Author Interview from 2003:
How did you begin writing?
Writing followed naturally from my love of stories and reading. It gave me a way to create, to enjoy and share my own ideas and stories. As a child, I remember my mom reading me Enid Blyton’s marvelously imaginative tales, but I couldn’t get enough. If learning to read meant I could enjoy these whenever I wanted, I was eager to learn, and from there, to write, so I could create my own stories. I’ve been writing ever since!
Why do you continue to write?
To me, it’s as normal a part of life as eating and sleeping. Not only that, but it’s fulfilling, rewarding in countless ways. I write for much the same reasons I read: to experience adventures I otherwise could not. It is through writing that I can best explore ideas, as well as create something fresh and exciting — a new world. Besides, if I didn’t write, what would I do with all the ideas cluttering my mind? Why not let them out and share them with others? Writing is my way of contributing to the magical world of fiction, a world I so admire.
What authors do you like to read? Have any books had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I’ve enjoyed books by a wide ranged of writers, depending on my age and interests at the time. Some that come to mind are: the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, books by L.M. Montgomery (particularly the Emily ones), Andrew Lang’s fairy tale collections, Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy books, Nancy Drew, Trixie Beldon, The Ordinary Princess, Calico Captive, and books by Beverly Butler, Cameron Dokey, Lois Duncan, Victoria Holt, Joan Lowry Nixon, Phyllis A. Whitney. But overall, I’m pretty much a “single title” chooser — if the book looks good, I’ll give it a try. I have a very fond place in my heart for Regina Doman’s The Shadow of the Bear, a creative retelling of the Snow White and Rose Red fairy tale. This book is a unique treasure — an exceptionally charming, entertaining and suspenseful read — all this without sacrificing values and morals. It is in this vein of writing that I strive to follow.
What are your writing habits? How, when, and where do you write? In longhand or on a computer? At a certain time and/or in a certain place?
My writing habits fluctuate, changing to suit my needs. I don’t tend to write in long stretches, but often return to the work throughout the day. For a while, I would write anywhere but at my desk (I associated it too much with school!). Lately I’ve found that combining writing with eating breakfast and/or lunch is a great way to trick myself into being productive — I don’t eat till I’ve written something; then, once begun, I don’t want to stop writing, even when the food’s gone (and a dirty plate sits beside me). I most enjoy the writing process when the day is behind me and I’m sitting in bed; my door closed on the rest of the world, I really become immersed in the story, savoring it. My mind comes alive at night, but also in the morning — these are my favorite writing times. But I don’t believe in sitting about waiting to be “inspired” — too often this becomes an excuse for procrastination, at least for me. I can write just about anywhere; it’s really a matter of telling myself I can. I’ve written in airports, cars, lying on the floor, at the kitchen table, in bed, outside by a lake, or sunning on a deck. For this very reason, I find writing in longhand works best for me because I can transport my pen and folder of loose-leaf papers anywhere. I need the freedom of being able to shuffle papers about, scribble notes in the margins, cross out, circle, and draw arrows all over the place. Also, when I later type my story into the computer, this acts as an automatic rewrite, one of the necessary steps in getting my manuscript into its best possible form.
How do you avoid distractions?
This depends on whether I want to avoid distractions. Honestly, sometimes washing my car is very tempting. I’m a procrastinator, yet I must have some way of avoiding distractions or I wouldn’t have managed to get a novel into print. Most often it’s simply a matter of sitting (or laying) myself down and rereading a little of my story to get myself back in the mood. Once my hand is moving the pen, I usually become immersed and don’t stop until it’s for a valid reason. (Like that darn car.)
How do you get ideas?
Hmmm, it seems more like the ideas “get” me. Too often I’m snuggled in bed, ready for a good night’s sleep, when — Wham! — ideas invade my mind, and it’s goodbye to rest. Free from the cares of daytime activity, my imagination takes over. I have to keep popping up out of bed to jot notes so I don’t forget. Generally, ideas can come from anywhere: people, situations you get into or hear about, TV, newspapers, movies, songs . . . Once you start thinking “what if . . . ?” you’re on your way. I often begin with a situation or scene, and then in come the characters; they start talking to me, and it’s time to write down what they are saying. I’m thankful for night ideas, because they’re often the best. Of course, a lot of useless ideas come, too; in the blackness of night they seem brilliant. Then morning comes and I realize that’s not the case. But by weeding through the ideas, a few roses can usually be found.
What writing projects are you working on at the moment?
Too many! I love the variety, but it can become overwhelming; I have to take a step back and say, “Choose one thing and stick with it, at least for today. You can’t work on everything at once. It’s hard because I get so many ideas and get excited about so many different things. Some of my many projects include picture books, short stories, articles, a middle-grade novel called Project Graveyard, a cookbook, another suspense novel that needs revisions, and numerous other young adult novels. I’d love to write a historical novel, but feel a bit daunted by all the research involved. I like research, but tend to burry myself with notes.
