How did this idea for this book come to you ? Why this topic and do you have a favorite character ?
It all started when I managed to lock myself out of my storage unit in my old apartment building. I had a combination lock on the door, but when I went to open it one day, I couldn't remember the combo for the life of me. And, of course, I hadn't written it down, emailed it to myself, engraved it in 14k gold to wear on a chain around my neck, none of that.
So I went to the Internet and 30 seconds later, I had no less than a half-dozen websites telling me how to crack a Masterlock. I took some notes and went back downstairs to try my luck (I just accidentally typed "lock"--Freudian slip!), and sure enough, twenty minutes later I was able to break into my own storage unit. It was sort of unsettling because now all the valuable items in my storage unit (read: my battered suitcase that had a hole in it) seemed vulnerable, but I felt sort of powerful being able to crack a combination lock, and I started thinking about how awesome it could have been if I could have done that in high school. Not that I wanted to break into any one's smelly old locker, but it just seemed like it would be a nice talent to have.
That's when the idea of Maggie first popped into my head. I couldn't stop thinking about a girl safe cracker, raised by her parents in a huge secret underground espionage ring, traveling around the world to right wrongs committed by bad guys. That part seemed interesting to me, but then I thought, "Well, what if I dropped her into a high school?" And that's what I did. I love the "fish out of water" story lines, especially for a girl who starts off the book by breaking into safes in Reykjavík, Iceland, and then ends up in a Manhattan private school and realizes that she has no idea how to talk to anyone her own age. I wanted to make her more human (for lack of a better word--I mean, she's not a cyborg) but still be the same badass she's always been.
I think when I started writing the book, my favorite character was Angelo, Maggie's surrogate grandfather and one of the best spies in the world. He's reliable, kind, and wise, all qualities that Maggie needs in her life, plus he knows how to cook! He can forge documents! He can fly a helicopter! He sends Maggie little pen & ink sketches of New York City landmarks! What's not to love?
The more I kept writing, though, I realized that I was drawn to Roux, Maggie's best friend. When I initially began writing Roux, she felt two-dimensional to me. She was mouthy, sarcastic, brittle, but also, I discovered as I kept writing, very sensitive. She's a girl that's been left on her own by her constantly-absent parents, recently been dumped from her position as head of the Mean Girls at school, and even though she tries to hide it, I realized how hurt she was. I once read that to be in that much pain, you must have a very big heart, and I think that describes Roux perfectly. She teaches Maggie how to be a friend, and by teaching Maggie, she also learns a few lessons herself. They're a good team, something all spies need!
Thanks for being here Robin and interesting to learn more about how this story came to be