What is a day in your life like?
I get up at 3:00 a.m. to write on my novels for about an hour and a half. It’s my best time of the day, when it’s quiet and my creative brain is fresh. By 6:30, I’m at the work office, where I am a manager for a software company. When I get home, I try to relax with my husband, cat, and dogs. I go to bed early—no later than 8:30 p.m.
What advice can you give aspiring writers?
Write every day, even if it’s only for a half hour. Don’t give up because it takes a long time to learn your craft. You have to be patient with yourself during the process. Read some books about writing, both practical and chicken-soup inspirational. Read lots of novels in your own genre, and when something is really great, try to figure out why.
What keeps you motivated to write?
I love the process of writing. In the beginning, it was all about getting published. When that didn’t happen, and didn’t happen, and didn’t happen, I kept writing because I still loved it.
Where do you write?
I have a home office with a nice wood corner desk and an overhead bookshelf that contains pictures of my husband and animals—as well as books, of course. My cat Minnie always sits with me while I write.
Where do you get your ideas?
I like to combine some sort of "issue" (depression, academic pressure, anorexia, teen drinking, teen pregnancy, and so on) with lightweight romance. My ideas are inspired from a blend of Internet research, reading lots of books, and personal memories, and then I add plot, characterization, dialog, and the other elements that make a good novel.
What do you do when you get stuck?
I play with the cat a lot while I’m mulling over something that’s not working. She really enjoys helping me with that. I don't suffer with "writer's block" exactly; I'm usually doing something: revising, outlining, writing, or thinking. I don't stay stuck for long.
Do you have any hobbies?
Writing, reading, and playing with my animals. We currently have an Akita, a great Pyrenees, a Maine Coon, and a small herd of goats. I also watch too many television series on DVD in the evening.
Who’s your favorite author?
It seems so hard to pick because there are so many wonderful authors that I love. But if you came into my house and stood in my home office, you would see a tall bookshelf that contains every Steven King novel in hardcover. He wins. I've been reading him from the beginning, and I still do.
What’s your favorite book?
I’ve read The Stand at least 6 times, maybe more, and that book is over 1,000 pages. I love that story.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing in elementary school. I wrote stories and convinced the teacher to let me read them to the class. I wrote stories through middle and high school, studied creative writing in college, and continued writing through my adult life. If I told you how long that was, you’d know how old I am. Long enough.
Did you get straight A's in high school?
No. I got B's in calculus and physics. But I did not have a gorgeous poet for a boyfriend or try to attempt suicide either. Those are some examples of how I added plot elements to turn a simple personal conflict into a suspenseful novel. I won't add other spoilers here in case you haven't read the book.
Did you belong to a writer’s club in high school?
Yes. And it was a lot like the one described in Straight A’s.
What role did teachers play in your life in high school?
I was fortunate to attend a relatively small high school with excellent, caring teachers like Mrs. Piper and Mr. Brown. In Straight A's, the teachers are composite characters, made up of the best of several of my favorites.
What inspired you to write Hollow Beauty?
I started my first diet in middle school, around the time that puberty hit. I remember having "head rushes" where everything went black because my blood sugar dropped so low from not eating all day. Then I went to college and gained the Freshman Fifteen. I've struggled with dieting and body image issues for a lot of my life. In my thirties, I lost 60 pounds on Weight Watchers, and I remain relatively stable at a healthy weight.
According to one Internet article that I found, I was in the 91% of female teenagers who tried dieting. Maybe I was even in the 40% who had an eating disorder, though I don’t know if I qualified for the label. Does it really matter? With so many still struggling with anorexia even today, the subject of eating disorders and dieting was something that I wanted to explore more deeply in a YA novel, and that’s what I did with Hollow Beauty.
Are you a caver?
No. But I love visiting commercial caves and have toured Cathedral Caverns several times. It’s a beautiful place. I highly recommend it.
Drive to June
Is it true that you don’t text?
When I published Drive to June, I still had a flip phone without texting capability. I didn't get a Smart Phone until February, 2016, and I still don't use it very well, though I'm improving. I prefer email.
When did you learn to drive?
Like most teens, I got my learner’s permit at fifteen and license at sixteen. My boyfriend-now-husband taught me to drive stick shift when I was nineteen. He was extremely patient. A few years later, I wrecked his mustang.
What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Moose tracks. Or maybe cookie dough. I can’t decide.