I love to write for young adults and middle grade readers. I love to write book with diverse characters and that cover difficult topics like caring for the environment or people with special needs. Cry of the Sea, Whisper of the Woods, and Passing Notes are my contemporary fantasy novels published by Fire and Ice Young Adult Books. I also have a Middle Grade book about bully and Autism Awareness, No One Needed to Know. My first adult romance story is in Second Chance for Love (Satin Romance Books), and I have fantasy stories in the books Fantastic Creatures, Tomato Slices, and A Tall Ship, a Star, and Plunder. I love to read too - fantasy and adventure being my favorite kinds of books.
One of my favorite activities as a kid was drawing. I liked getting books about drawing from the library and trying to copy the pictures. I never got very good at it, though. I also really loved dancing and singing and took dance and voice lessons. This, I confess, I was pretty good at. I wound up majoring in theater in college, and I still perform occasionally to this day.
My favorite book in primary grades was Black Beauty, in upper elementary (6 th grade in particular, when I was going through bullying) was Harriet the Spy, and in middle school/high school was The Neverending Story.
2. Did you ever consider becoming an author as a child? If so, what was your first story about?
I did like writing as a child. I wrote my own version of The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe for my dad where the kids go through a closet and come into a world made of chocolate candy. The evil queen in my story made everything sour. I also wrote a series of tiny picture books about invisible monsters called The Itchies or The Ticklers. I didn’t really consider writing as a profession until after I graduated from college, though.
3. Are there any obstacles you overcame as a writer, and if so, how did you overcome them?
I am still struggling to “make it big”. I’ve been publishing stories and books for 22 years now. I consider them all bumps of success, but I have yet to be with a major publisher that has the publicity and notoriety that some of my author friends receive. I am proud of the work I’ve done, but my audience is small. I am grateful to social media and book bloggers (like yourselves) for helping me get the word out. I know that my books tackle issues that aren’t best-seller topics, and when people like you support me, it really helps validate what I’m doing.
4. If you could go back in time and give yourself advice before writing NO ONE NEEDED TO KNOW, what would it be, and why?
I’m not really sure what my advice would be. My book No One Needed to Know has actually been given a second chance. I originally wrote it about 16 years ago and had it published by a tiny publisher. It was called Special back then. That publisher closed soon after the book came out, and the book went out of print. Marking it as a failure, I kind of forgot about it until Schoolwide Inc. announced in 2014 that they were looking for books and were open to previously published titles. I did a revision of the book and submitted it. They accepted it for publishing, and we did two more major revisions to it before they published it in their digital library. This new version is SO MUCH BETTER thanks to the editing it received, so I’m very grateful to have had this opportunity to breathe new life into it. Without Schoolwide, I think it still would be languishing on my computer hard drive.
5. NO ONE NEEDED TO KNOW is about a girl, Heidi, who has an autistic older brother. Heidi has never minded playing with her brother, but now, as she gets older, she finds that both she and her brother are getting bullied for his autism. What was your inspiration for this story?
This novel is based loosely on my own life. I have a brother who is 4 years older than me and autistic. I always thought he was a lot of fun to play with – lots of make believe games and many bicycle trips to various parks around town. I hit an age (11/12) when I stopped wanting to play that way as much, and that’s when I realized that my brother, who was in high school, should have stopped wanting to play like that a long time before me. It was when I became really aware that my brother was different than the other kids. While Heidi’s story is fictional, it does come from that time in my life, and there are a handful of moments in the book that were real moments in our lives.
6. Heidi, the main character of NO ONE NEEDED TO KNOW, is a strong, likable character, one that changes drastically from the start of the novel to the end. How did you conceive of Heidi’s character? Was her character inspired by anyone you know?
I’m glad that you like Heidi. She is a little rough for a while in the book, and I do worry about people not liking her or sticking with her to the end. Like I wrote above, she is based mostly on my own life. She’s also got a little of our middle brother in her too. He was closer in age to my oldest brother, and he got a more of the bullying and name-calling than I did. While my oldest brother could be lots of fun to play with, he could also be frustrating at times. There were certainly plenty of times that I was impatient or even mean to my brother when he wasn’t doing things ‘normally’.
I think when we see people getting bullied, we get protective of the person getting bullied, but we often don’t see when we are doing it ourselves. For example, my stepdaughter (who is 7 years older than my daughter) said recently that no one was allowed to bully my daughter, but it was okay for her to because they were siblings. According to her, she was the only one who had the right. I had to remind her that no one had the right to bully anyone, ever. Not even siblings.
As I grew and matured, I learned more about special needs and even wound up teaching in special education. I put a lot of what I know into this character and what she experiences.
7. What’s your favorite part about writing a novel?
Revision. I know other authors look at me with confusion over that, but I like fixing the book more than writing it. Writing first drafts is painful for me, and I try to write in chunks at a time. Revising, though, feels more artistic. That’s where I prune and reshape the words to be what I need them to be. I love looking at an old project with fresh eyes and trying to find a new way to make it work.
8. What’s an average day for you when you write?
I am not a full time writer. I am a teacher, the lead teacher in an infant classroom in a wonderful school that has both typical and special needs students. I work 40 hours a week. I do most of my writing on the weekends and sometimes on weeknights when I’m under a deadline. A lot of time my weeknights, when I get home from work and before dinner, are dedicated to my marketing. On weekends I try to do more work on my writing, revisions or blog posts.
9. Do you have any new children’s books in the making? If so, could you share a few hints?
At the moment I’m in final edits for my 3 rd book of a YA series I have published with Fire and Ice Young Adult Books. It will be out in May. The Juniper Sawfeather Novels are about a teen environmental activist who discovers mythical creatures while trying to protect the natural world. I’ve been asked to write a short prequel story for a project in April, and I’ve also been asked to write short Christmas themed stories based on my characters from that series and from No One Needed to Know for another anthology project. As soon as that is finished I will go back to working on another YA project about the power of love letters. I am considering my next project after that to be writing a full-length children’s book based on a short story I had published in Story Friends magazine about a girl who helps a friend with cerebral palsy build a treehouse.
10. NO ONE NEEDED TO KNOW is extremely moving and well-written. What is one question you would ask yourself, and could you please answer it?
Thank you. I’m so glad you enjoyed my book. Sometimes I ask myself why I continue to write. It’s not paying my bills. It’s not getting me famous. There is a lot of self-doubt in this profession, especially when your sales are low and you feel your voice is too small and quiet. There are authors who like to say grand things like, “I have to write. I’d go crazy if I wasn’t writing.” That’s not me. Writing is pretty hard, and I actually can think of lots of things that are more fun to do than sitting at my computer pulling words out of my head to try to convey a thought.
I think I keep at it simply because I keep getting ideas that plague me. Stories needle me until I can’t help but try to find a way to share them. Mostly, though, it’s people like you who review my work and say that it’s worth something that keeps me motivated. When readers or reviewers let me know that my writing touched them or moved them, then I think I need to continue on this path. One day my work might reach that broader audience, and when that happens, I’ll be so thrilled. Until then, I take every word of encouragement like a bit of sunshine breaking through all my clouds of insecurity.