Malena Watrous

Malena Watrous

Hello! I'm the co-author of the novel, Sparked, along with the novelist Helena Echlin. Before this, I published a novel called If You Follow Me, about a young woman who goes to rural Japan to teach English.

My co-author Helena and I met at a wedding, where we happened to be seated next to each other, and quickly discovered that we'd both written "serious" novels, and were both itching to write something fun, possibly in the YA genre. I shared an idea I'd been playing with about a girl whose older sister gets kidnapped, and who lives in a small town in Oregon where other girls start "sparking" powers. Helena chimed in with, "What if they were 'mean girls,' who've been bullying her for years, and she has to rely on them to save her sister?" Before long we had pages of notes, scribbled on a notebook/coaster for our cocktails. We started emailing scenes back and forth, meeting once a week to figure out what should happen next.

We had no idea how co-writing would work out, but we pounded out the first draft of Sparked in a white-hot frenzy of inspiration we called "the Vortex." One of us would write a scene and send it to the other with a note: "My apartment is a pigsty and I haven't eaten all day. #inthevortex." We had to spend a fair bit of time revising our first draft. But all in all, it was an amazing experience to create this whole world together: twice the fun and half the angst of writing a novel solo.

In addition to writing fiction, I am also a food writer (currently at work on a cookbook in collaboration with an amazing Mexican chef) and a book critic. My first novel won the Michener-Copernicus Award. I received my MFA in fiction writing from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, followed by a Wallace Stegner fellowship from Stanford--where I still teach online creative writing. I live in the Mission District of San Francisco with my husband, the composer Matt Schumaker, our 10 year old son Max, and two cats, one of whom is usually on my lap while I'm writing. (#felinefamiliars).

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