We're back with another epic installment of our partnership with Epic Reads! And this month's author feature is a real page-turner. The New York Times bestselling author behind the Charlotte Holmes series and the recently-released, Muse, meet Brittany Cavallaro! The Illinois-native sat down with the Mod Blog to discuss how her writing career came to be, female representation in literature, and the power of imagination. Read on, reader!

We love hearing from authors about their origin stories. What’s yours? Did you grow up loving books? When did you realize you could make a career out of writing?

I’ve always loved books! Ever since I was little, I’ve lived so much of my life within stories. I grew up loving Ogden Nash’s funny poetry, and Shel Silverstein, the Babysitter’s Club and Animorphs, and in middle school I moved on to mass market fantasy novels (still love Mercedes Lackey) and science fiction. As a teenager I got pretentious, read the Beats, dreamed about driving coast to coast, generally felt a lot cooler than I was. 

Anyway, I was writing all the time, stories and poems and plays, but I lived in a small town where there weren’t a lot of opportunities for me to learn to be a better writer. I applied for and won a scholarship to attend the Interlochen Arts Academy for my last two years of high school, where I majored in creative writing, and the instruction and encouragement I got there really made me think that I could maybe be a writer. I teach there now, and get to encourage my incredibly talented students, which is just the most wonderful thing.

March is Women’s History Month. As an author whose stories feature strong female leads, why do you believe it is important to have female representation in books?

We need more girl geniuses in books. We need more girls unapologetically calling the shots. Give me all your unlikable female characters. I want to read books about girls who are complicated and who make terrible mistakes and who have sharp edges and big mouths. Girls who cause trouble. I want to read about girls who wake up one day to realize all the ways in which the world is trying to keep them in a cage, and then I want to watch them bend the bars open.

We’re honoring female trailblazers during the month of March! Is there a female author who is a personal hero of yours? Or a female literary character you always admired?

So many! I’m a poet as well as a novelist, and every time I teach Tracy K. Smith’s work in my poetry classes, I think about how I want to be her when I grow up. I’m also just in awe of so many of my peers, like Emily Henry and Evelyn Skye and Mackenzi Lee and Katie Cotugno, who write gorgeous, compulsively readable books full of complicated female characters.

A good book has the power to change a reader’s life. When you are writing, what are your hopes for your reader? What do you want to make them feel with your books?

I want the book to feel like it belongs to them. Like an internal world they could live in, I want them to be able to go there in their heads even when they aren’t reading. The most alchemical part of writing, for me, is the invisible bargain you’re making with your readers: your writing can only bring the book so far. Their imaginations carry them the rest of the way.

Follow Brittany Cavallaro for More Page-Turning Perfection!