I Know You Have Questions . . . I May Have Some Answers . . .
Would you believe reading? It’s true–I read for pleasure every day.
I also like to hike in the woods near my house, go mountain biking, and go cross-country skiing in the winter. My husband Eric and I love to travel. Some of the countries we’ve visited are the UK, Ireland, Italy, Peru, Vietnam, Germany, Austria, and Hungary. The picture above was taken outside a museum in Rome.
I have a dog named Murphy and a cat named Scout.The cat is named after the main character in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Murphy is completely in love with Scout. He thinks she’s amazing, remarkable, adorable. Scout tolerates Murphy and slaps him in the face with both paws when she gets tired of him.
Yes, I have two sons, Jackson and Ethan. They are in their twenties and living their own lives now.
The both make brief cameos in two of my camp books. Jackson appears in Tug-of-War and Ethan is in Pranked, each playing a boy at one of the dances. I had them both read those passages to approve of how their characters were described. At the time those books were written, they were the same ages as the characters they play.
The Borrowers series by Mary Norton.
They are set in Victorian England and feature a family of tiny people about six inches tall who live beneath the floor of an old manor house. Pod, the father, borrows everything the family needs from the household. The later books follow their adventures after they’re forced to leave their home. I read that series the summer that my mother died. You’d think I would have sad memories associated with those books, but it was just the opposite. I loved them so much, and I’ve re-read them many times. They’re as good now as I remember them being when I was a kid.
Beneath the Wheel by Hermann Hesse.
It’s the story of a brilliant young student who is accepted into an academy but then suffers a nervous breakdown and later dies. Cheerful, huh?
I’m not sure why I love this book so much, but I do. Its prose is beautiful and lyrical. Many people have read Hesse’s better known novels like Steppenwolf or Siddhartha, but this is one of his earlier, more obscure works. I’ve read this book dozens of times. It’s one that I’ll pull off my shelf, open to a random page, and start reading.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
I find its structure to be perfect, with visits from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. The language is beautiful and memorable. EVERYONE knows the story because it’s been adapted so many times into films and plays. And the story of a mean, miserable man finding redemption near the end of his life is one of hope. My favorite film adaptation is the George C. Scott version from 1985.
Writers get asked this a lot. It’s probably the most common writer question. (To find out the inspirations for my books, look at each page for that novel.)
Ideas come from everywhere. From personal experience. From observing something another person is going through. From something that moves you emotionally. From a news story. From reading another book or watching a movie that makes you think of something similar. From a concept–like “seizing the day” or “facing your fears.” From something that interests you. From a character who starts forming in your mind, and you wonder about her story. From a setting you love. From how you wish a story had played out.
I don’t have problems coming up with ideas. I have more ideas for books than I can possibly write down in my lifetime. Sometimes it’s tough to choose which idea I want to write about next.
Well, it wasn’t easy, let me tell ya!
First I had to write a book. The first novel I wrote was The Terrible Trio, which eventually became Pranked in the Summer Camp Secrets series. I wrote it while I was a stay-at-home mom with a two-year-old. Fortunately, my son was a great napper, because that’s when I wrote.
Once the book was written, I didn’t know what to do next. I started going to writers’ conferences to learn more about the writing profession. For children’s writers, the best organization to join is SCBWI–the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
Then I started submitting my manuscript to publishing houses and agents. Eventually, I got an agent. For many years, my book sat around gathering dust; I wasn’t submitting it anywhere. Eventually, after many long years, I received a contract to publish my book and to write two more in the series. A few years later, I got a contract to write three more in the series.
How long did all that take? Well, my two-year-old son had his drivers’ license by the time my first books were published.
I’d recommend these four things:
- Read, read, read, read. Read everything, read stuff you like, read stuff you’re not sure you’re going to like, try new things, try new authors. I’ve never yet met a writer who wasn’t first a voracious reader.
- Write. Keep a journal. I write in a journal now, but I really wish I’d kept one when I was younger. You think you’ll remember everything that’s happening to you now–and you will remember some stuff–but you’d be surprised at how much you forget.
- Analyze. Think about your favorite books. Why do you love them so much? Is it the characters? The setting? The story itself?
- Study. If you can take a creative writing class, then do so. But I only ever took one creative writing class myself. They weren’t offered in my junior high or high school.
No, you’re not lame. I knew I wanted to be a writer for YEARS before I wrote anything at all. Maybe you’re just not ready yet. Give it time. You’ll know when the time is right.
For me, it was a dream. I dreamed I had cancer and that I was dying. I woke up and thought, Okay, I know I’m not dying. But then I thought, if I only had a few months to live, what would I do? That was enough to make me start writing.
Congratulations! That’s awesome. Many people want to write a book, some start one, a handful actually finish one. So great work!
But nope, I can’t read it. I’m a writer, not an editor. And you’re asking me to do for free what other people do for a living. You can pay a freelance editor to read your book and give you objective feedback.
Or you can join a writers’ group. Try to find other aspiring writers out there who write the same kinds of books you’ve written. Then you can read each other’s books and swap feedback.
Well, I’d love to have one of my books made into a movie. But writers don’t have any control over that. There’s a whole process involved where someone in the film industry buys the rights to your book, and then if the stars above align just right, maybe the book will become a great movie.
But I myself can’t say–“Hey, turn this book into a movie!” and have it happen.
Um, it sounds like you’re asking me to do your homework. Since I was an English teacher for many years, I’m not going to do that. You have to do your own homework.
This question gets asked in various ways. Sometimes it’s about character, or plot, or climax, or denouement, or some other literary term.
Nope, not gonna do your homework for you. Sorry.