How long does it take for you to write a book?
If you count the time it cooks in your head, then my first picture book
took 5 years, but only 3 months to get the words on paper. My first
novel took 3 years of paper work, and the second took two. Maybe the
second time around I had learned more about how to write a novel, or
maybe not. My editor says "It takes as long as it takes." She's right.
2) What is it that you enjoy about writing?
My brain is always busy. Writing gives it an outlet. And I love being
in control of what my characters say and do. Not like real life at all.
3) Did you go to college to learn how
to be an author?
I took a university creative writing course once. It was a blast. I
asked the professor if I should get an English degree because I wanted
to be a writer. He said, "No, just write. Read and write." Best advice
I ever got. Been doing it ever since.
4) Where do you get all the names for
From people I love (for the good guys), and those I don't (for the baddies).
And sometimes just names I hear that catch my ear.
What was your easiest book to write and why?
The Dog Wizard. Two real stories of my life collided and the book happened
in a week.
6) How old were you when you started
I've been telling stories all my life. I tried putting a few on paper
in my early twenties. I liked the results but it was very personal and
I kept it a big secret. I didn't try again until I was 33.
7) Did you ever do something strange,
weird, not normal as a kid?
All the time. I was never normal, which sometimes bothered me. I'm still
not normal, but it doesn't bother me as much now.
8) Where do you get the ideas for your
I overhear a conversation, see something on the news, talk to a friend,
remember an emotional moment from my past and I start asking myself
questions: Why did this happen? What would happen if things changed?
So I change things - and a story starts.
What kind of books do you like to read?
Almost anything that is well written, but mostly kids books because
they are so important and some of the best work out there. I don't read
my genre when I'm writing, so I find good adult non-fiction or the National
Geographic to entertain me.
10) Were you ever asked to change a
Yes, but no one found a better one so they used mine.
11) Were books a part of your childhood?
Oh yes. My parents' den was floor to ceiling books. Three sets of encyclopedias
and dozens of books on science and nature (loved them all), the complete
works of Dickens (boring), and Kipling (also boring), the Classics for
children (somewhat interesting) and my father's and grandfather's Sci-fi
collection (the BEST). My mother also read to us every night until we
were old enough to read to ourselves.
12) When are the times you usually get
most of your ideas?
When I least expect it, cooking supper, feeding the horses, driving
to work, just before I fall asleep. That's why I keep a notebook handy.
I have notebooks all over the place!
13) Do you enjoy being an author?
Absolutely love it!
14) What advice do you give to young
people who want to be authors?
Read lots. Write lots. Have fun.
15) Where do you get ideas for your
I use little bits of different people from my life, mix them together
and make up the rest. They all have a bit of me in them, too.
16) What caused you to be involved in
children's literature, rather than adult literature?
The most important books in my life, the ones that affected how I thought
and felt about the world, I read as a child. It would be wonderful to
be able to affect someone else's life like that.
What advice would you give to young writers about what to do when
you're writing a story and come to a roadblock?
Stop thinking about the story and go clean your room. Or do some other
brain-neutral activity and ideas will just sneak up on you.
18) If you had a wish, what would it
To live a long healthy life and so I can write more books.
19) What is your favorite food?
Buttered popcorn and dark chocolate, but not at the same time.
20) What was your favorite subject in
Math, because it was easy.
21) Who is your favorite author?
There are so many. Basically I like anyone who can write a really well
imagined story with no extra words.
22) When you are finished with one of
your books, how do you feel?
Elated! And exhausted. I take a little vacation from writing, then new
characters start doing things in my head and I have to pay attention
and see what happens next.
23) How often do you write?
A writer is always writing. During the winter months I put words on
paper between 6:00 and 12:00 in the morning, six days a week. I don't
write much in the summer but I think about it often and make lots of
24) How do you decide what to write
When I get a really good idea I write it down. After a long time I look
through my notebooks and discover I have had the same really good idea
many times, so that's the story I do next.