I was a big reader. I loved the many fairy books at my local library. MIKE MULLIGAN AND HIS STEAMSHOVEL by Virginia Lee Burton was another favorite as well as CAPS FOR SALE by Esphyr Slobodkina. (Isn’t that a great name? I love the way it rolls off my tongue.) When I got a little older, I especially enjoyed THE WIZARD OF OZ by L. Frank Baum, ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by L.M. Montgomery, and books for adult readers like THE CAINE MUTINY by Herman Wouk.
When you were a child did you ever have moments when you decided that you were going to be a writer when you grew up?
Somewhere I got the idea that to be a writer you had to be dead, I guess because I read a lot of classic books written by men who were dead by the time I read their books. That didn’t make writing seem like a good career choice. Of course, I never followed this idea to the logical end where writers would croak the minute their books were published. And what happened if they wrote more than one book? I was kind of a goofy kid.
Did you write stories when you were growing up? At school? Or at home as a hobby? As a young child, or as a teenager, or both?
I dabbled in writing for a long time. I wrote stories and hid them under the mattress so my mother wouldn’t find them. It wasn’t that I was ashamed of them or anything. They were my stories and I didn’t want to share them. When I was in middle school we had a poetry writing unit (my English teacher was named Mr. English!) and I did share my poems with the class. I kept a journal in my early teen years and wrote some short stories as English assignments in high school that brought me much pleasure.
What audience did you have in mind for your career as a writer – adult or children?
I always wanted to write for children or young adults. I think the growing up years are so important. A writer for children has much more influence on a reader than a writer for adults. With that ability comes a responsibility to get things right and leave the reader with hope that things can get better.
Where do you get your ideas?
This is the most commonly asked question of authors! Ideas come from everywhere – the newspaper, the teens I know, things that happen to friends or relatives, etc. The trick is to find something that interests me enough to keep me going through a first draft and many rewrites. The idea for ANGELFIRE came from a newspaper article. It was a true story about two foster kids who were in the same home who fell in love and all the things that happened afterwards. I changed the details, made up histories for them, and created a fictional foster family where they met.
Do you write every day and do you have set hours that you work?
I write every weekday from 5:30 a.m. until 8:30 a.m. I go to bed early to get up early. The early morning hours are my best creating time. I like doing the hard work of the day first and getting it done. You might think it would be easy to make up stories, and sometimes it is, but often there is a lot of work that goes into sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and books to make them read smoothly. After 8:30 a.m., I go to my job at a high school library.
What do you most want the students to get out of your school visits?
We’re all story tellers. We might not write down everything, but we make up stories all the time. Did someone look at you cross-eyed this morning? Step on your big toe? Smack into your elbow in the cafeteria line? You make up a story – this kid likes me or he hates me. Or he’s stalking me. What happens next? What if his dad is in the Mafia? Or he secretly works for the FBI? Or he’s just a regular kid who wants a friend? Your imagination is the key to any story. Of course, if it’s real life, you might want to check out the facts before you get too taken away by your imagination!