New Voice: Mara Purnhagen on Tagged

Mara Purnhagen is the first-time author of Tagged (Harlequin Teen, 2010). From the promotional copy:

Can Kate Morgan stand up for herself—without being labeled a snitch?

Kate is just as confused as her best friend Lan when she arrives at Cleary High to find the building’s been “tagged” with a life-size graffiti mural. Could the culprit be one of their friends or classmates? And is the kind-of-amazing creation really vandalism, or a work of art?

She’s tempted to stay out of it—mostly because, as the police chief’s daughter, she’s worried about being labeled a snitch. But when the same mysterious graffiti starts appearing throughout the state, putting more pressure on the authorities to catch the vandal, her investigative instincts kick in.

Now Eli, Kate’s favorite coworker at the local coffee shop, is MIA. With Lan preoccupied with her own boy troubles, Kate needs to figure out some things on her own. Like why she can’t stop thinking about Eli. And what she will do when all the clues about the graffiti point to someone she’s close to…

Are you a plotter or a plunger?

I’m a plunger who always plots the first and last scene. I need to know where I’m starting and where I’m ending, but everything in the middle is unknown to me until I begin writing.

I like this approach because it allows me flexibility within a basic structure. If a writer is struggling with plot, I would suggest stepping back for a little while. Ask yourself what would be the expected thing to happen—then come up with something different.

As someone who’s the primary caregiver of children, how do you manage to carve out time to write?

As the stay-at-home, primary caregiver of three small children, finding a quiet moment to write during the day is nearly impossible! I have adapted how I write to fit my busy schedule.

Before I had children, I would sit at my desk for an hour and write.

Now, I write for a few minutes at a time. It works well for me. I’ll write a few sentences, then get up to change a diaper or pour a cup of juice or throw laundry in the dryer. But while I’m completing those tasks, I’m turning over the next sentence in my mind.

When I get back to the computer, I know what I want to write, even if it’s just one or two lines.

My advice for other writers in a similar situation is to adapt as best you can, prioritize your family, and realize that even if you’re not at your desk, you can still write in your head!