Is suspense your favorite genre to write in?
I couldn’t say until I’ve written in the others. I enjoy reading historical stories, as well as mystery, inspirational, adventure, clean romances, and fantasy, and have my own ideas for novels in these genres. But certainly suspense tops my list, if only for the fact that, in one way or another, it is an essential element in any good book to make you want to keep reading.
What is the worst thing about being a writer?
For me, I’ve had to battle self-doubt, especially when people asked “What do you do?” and I’d have to say, “Write.” I’d imagine them thinking, “Okay . . . what does that mean?” or, “You’re not really a writer unless you’re published,” or, “Sure, it’s nice to dream, but get real!” I’ve learned to change my way of thinking. Like when I decided I’d rather devote my time to writing than continuing college for another degree, I knew deep down that this was right, even though everyone around me was going to school, and if I spent my time writing instead of worrying, I’d have something to show for it. I told myself to be thankful God gave me some talent, and I shouldn’t waste it, but work to develop it. I’m also thankful for my family; they’ve given me ultimate, unwavering support. Now the problems I face are usually focused on marketing, which takes up so much time, and the organizational and productivity aspects of writing. Days come when I don’t feel like writing or the words won’t flow. This is no big deal as long as I keep things in perspective. If this project doesn’t work out, I’ll turn to another. Writing holds inexhaustible possibilities; it’s reassuring to remember this. Writing can be a frustrating business, but the rewards far outweigh the difficulties.
Do you ever experience “writer’s block”?
Not consciously. If I think about it and label it as such, it will only hinder my writing. Certainly there have been times when I feel I’ve written myself into a rut, but then I simply write myself out of it, or take a break and read a good book, watch a movie, bake a cake, or go for a walk. Most likely, the problem will work itself out in time or be forgotten.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
My greatest delight is being able to share stories with others. If people get enjoyment from my writing, experience emotion and a heartwarming read, I could not ask for better reason to be a writer. Yet it would be nonsense to say I don’t write first and foremost for myself; I’m constantly enjoying the privilege of taking journeys of the imagination. It all works out, though, because if something fascinates me, I trust it will thrill others as well.
In what way, if any, do you think being homeschooled help you become a writer?
Being homeschooled had a definite impact on me, and I consider it a major influence in my development as a writer. I was able to take advantage of so many opportunities for exploring my interests. I had the freedom to read and write in a wholesome, undaunting setting. Sometimes I’d write stories during recess (much to my brother’s annoyance!) I’m a firm believer that a homeschool environment nurtures creativity. It provided me with a self-motivation-education that has carried over into many aspects of my life.
Do you think your faith (Catholic) affects your writing?
Definitely, since it is an essential part of who I am. But it’s never my intention to preach or moralize in my stories. As the writer, I should be invisible. Readers should come to their own conclusions, identifying with the characters — my purpose is not there to be saying, “You must believe this or that.” But I find that Christian values and truths enrich my writing, challenge and inspire me and my characters; if they move my readers also, wonderful. But I never forget that the reason someone is reading is for a good story, and that is what I strive to write.
What other hobbies and interests do you have, aside from writing?
I enjoy bike riding in the summer and snowboarding in the winter. I like cooking and baking and developing new recipes. In fact, it’s one of my many ambitions to publish a cookbook. Another interest I have is cake decorating. I never cease to be fascinated by the beautiful creations that can be made with a few simple tips and a bag of frosting.
What advice do you have for other writers?
Read and write as much as possible. The more you learn about the craft, the more you can perfect it. Don’t let yourself be defined by whether or not you are published. If you write, you are a writer. Subscribe to writing magazines, join a writers’ group, take a class, live in the library (my personal favorite). Perseverance, determination, persistence — whatever you call it, don’t give up. The world always has room for one more writer. No one else can tell your story quite like you can.
Tell us about some of your childhood writing experiences.
I was about five when my brother showed me how to sew together pages and bind them into “book” form. From there I was eager to fill my book with a story. I wrote My Pet Butterfly, using such bad spelling that I’m probably the only one who can decipher the story. At eleven I was into Nancy Drew and so started my own “series” with a heroine called Vicky Gail. I spent hours pecking out chapters on an ancient typewriter, the keys often jamming together. I used to spend my school recesses writing while my brother badgered me to play outside with him. I reached an age when I was fascinated by writing fairy tales, then I started on an historical novel about a girl kidnapped by outlaws, journeying across the Wild West. I intended these things to be published someday, but now I see them as the valuable writing lessons they were: they helped me learn the craft while nourishing my imagination and honing my writing skills. I’d be embarrassed if they were published!