Frequently Asked Questions

First, for those who want to know, but are afraid to ask (and please, feel free to ask), I talk briefly about my own mental health issues in the following guest blog posts:

Writing About Mental Illness

Mental Health is a Spectrum

Below are actual questions I’ve been frequently asked, not just things I think people might like to know. This of course means I’m not really responsible for what this FAQ includes or omits. 🙂


Where were you born? Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?

I’m answering these together since they’re all tangled up. I was born in Southern California, and soon after that I moved around a few times, but always within California. I went to four different school districts in Southern and Northern California, until I graduated high school north of San Francisco and then went to the University of California at Berkeley. I’ve moved a number of times since then, but always within the San Francisco Bay Area.

What are your influences?

Sometimes when people talk about influences, they mean writers who inspired them to become writers. It’s hard for me to say who that was because I’ve always wanted to write books and don’t remember deciding to. My earliest memories are of reading and enjoying a lot of Dr. Seuss, so he might have been part of that. I think the first time it occurred to me to write for a young audience was when I read Barbara Park’s Junie B. Jones books to my kids. Those are still among my favorite books for any age. Later, reading Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine — I loved how smart that book was — prompted me to actively work on writing YA.

What made you decide to write a novel?

I can’t remember. I’ve loved writing stories since kindergarten–I was a precocious reader and writer. I was twelve when I first sat down to attempt to write a full novel. Didn’t get far with that one. The first time I ever finished a complete draft of a novel and typed THE END, I was maybe twenty-three. No one will ever see that one. So Not If I See You First isn’t the result of deciding one day to write a novel, it’s just the first time I got it right.

What does the braille say in the Acknowledgments of Not If I See You First?

That would be telling! It’s signed by Parker, so that’s one clue. I also say in the Acknowledgments themselves that it’s grade 2 Unified English Braille (UEB), which means you can’t just look up each pattern on Wikipedia and write down the letters to transcribe the text that way — you’ll get some gibberish mixed in if you try that. There are shortcuts, where single forms stand for common combinations of letters as well as for formatting like capitalization, etc.

The Rules of UEB can be found here: UEB-Rules.

A less intimidating and very useful cheat sheet of symbols and contractions, though, and your best bet for transcribing Parker’s braille, can be found here: UEB-Symbols.

Using that last document should make transcribing the braille doable, and I’m perfectly happy for people who do the work to post their transcriptions anywhere they like, and I’ll even verify when it’s correct, but it’ll have to come from someone other than me.  🙂

In Not If I See You First, what is the setting, theme, tone, and what are some examples of symbolism, personification, metaphor, onomatopoeia, etc.

I’m happy to explain my writing process, but interpreting the writing (and doing your homework) is up to you. 😀

My ideas wouldn’t necessarily be better than yours anyway. Authors can tell you what they intended you to see, but only you can judge what you actually see. I could describe a theme that you don’t see in the story, but maybe I just failed to deliver on my intention. Or you might find a symbol I didn’t intend, but that doesn’t make it wrong. I might have done it subconsciously, or accidentally, or not at all. It doesn’t matter so much what I intended, though, because if you find that something in the story has symbolic meaning to you, then it does! Interpretation is as much about you as it is about what’s on the page. It’s a relationship between you and a story, and the author doesn’t get a vote.

That said, I’d be happy to talk about literary devices in my novels as a teacher might. Meaning, I won’t give you my answers, but we can discuss your ideas. Post them in the Comments section for the book you want to talk about, like here:

What are your personal interests?

Well, that’s a personal question. 😉  But I enjoy reading (mostly YA), watching movies and TV (all genres), folding origami, solving puzzles, playing video games, and I’m still looking for a Snorlax in Pokémon Go

That’s all for now.

If you want to know something that isn’t covered above, feel free to ask in the comments below.


44 Responses to Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Emily Carter says:

    I am a Braille transcriber and am completely geeked out that the Braille on the cover is not just the title of the book! The fact that it says “seeing is not believing” caused me to be even more intrigued in reading this book. Curious why you choose to do this knowing that most people would not be able to know it says something different?

    • Eric says:

      Hi Emily!

      It was the cover designer, Liz Casal, who proposed having the braille communicate a key message from the story instead of the title. I loved this idea; it suited the story perfectly as a conclusion readers could jump to, and then they can learn later (or not) that they’d made an assumption which turned out to be wrong, just like Parker does more than once in her story.

