Q. What was your favorite book as a child?
I didn’t have a single favorite, and even if I had, it would have varied year to year. Some of the books I remember re-reading many times because I loved them so much were: The Little Princess, by Francis Hodgson Burnett; She the Adventuress, by Dorothy Crayder; From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg; The Long Journey, by Barbara Corcoran; and Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery.
Q. Were you always a writer? A reader?
I was always a reader, definitely. I can’t really say that I was always a writer. I had lots of ideas for stories when I was a kid, but I was a bit lazy about actually writing them down!
Q. What’s your earliest memory?
Being the flower girl in my mother’s cousin’s wedding. I was 2 ½ at the time, so the memory experts would probably say that I don’t really remember this—I just remember remembering it, and being told about it. But I think I can remember standing at the back of the church beside my older brother (who was the ring bearer) and seeing the huge pews, towering above my head—row after row of them—and being terrified out of my wits. I completely forgot what I was supposed to do, so I asked my brother, who was all of four and, in my eyes, an expert on everything. He said, “Dump the flowers.” So I turned over my whole basket of rose petals right there at the back of the church, and blithely strolled to the front, mission accomplished.
Q. Where do you write? Would you attach a picture of your office or work space?
I have an office in my house. For years, this was the whole family’s shared computer space, and I was always having to move my stuff out of the way when someone else needed to use the computer. Now it’s solely my work space. So, often when I’m in the thick of a book—especially one where I’ve needed to do research—I can get very slobbish with piles of books and paper all over the place, just because I can. It doesn’t look great, but that way I know where everything is. (I’ve sent you a slightly tidier picture.)
Q. What was the most surprising/thrilling thing about being a published author?
I have a two-part answer to that. The most surprising/thrilling thing about being an author is the writing itself, particularly the part where an idea that I fall in love with jumps into my head and the right words for expressing that idea also jump into my head, and I suddenly have a story—plot, characters, narrative, etc.– that thrill me, that didn’t exist, and then suddenly, just is.
When it’s going well (which of course, isn’t always the case) then the writing itself is also the most thrilling part of being a published author. But if you want to emphasize the published part of that, then there’s a second part to the thrill, which is when readers love my stories as much as I do. This is particularly amazing and thrilling when it’s someone who seems very different from me, who I would assume wouldn’t like the same things that I would like, but does.
Q. Are the characters you wrote about based on any real-life people? Did anyone in your life influence the personalities of the characters?
I’ve never put someone I know in real life into one of my books exactly as they are, but I have certainly pulled characteristics from real people I know to give to my characters. I liken it to making a Lego creature using pieces from several different sets—what I come up with is different from the people who inspire me, but sometimes you can recognize the source.
Q. What are you working on now, and what new release(s) can we expect to see from you down the road?
Right now I am working on revising the third book in The Missing series. The second book is all done and is due out in August. I also have another book coming out this year: a young adult novel called Claim to Fame, which is due out in November.
Q. If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only charge was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?
Wow, I think the last time I had one of those was about sixteen years ago! (Pre-parenthood). I would try for a balance of all of my favorite activities: reading, writing, maybe seeing a movie, hanging out with family and friends, and doing some sort of physical activity, like hiking or biking or swimming. Of course, that’s probably too much to try to do in one day, which is indicative of how my life usually goes… I’m always running out of time for the things I want to do!
Q. What are you currently reading or planning to read?
Right now I am reading The Known World, by Edward P. Jones, for a book club that I am in—very much a mind-blowing book. So far, it’s fascinating, but also emotionally difficult to read at times. I recently finished Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, which I greatly enjoyed. I had thought I would read Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains next, because I’ve heard wonderful things about it. But I think I may need something lighter in between the slavery books.
Q. Do you have a favorite author?
Not a single favorite. Some of the authors writing for adults whose work I generally enjoy include Anne Tyler, Margaret Atwood and Barbara Kingsolver. In the area of YA and kids books, it would be John Green, Laurie Halse Anderson, E.L. Konigsburg, Edward Bloor, and Cynthia Voigt. And lots of others that I’m not thinking of at the moment.
Q. What do you do when you aren’t writing?
A lot of Mom stuff, although now that my kids are teenagers, I’m not doing nearly as much chauffeuring, etc. as I used to. I do volunteer work through my church, including tutoring and occasionally helping out at a homeless shelter. I read a lot—it’s nice that I have a job where I can justify this as “work.” I do a fair amount of travel, both on trips with family and/or friends, and on work-related trips. This fall I am going to Germany for ten days to promote my books there—I’m really looking forward to that.
Q. What was your first job?
What counts as a first job? The first work I ever got paid for was for helping out on my dad’s farm. (Not the easiest way to make money.) The first regular paycheck I ever got was for working as an assistant cook at a 4-H camp, the summer after my freshman year in college. And the first “full-time” job I had after graduating from college was as a copy editor at a newspaper in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Q. You desperately wish you knew how to…
I think if there were anything I desperately wanted to know how to do, I would desperately be trying to learn it. I can’t think of anything I’m that desperate about at the moment, but there are certainly things I would like to be able to do, or do better. One is that I wish I were a better skier, because this is something that my kids love (particularly my son), and it’s not something that I’ve mastered well enough to whole-heartedly enjoy with them. I have improved over the past few years, though.
The other thing, which is actually a larger, longer-term goal, is that I wish I were better at speaking foreign languages. I have met people who know 10 to 15 languages, and can switch back and forth with seemingly no effort. They’ll say, “I’m sorry—English is not one of my better languages,” and then speak it with almost complete fluency. I really envy that skill. I used to be fairly good with French, but have forgotten a lot over the years, and I can make an attempt, at least, at Spanish. But with both languages (and, I suspect, any others I would try to study) I am far, far better at reading and writing it than actually conversing. Maybe someday when my kids are grown and I have more time I will be able to make more of an effort at this.