Meet Northwood High School Alumna and Novelist Robyn Schneider

Photo by Emily Sandifer

Not many writers sell a first novel at age 18, then switch gears and earn a master’s degree in bioethics, only to make a splashy reentry onto the literary scene. But that was the path forged by Schneider, who grew up in Irvine and Laguna Niguel. Now with her bestselling 2013 novel, “The Beginning of Everything,” set to be adapted into a movie and the release this month of her latest book, “Invisible Ghosts,” Schneider discusses J.K. Rowling, O.C. as a fictional setting, and making the theater crowd the cool kids in her new novel.

I read the Harry Potter books when I was 13, and they struck a chord in me so deeply. They were these amazing stories about friendship and magic and saving the world. They were stories for everyone, but they were written by a woman, and in 1999, that blew my mind. I wanted to write books like that.

➜ I was very conflicted because I love literature and I love writing, but I’ve also really loved math and science. I had never really found myself brave enough to pursue a career in medical science, then something in me just said, why not? So when I was about 21, I started taking all of my pre-med coursework and figured I would see about becoming a doctor. But I never was able to set aside my love of writing books and telling stories.

➜ The more I interact with my readers, I realize they live in a completely changed, diverse culture where it’s encouraged to be passionate and interested in things. So I wanted to write a book where the cool kids were the confident kids—not just the cheerleaders or the varsity athletes. I think it’s really cool to be passionate about things, and I think teens recognize that in each other. I think this generation is eager to encourage and lift each other up and not to bring each other down.

➜ I just changed names a little bit, but if you’re from Orange County you can recognize the landmarks. I wanted to write about growing up in the suburbs, and the loneliness that comes from being a smart, isolated kid in a place that you know you’re going to leave. It’s terrifying to not know what the next year is going to be like when (for) your whole life you’ve been able to see the shape of your town and your friends and your life. I wanted to write about someone who’s a little scared about growing up, and a little scared of the future, but fights through and makes herself brave.

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