  2. Hayley says:

    Hi Eric,
    I know you probably don’t want to post this on here but, I have been sitting here for several hours trying to decode the braille in the acknowledgments and I am so close but there are a few tough spots. Is there a place I can go to better see if I’m right? Thanks for writing an amazing book!

    • Eric says:

      Hi Hayley,

      I’m glad you asked! The cover of Not If I See You First has some grade one braille (which means every letter is represented in braille) because it’s a message from Scott who only uses the simpler form. The end of the book has the more complex grade two braille (which features a variety of contractions) that Parker uses.

      The convention is UEB (Unified English Braille) and you can find the rules to UEB here: UEB-Rules

      A less intimidating and very useful cheat sheet of symbols and contractions, though, can be found here: UEB-Symbols-List

      Good luck!


  3. I wanted to thank you for this good read!! I absolutely enjoyed every little bit of it.
    I’ve got you saved as a favorite to look at new things you post…

  4. Tatum says:

    Hi!!! I was wondering if Could you maybe tell me directly what the braille in the acknowledgemeants is?? If not that’s okay! I also wanted to tell you this book is AMAZING!!! And was wondering if you were ever thinking of doing a sequel?? Thank you so so so much!!!!

    • Eric says:

      Hi Tatum!

      Interpreting the braille isn’t trivial, but it can be done with some time and care — I figure someone will do it soon and post, which would be great! It’s not a secret, I just don’t want to make it too easy! And as for a sequel, never say never! I have other characters struggling to get their turn, so we’ll see… 🙂
      Thanks for writing!

  5. Tatum says:

    Awesome thank you so much!!

  6. Brandi Bryson says:

    I was so excited and awestruck and emotionally out done that I immediately scoured the web to find everything I needed to decipher Parker’s message. After an hour of headache-inducing work, I finally got it! It was a nice note to end on. Thank you for this beautiful gem. I will be recommending this book to anyone and everyone.

  7. Teresa says:

    What were some of your influences when writing the amazing Not If I See You First?

    • Eric says:

      Hi Teresa!

      Sometimes people cite influences as writers who inspired them to become writers. It’s hard for me to say who that was because I’ve always wanted to write books and don’t remember deciding to. My earliest memories are of reading and enjoying a lot of Dr. Seuss, so he might have been part of that. I think the first time it occurred to me not to write for adults was when I read Barbara Park’s Junie B. Jones books to my own kids. Those are still among my favorite books for any age. Later, reading Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine — I loved how smart that book was — prompted me to actively work on writing YA.

      I’m glad you liked Parker’s story, Teresa — thanks for writing! 🙂

  8. MoolaManiac says:

    hi Eric ,I know posting the braille on the back Is PROBLY not something you want 2 do so soon BUT could u please I’ve been trying for EVER (btw im still in primary and never have heard of braille till now) ITS SO HARD plz help me..ALSO I LOVE YOUR BOOK MORE THAN WORDS

    • Eric says:

      You’re right, I’m probably not going to post what the braille means at the end of Parker’s book — it’s not a brain teaser, just a translation — but other’s have posted. I haven’t seen anyone get it exactly right yet, but check out the Reader Q&A on the Goodreads page for Not If I See You First and you’ll find a translation there that has errors but it’s close.
      Thanks for the note!

  9. Isobel Tupman says:

    HI, I have just finished the book and absolutely love it. I loved how it ended, with you guessing what was going to happen but having a feeling that they get together in the end. I was intrigued by the acknowledgment braille. so tried to complete it I hope I’ve cracked it and the other two rules are after the ones at the start of the book.
    Im hoping its:
    Rule (crosshatch) 12:
    Don’t worry that i won’t give you any second chances. I will. I might even need some from you.
    Rule (crosshatch) 13: Don’t jump to conclusions. You and me both but mostly me.
    I going to be reading and looking out for more of your books as i love the story line and how it was written.
    I hope to become published when my stories are more developed and I’ve done more in my life (I’m 17)
    Thank you
    Isobel Tupman

    • Eric says:

      Nice, Isobel! You got all the words. 🙂 I’m still waiting for someone to post and get every detail right, meaning all the correct punctuation and capitalization and such, but you got the meaning just right. Thanks for posting, and good luck with your writing!

  10. Eva Hennessy says:

    Hi Eric! I just finished reading Not If I See You First, it was brilliant and I can’t wait for your next book. In the mean time is there any YA books you’d recommend?

    • Eric says:

      Thanks, Eva! I enjoyed Fiona Wood’s “Six Impossible Things” and “Wildlife” and I’m looking forward to reading “Cloudwish” next, once I can tear myself away from working on my third book… 🙂

  11. Georgie says:

    I’ve been working for a while on the translation and I don’t know if it’s perfect, but:
    Rule #12:
    Don’t worry that I won’t give you any second chances. I will. I might even need some from you.

