1. Where were you born?
I was born and raised in Texas, where I still live with my husband and two daughters.
2. How long have you been writing?
I’ve been dreaming up stories since I was in middle school. I got very serious about writing when I was in college. I wrote my first novel during that time.
3. Did anyone inspire you to write?
My sixth-grade English teacher was G. Clifton Wisler, a well-respected published
author. I was very influenced by his love for reading and writing. In college,
a professor who taught writing encouraged me to keep writing. One day, he
pulled me aside and said, “Don’t quit.” I'm forever indebted to those particular
teachers because one unleashed my motivation to begin writing and the other,
my enthusiasm and determination to continue. Put another way, teachers rock!
4. What is your writing day like?
I generally like to write 500-1000 words per day. I find that is a comfortable pace for me. Often, I begin a story writing in a notebook. I like to write journal entries from a character's point of view to learn the sound of his or her voice. I take breaks in my writing day to go for walks. If I’m procrastinating, I sometimes find the need to reorganize my spice cabinet. Sometimes, having a deadline makes a person want to clean out her closets before she can get writing done. Why this is so is a mystery!
5. Will any of your books be made into movies?
There aren’t any plans for that right now. I've written the screenplay for MAYDAY and it has been recognized at the 88th Annual Writers Digest Writing Competition. Onward!
6. How do you come up with story ideas?
I’m constantly inspired by the world around me. Sometimes overhearing a small piece of a conversation or a bit of a news cast news story will ignite a story idea. Sometimes a story idea seems to fall from the sky and I feel as though I’ve been given a gift. Most of the time, I start with a character who seems interesting to me; I want to know everything about her/him and what makes her/him tick.
7. How long does it take for you to write a novel?
It takes me about two years fully develop a story.
8. Do you have any advice for writers?
Read a lot and write a lot. Learning to write is all about experimentation and practice. You must do a lot of both. Be willing to cut and edit fearlessly. Get feedback on your writing, too. Don’t feel as if you have to do exactly what the critique partner or editor suggests about your work. Think of these recommendations as an opportunity to look at your work from a new point of view. (For this reason, I love the editing process and I’ve been fortunate to have a wonderful, collaborative relationship with my editors.) And remember, clarity of story trumps stylistic flourish every single time. I like what Nathaniel Hawthorne said about this point: “Easy reading is damn hard writing.”
9. Is it true that you wrote one of your novels during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), 30-day writing challenge?
Yes. I wrote the first draft of SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY during NaNoWriMo several years ago.
10. Do you recommend the NaNoWriMo program?
Yes. Writing a novel in 30 days is a great way to force yourself into the habit of writing daily. I found the challenge exhilarating. Plus, having to write in such a condensed time frame helps you shut out your inner editor and get the story onto the page. I love this quote about writing from the movie FINDING FORRESTER: “No thinking - that comes later. You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is... to write, not to think!”
11. Who are your favorite authors?
My list of favorite books and authors gets longer every year. However, two of my all-time favorite books are LITTLE WOMEN by Louisa May Alcott and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee. When I was in college, I was very much inspired by and influenced by Ernest Hemingway so I read all of his stuff. I’m a huge fan of Stephen King, Gary D. Schmidt, Linda Urban, Louis Sachar, Elizabeth Berg, Kaye Gibbons and Garth Stein.
12. Tell us a couple of interesting things about you that few people know?
I was an extra in the film, "Born On the 4th of July", which was filmed in Dallas. Also, I hate cantaloupe!
13. Do you like to have music in the background when you’re writing?
When I’m first drafting a story, I like complete silence. As the story evolves, I create a custom playlist of songs I think the characters would like or that would match certain scenes. When I start editing, I like to have that playlist going.
14. Your next book, MAYDAY, features Wayne Kovok - a character from COURAGE FOR BEGINNERS. Why did you choose to write a book about him?
Sometimes I get so interested in minor characters that I want to follow their story. Wayne intrigues me because he's absorbed so many facts and wants the world to make sense. I wanted to know why that was so. I found out it's because he's struggling to find his place between an absentee father and a super-patriotic military grandfather. That's tough! And in MAYDAY, when Wayne loses his voice following a near-fatal plane crash, he realizes how much he wants to SHOUT at the people in his life, but can't. This story is so special to me. It's about love of family and country. It's about the challenge of living up to family expectations. It's about simultaneously doubting yourself while dreaming big.
15. What's on the MAYDAY playlist?
The first song on the MAYDAY playlist is, "The Soldier and The Oak" by Eliot Park.
And from there, "Wave on Ole Glory" by Billy Dean. (I love the video!)
"Kryptonite" by 3 Doors Down
"Breakaway" by Kelly Clarkson
"Til There Was You" by Meredith Willson (The Beatles' version)
"Hero" by Family of the Year
And the final song, the one I listened to over and over again while writing the last chapter of MAYDAY was "Learn to Fly" by The Foo Fighters. (I personally think this is Wayne's anthem.)
16. Do you Skype with students and classrooms?
Yes! Because I don't travel much, I love to Skype with groups who've read my books. I also love to answer student questions and I frequently write letters to entire classes! Contact me through my website for more details.