1. Where do you get your ideas/inspiration?
So far most of my work has come from my memories..and not only my memory but my need to make sense of my childhood. My mother died when I was three and my father remarried three times after that. All my siblings come from different configurations and I moved around from family to family for many years. Writing was my way of “being heard” and feeling less lonely. I still write (and read) for the same reason.
2. Who were the writers you liked most as an adolescent?
E Edward Eager’s The Knight’s Castle is the very first book I remember falling in love with. It is the first book that made me feel like I was “inside the book”, forgetting where I was or how much time had gone by. But E. B. White’s Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, and Trumpet of the Swan were my very favorite. Oh, and then there is E L konigsburg’s Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth. ..I could go on and on….
3. How did your childhood influence some of the themes or topics you cover in your books?
As I wrote in the first question my childhood completely influenced the topics in my books, survival. abandonment, loss..but always hope. I am pretty well versed in step mothers, step fathers, half siblings, moving, new schools, new families…
4. Who are the writers who have influenced you most as an adult?
That’s easy..Anne Tyler, Sue Miller, Barbara Kingsolver, Grace Paley, Toni Morrison…actually, I am influenced by every single writer I read..Good and bad. It is all learning.
5. What hobbies do you have?
Hobbies, is a funny word. I don’t think of anything I do as a hobby but I like to walk in the woods. I love my dogs. I love playing the guitar and singing as freely as I can when I am all alone. I love blasting my records (on a record player!) and pretending I am performing in front of lots of people..(something I would never do).
6. Do you have any writing rituals that help you?
I like to snack a lot while I am writing. And I check my email and facebook way way too often…but other than that I can write anywhere..anytime.
7. What’s your writing process like?
That’s a hard question. I don’t have a set process. ..and I don’t believe in writer’s block. There is such a thing as “soft time” for me..when I am not writing, but thinking, watching, dreaming. And that is part of the process of writing too…
8. Do you have a favorite character from one of your novels?
I always fall in love with my characters..(not the ones based on me, of course!) but I don’t think I could pick one out and say he or she is my favorite. I fell in love with Jason, from Anything But Typical. I am very in love with Will Hiller from Almost Home. I loved Ethan from All We Know of Love. ..all boys!
9. Is writing always easy? Do you ever get stuck? How do you work through it?
No, it is NOT always easy. rarely, easy..or if it is easy that’s only until I go back and read what I’ve written. I work through getting stuck by talking with my author’s group and my friends. I like to talk out the issues and sometimes just talking about the story out loud makes it clearer. Sometimes the answer comes to me when I am running or swimming…often when I am driving or just going to sleep. Make sure to WRITE it down..don’t trust your memory. At least, I can’t!
10. How would you describe your writing style?
My style is very honest, I think. I hope. I try to be real. It is a fine line between real and hopeful. I try to be hopeful but not sugar coated. As for style I like to try different things. I want to grow as a writer and take risks with style..voice, even genre.
11. Do you usually start with a character or an idea?
It varies. I have done both. ..but even when I have an idea, I know the character needs to be developed first. No one wants to be preached to..or taught anything when they read. I try to write from the very small, personal and specific and hope it touches on something larger, universal and more meaningful…I hope!
12. Why do you prefer to write in the first person?
I suppose I find first person the easiest..and who doesn’t like things to be easy. It’s most like “acting”, like completely pretending to be your main character. It is the quickest way for me to find “the voice” of my character and to know what they are going to say, feel, and think. I am working on a third person voice right now..and it is hard and I am liking the challenge.
13. Do you have any advice for kids who want to be writers?
My advice is to read. And write! And make sure not to be too critical of yourself. Find people, teachers, or friends who like to read your work. Be as real and authentic as you can be. .write what you care about. Think about story..even while you are watching TV and movies. Think about what works and what doesn’t and why. Enjoy language, and words, even punctuation! Take risks..writing is about taking the risk. Be brave…
14. What have other people said about your books that makes you happy?
When I get an email from someone who was moved by one of my stories, someone who says they feel “just like” that character. Or it made them think of feel something…I am humbled and honored. There is NOTHING better than being “heard” when you write. That’s what it is all about. I read to feel less lonely and I write for the same reason..
15. How long does it take you to write a book?
Well, the third person novel I am working on now is taking forever. I have thrown it out and started over three, maybe four times. But when things are going well it takes me about six months to write the first draft and the next six months to work on the edits with my editors. It gets published (if I am lucky) about a year and a half after I finish writing it.