J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer both published their first books at age 31. At 16, Warwick author Faith Wilkins already has two installments of her exciting young adult series under her belt. Wacko Academy (Arundel Publishing, $14.95) stars Lily Mason, an eighth-grader kidnapped on behalf of Wackerson Academy, an elite boarding school whose mysterious purpose and sinister founder are not what they seem. In the recently released sequel, Camp Wacko: The Drones of Summer, Lily infiltrates a summer camp where the evil Dr. Wackerson seeks to create an army of brainwashed teens. Although hard at work with school — and on a third novel — Wilkins was able to find time to answer our questions about her literary career:
How did you come to write Wacko Academy?
It was just going to be a short story. I had already been writing short stories but it sort of blossomed into more as I had more ideas and kept writing.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I guess I was bored one day. I started thinking about my friends and how fun it was being with them and starting eighth grade — and then it turned more sinister. A lot of the characters were based on some traits of my friends but not on any one friend; a lot of it was my imagination.
Wacko Academy draws a lot on the worries that many kids face when they have to change schools. Have you dealt with this kind of situation?
I did have to change schools in elementary school. I was at Calvary Christian Academy until third grade and I had a problem with bullying there so I went to the school across the street, which was Kings Elementary. It was scary to change schools and not have any friends, but then I learned that Kings Elementary was even better than the school I was at, and it was actually a really positive experience — unlike in Wacko Academy.
How much do you plan your novels ahead when you’re writing? Have you decided where the series will end up or does it change as you write?
After I finished Wacko Academy, I knew where I wanted it to go, but I wasn’t sure how it would end. The plot changed a lot: I wrote the second book a few times and it had different titles and different characters and I changed it around. I’m pretty sure the third one’s going to be the end, but I think I’ll just have to see where the story goes.
What is the best part of being a published author? And what is the worst?
I think the best part of being an author is seeing your book out there and seeing people enjoy it and understand where you’re going with your story. I really enjoy going around and talking to people who are inspired by me and have been writing and think that maybe they can get published, even at a young age. I think the worst part is probably the deadlines and trying to fit everything in with my schedule from school.
What do you like to do when you’re not busy with writing or schoolwork?
One of my biggest passions is singing. I actually went to a chorus camp this summer for a month, and it was one of the most fun summers I ever had in my life. I’m in different chorus groups and in drama club, and I love playing the violin and just hanging out with my friends.
Maybe you could write a musical?
I have thought about it, but I’m not sure. There was one point where I was even thinking about trying to write a screenplay someday. Not now, but I think the sky’s the limit with writing.
You donate a portion of your royalties to Book Bus, a charity that promotes child literacy in Africa and South America. Why did you select them?
I really liked what they stood for and what they do. I really liked that they brought books to places where kids don’t have access to education and how they want to help the community. I think it is just a great thing they are doing and I loved the thought that I would be giving money to them.