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Teenagers, Thrillers, and Young Adult Fiction.