The Five Questions: Erin Cashman

Erin Cashman headshot

“I learned the hard way that I have to write the story that fills my head, that I can’t wait to get down, or writing stops being a passion and becomes a chore.”

Erin Cashman is the author of The Exceptionals and the mastermind behind the The First Five Pages Workshop, an online coaching/mentoring program sponsored by Adventures in YA Publishing.

Her five answers have introduced me to at least two new things: a Fitzgerald novella I had never heard of before, and a noun, “pantser,” which has become an inescapable part of my vocabulary. Thank you, Erin!

  1. What’s the surprising inspiration behind one (your choice) of the characters or stories you’ve created?

Growing up, my father often told me that we only use ten percent of our brain power. I often wondered, can some people use more? Did Einstein use more of his brain than most people – and what about mediums? My mother believed in ghosts, and she used to go to a medium. Maybe the medium could use a different part of her brain. This became the foundation for The Exceptionals: a school for students who have “special” abilities.

  1. If you could rescue one obscure book and make it more widely known to the world, which book would you choose and why?

The Diamond as Big as the Ritz, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I’m a big F. Scott Fitzgerald fan, and he packs so much into this novella. It has lyrical storytelling telling and a fantastical plot, but it is also a dark and satirical commentary about excess of every kind. I am always amazed at how much Fitzgerald can say in so few pages. 

  1. You can ask one question to any author, living or dead. What would you ask and why?

I would ask Shakespeare about his writing process. That would be the one question, but I’d hope in explaining it to me he’d also answer some follow up questions – is he a plotter or a pantser? How many revisions of a play does he usually do? How does he create such distinct and vivid characters? 

  1. What’s the best (or your favorite) feedback you’ve received from a reader?

Like most writers, I love hearing from readers. The best feedback I ever have received was from a woman who read The Exceptionals, and then gave it to her daughter – a very reluctant reader. The woman wrote to tell me that her daughter read the book in just a few days, and loved it so much that she asked the librarian to help her chose similar books. I also received a lovely letter and a beautiful drawing of a hawk from the book, which I framed. Every time I see it I smile! 

  1. What’s the worst writing advice you’ve received from a teacher?

I took a writing class taught by a well known editor. He was a brilliant man, but our styles were very different (for example, he hated Fitzgerald and often cracked jokes about his writing!). He told me to focus on realistic fiction, and to drop fantasy, which he was dismissive of as a genre. I learned the hard way that I have to write the story that fills my head, that I can’t wait to get down, or writing stops being a passion and becomes a chore.

For more information about Erin Cashman and her books:

Visit her online at:

Follow her Tweets at: @etcashman

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