Award-winning author Wendy Mills writes for both teens and adults. Her latest young adult novel, All We Have Left, has earned starred reviews, is the winner of both the 2016 Florida Book Award and the 2016 BookBrowse YA Award, and has been named as one of the best books of the year by Kirkus Reviews. Wendy lives with her family on a tropical island off the west coast of Florida, where she spends her time writing and dodging hurricanes.
Wendy’s Bio (In her own words)
When I was about twelve, peer-pressure interfered with my fantasy world. The other kids were starting to laugh at me, so I reluctantly gave up “pretending” the stories that ran rampant through my head. At that time in my life, I cared a little more about what people thought about me! Frustrated for about a minute, I turned to writing those same stories on an old typewriter I found in the attic. I still remember the clacking of the keys and the satisfying ringing sound it made as I started a new line. I wrote my first book when I was twelve, a thirty-page effort called Visitors from Meana, about aliens in the form of flying horses and two siblings who have to decide whether they will stay on earth or travel with their new friends to Meana. It was great, it was awful, I was twelve years old. But when I shared it with my friends, and saw their reactions (they were twelve, too), I realized this is what I wanted to do.
Oh, I had known at some gut level that words and books had the power to make people laugh, cry, and think. I was a voracious reader who chose my books not by subject matter, but solely on how big the book was. I read Stephen King, Robert Heinlein and Richard Adams, all before I was a teenager. I hated finishing a book, and I always had several books lined up on my bedside table so that I could simply pick up the new book and avoid that awful book-hangover feeling. I guess you could say I chain-read. I still do, at that. (I’m glad I never encountered crack, because I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have gone well.)
After Visitors from Meana, I never stopped. I tried my hand at poetry and a soap opera featuring my classmates that kept them entertained for half a year. I even wrote a few plays in the sixth grade that my class put on. This was my first taste of defeat, because after the first play was received with much acclamation, I was astonished when the second play flopped. WTH?! How could this happen? It was a good lesson to learn young, because the publishing world is unforgiving, and defeat is way more common than success. I always came back to books, though, because I am not good at saying anything in short form. Ask my family! By the time I graduated high school, I had written my first full-length mystery novel.
My first adult mystery was published with a very small press when I was twenty-seven, and I probably should have waited and honed my craft a bit more, but it was the culmination of a dream I had had since I was twelve, and it’s really hard to look a gift-dream in the mouth. When my second son was born, I took a hiatus from publishing, but never from writing. No, never that, because I am only happy when I am writing. The tenor of my days is directly affected by the amount and quality of writing done that day.
I decided I was ready to re-enter the big bad world of publishing when my youngest son started kindergarten. It was scary to put myself out there again, because I had been safe in my little cocoon of writing bliss for so long, but it was either that or get a real job. So, well, here I am. When I was a teenager, I refused to write anything but adult stories and was always offended when people said I should write stories about other kids. And yet, now, I write young adult and love it. I suppose as my oldest son nears his teenage years, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own high school experiences. (Mainly, in the God, I hope he doesn’t turn out like ME kind of way.) Those years were wonderful, they were awful, they were chock-full of drama and unadulterated emotion. First love, first kiss, first breakup… It never feels as powerful as it does the first time. Authors are vampires, you see, and I could not resist the lure of that much raw passion and we-only-live-once attitude that most of us only feel once in our lives. And maybe…just maybe…I have a few things I need to work out in my head which can only be accomplished by going back to high school.
I just realized that I haven’t mentioned much about the rest of my life, as if I have been sitting at a desk since I was twelve years old pounding out stories in my own happy little bubble. Children were born, a high school sweetheart was married, I learned to make a mean martini and sing bad karaoke during a beach bum phase. I’m convinced I’m a hurricane magnet as I’ve been through too many hurricanes to count, including a Category 4 that flooded our house. I mainline hot tea (up to seven cups a day and counting), though when I need a jolt I turn to Starbuck’s Caramel Macchiato, knowing it will make me talk too fast, but loving the rush. I have a hard time saying “no,” so as result I’ve been President of a Little League and co-chair of our school’s PTA. I have one son who loves to read, and one who loves to write. Life is good. My family calls me Broomhilda because I sweep when I’m nervous. I love falling asleep with a book and I love the sunshine diamonds the water throws into my eyes. I love naps. Love, love, love naps.
And I write.
Because, yes, no matter what else happens in my life, I will always be a writer.