    Rule #13:
    Don’t jump to conclusions! You and me both. But mostly me.

    Georgie 🙂

  12. Khansa says:

    Heyy Eric ! I just finished reading not if i see you first i liked it and was pleased once i closed it. i have a question about blindfold she wears as fashion statement but at the end of book it seemed like she was wearing it because she’s insecure about how she look. Am i wrong? please clear my confusion ?

    • Eric says:

      Hi Khansa!

      The answer to that is a bit complicated – I’ll try to keep it brief. First, like I say in the FAQ, even though I’m the author, what I think isn’t necessarily right or better than what you think. All I can tell you is what I intended, but I might have failed to deliver it. Once a book is published, I believe, it assumes its own life, and what I tried to make it mean isn’t more correct than what you or any other reader thinks it means based on the words that ended up on the page. That said, I’ve heard this part of the book mentioned by others, so here’s what I intended – and I admit it’s subtle and I deliberately didn’t explain it like I did with other emotions in the book. There are things people say, like when Parker describes her blindfold as a fashion statement. Then there are things people feel, which might not be the same as what they say. Then there are subconscious feelings characters don’t know about directly but the author does. Sometimes these things are aligned, and sometimes they contradict each other. In this case, my intention was yes, Parker is telling the truth when she says her blindfold is a fashion statement, and she has other useful reasons to wear it as a signal to others; and no, she isn’t ashamed of how she looks at the end when she takes it off in front of Scott. But practically speaking, her habit of wearing blindfolds means there’s a part of her no one has seen since she was a little kid, so over time it has become private to her. Letting someone look invites judgment and makes one feel vulnerable even if you aren’t ashamed of what you look like. There’s always the fear that the person you’re showing will be critical anyway, and while Parker doesn’t care what most people think, Scott isn’t most people. This is why when he reacts well, she feels instant relief and starts joking about it, because her feeling of worry and vulnerability wasn’t about any long-held insecurity; it was just about Scott’s reaction. Parker doesn’t need anyone’s approval to be the person she is and feel good about it – which should be true for all of us – but I believe it’s human to be self-confident and not to need validation from others but still desire acceptance from those we love and feel good at receiving it. Anyway, that’s what was in my head. Thanks for writing!

  13. Sophie Leblanc says:

    Hi Eric, I know you are working on your third book, but i was wondering if you can pleasee pleaasse pleassse write a sequel to Parker’s story someday? I somehow feel like her story isn’t over…

    • Eric says:

      Hi Sophie!

      Anything can happen! I agree that Parker’s story isn’t over, because no one’s ever is! But I personally don’t think the end of Not If I See You First is as ambiguous as some readers believe. 😉

      Thanks for writing!

  14. I + C says:

    hi, we are from Holland and we are doing a book report on the Dutch translation of ‘Not if I see you first’. We loved it very much and may be doing your other book another time!!!!!!! I hope you will write more about Parker and her friends later. Say if we made any spelling mistakes so we can improve our English 😉

    • Eric says:

      Hi! I’m happy you liked Parker’s story, and I hope you like my second book, too! As for your spelling, I see no mistakes, but I’m a cacographer, in both senses of the word, so keep that in mind… ? Thanks for writing!

  15. Coach Maria says:

    I am an orientation and mobility instructor, coach for young athletes with visual impairments, and disability studies professor and I am so so happy to have a book and character to share with my students that shows blindness as a part of who a person is, and not as the whole person. Parker is an awesome example of an independent young athlete who struggles with blindness in a way that any person would struggle with parts of themselves, rather than blindness being her biggest or most overwhelming struggle. The alternate braille to print on the cover drew me in, and I’m so happy have a new book to share with my students (even if Parker’s O&M instructor isn’t her biggest ally in becoming a runner as I’d have liked =] ).

    • Eric says:

      I’m so glad to hear this, Maria! And it’s good Parker isn’t surrounded by paragons, right? It gives us all a chance to discuss flaws as well as virtues. 😀 Thanks for writing!

  16. Talissa Pollock says:

    Hey Eric!
    i’m doing Not If I See You First as my book report in school and i need to get information on the author who just happens to be you. so i have some personal question s for you: what was your family like? what were your religious beliefs growing up?
    you don’t have to answer all of course but it would be nice if you could answer some of them!

    • Eric says:

      Hi Talissa!

