I write the kind of characters I wanted to read about as a teen. Emily from I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone was the kind of girl I always wished I could be... tough, musically talented. I adored female punk musicians when I was a teenager, but there weren't any fictional stories about them. So I wrote this one. Emily deals with some really tough situations and difficult emotions but she also gets to live out the rock n roll fantasy. She's the kind of character I wanted to escape into as a teen and even now. So her inspiration came from that fantasy, but also my love for musicians like Courtney Love, Brody Dalle, Patti Smith, PJ Harvey, and the ladies in Civet and Sleater-Kinney.
As for Ballads of Suburbia, I guess my inspiration was reality. It's not autobiographical, it's not my life, but Kara and I are very similar emotionally. As a teenager, I escaped my pain with self-injury and substances like she does. I knew a lot of girls like Kara, Cass, and Maya. And I knew a lot of boys like Adrian. I'm sure there are still a lot of girls and boys out there who feel like they do, so I wrote this book for them. My inspiration was to break the silence. I wanted Ballads of Suburbia to be like an unforgettable song. I wanted to create characters that you would feel like you knew and have to talk to your friends about.
In a nutshell, punk rock inspired my first book and speaking out inspired my second. Speaking out is something I learned to do from punk, so it all kinda comes back to that.
There aren't particular people who inspire my characters, I draw more on emotion. Emily from IWBYJR is the emotion I feel when listening to a really good song. Kara from Ballads was synthesized from emotions I felt in high school. The friendships between Emily and Regan, Louisa and Molly, and Kara, Maya, and Cass draw on my relationship with my best friend, again emotionally, not actual situations.