      I grew up in California, first southern and then further north. My parents were both on their second marriages so I had two half-brothers and a half-sister, significantly older than me — at first I had older siblings, but then later I was the only child at home. It was a pretty typical childhood for the time. And it was a secular house, meaning we didn’t go to church and my parents didn’t teach me to believe any particular way, but let me look into things and decide for myself. So in that respect, I didn’t have beliefs growing up; just exploration and trying to figure out what I believed.

      Thanks for writing! 🙂

  17. megan says:


    I’m an eighth grader and have chosen your book as a contemporary fiction novel to write an essay and speech on. I have started to make an outline, but I have a few questions for you about your novel.

    1. How old is Parker?
    2. What is the climax of the novel?
    3. Can you name a theme based on truth, love, friendship, or jumping to conclusions? It’s ok if you can’t
    4. Can you give a physical description of Parker?
    5. What literary devices are used that contribute to the novel?

  18. megan says:

    Also one more question:
    Is parker’s main conflict person vs self? why or why not?

  19. Eric says:

    Hi Megan!

    Sorry, but like I say above in the FAQ, I can’t do your homework for you — no one should. If someone points out examples and you just write them down, you won’t learn how to find them yourself. And some of these questions are a matter of opinion, so what’s important is what you think, and why you think it. But I will tell you that for the questions you ask that do have a single right answer, one of them is in the second-to-last paragraph of the prologue… 🙂

    Good luck!

  20. megan says:

    thank you! I have found the answers to most of my questions; I was pretty much expecting that answer. 🙂 thanks for your help! I hope I do well on this project!

  21. skylar says:

    Your book is amazing (not if I see you first), and I love how it portrays the teenage mind. I can relate to so many characters!
    Question: Where did you come up with the names for the characters?
    Especially Scott’s last name. I have a friend with the same last name, Kilpatrick!

    • Eric says:

      Hi Skylar — I’m glad you liked the book! 😀

      My first thought was that my name selection process is more art than science, but it’s not really art, either. When coming up with characters, I Google lists of names, firsts and lasts, and just sift through them — for more time than I care to admit — till I see something that I think “suits” the character I have in my head. Then I use it for awhile and either it sticks or it doesn’t feel right and I go back and do it again. But there’s no question it’s subjective and arbitrary.

      Thanks for writing! 🙂

  22. Eric says:

    I hope so, too! 🙂

  23. Olivia says:

    I loved this book so much and thank you for writing it. I just finished it and was finding out what the last bit of Braille meant and came on Google to check if i got it right ?.

    I know that you are supposed to imagine what the characters look like yourself and that is kind of what reading a book is for but what did you imagine Parker and Scott to look like? I kind of imagine her with very short hair when reading but when I think about it she has long hair and i couldn’t decide so please tell me ?.

    Thank you for reading this
    Olivia xo

    (I recommended it to my friend)

    • Eric says:

      You may find this hard to believe, but I have no idea what Scott looks like other than what was in the book, like basic height and build, because those things Parker could sense. Same with Parker herself — she knows her hair color and how long it is, but she hardly ever thinks about it, so it didn’t come out in the book. It’s true that I know things the characters don’t know, or know but don’t think about, to be able to write the story, but I didn’t decide on those things or other elements that would be mostly visual. So go with what makes you happy. 🙂

      Thanks for writing!

  24. Georgia says:

    I loved this book so much, and it is definitely my favorite book! I am trying to fill out a plot diagram, but I am having troubles finding the setting of the story. I’m guessing the story took place in a smaller town, but then I wasn’t positive.

    Thanks for writing this book!

    • Eric says:

      Hi Georgia! I assume you mean Not If I See You First, but yes, both of my novels so far are set in similar locations, small coastal towns in the USA. Thanks for stopping by!

  25. Riya Punj says:

    Hey Eric. I really loved your book and i am seriously dying to know if you are writing a sequel to “not if i see you first”. I have a few questions to ask if you ain’t.
    Firstly, is that really Scott who plays the song when the book ends?
    And secondly, do they…Parker and Scott get together??
    I’ll really be thankful if you answer these questions.

    • Eric says:

      Hi Riya! I’m glad you liked Parker’s story. 🙂 I honestly don’t know if there will be more — whatever I say now, I might change my mind later. But as to your questions [SPOILERS] you raise an interesting point…but Parker certainly believes it’s Scott at the end, and it seems unlikely to be anyone else…and it sure seems to me from context that they’re getting together, but only time will tell how things unfold with them. Thanks for writing!

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