Do you have any sort of writing routine?
As a mother of two with a full-time job, finding a routine is hands down the hardest part of my writing life. In the summer, I write when my kids are napping. In the school year, I'm still working on finding a good schedule, but it tends to be after my kids go to bed. I try to write for at least 30 minutes a day. I don't really focus on words or pages as a goal, though I do usually check how much I've accomplished. I have an office, but often find myself writing at the kitchen table, especially since we've bought a fixer-upper and my office has not yet been fixed up. My husband is working on the electricity and right now there isn't any in my office.
You got the idea for your novel Secrets of Truth & Beauty while watching the movie Little Miss Sunshine. Do you think Dara and Olive would get along?
I'd like to say yes, but I wonder if Olive would think Dara too serious and if Dara might find Olive a little kooky. I think Grandpa Edwin Hooper would love it on the farm.
How long did it take you to write the first draft, and subsequently to sell it?
Secrets happened really quickly. I can't remember how long the first draft took, but I had a draft ready for agents in nine months or so. Then, once I got my agent, Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger, she was able to sell it quite quickly, within a couple of months, I think. This was back in late 2007, which might as well have been a different era. The Water Castle was a much longer process. I don't remember exactly how long it took. We did a revision for Mary Kate Castellani at Walker who ended up buying it.
What inspired your novel The Water Castle?
The Author's Note of The Water Castle is all about the inspiration for the story. It was inspired largely by places I lived and visited, from an old stone house much like the house in the book to the Poland Springs bottling plant. I went a lot different directions before the right story for the places came to me. I thought I might write about teens with special powers, but got too bogged down. Eventually, from the core elements of the castle-like house, a house full of books, and strange happenings in a small town, the story emerged.
What's your target audience for this story?
The Water Castle is for a younger audience than Secrets of Truth & Beauty, probably ages eight to twelve or so.
Tell me about your current work-in-progress.
I just finished a rewrite on another MG novel, a mystery set in the 1950s wherein a girl becomes convinced there's a Communist spy working for her parents.
What do you think your books have in common? Do they feature different aspects of your writing, and of yourself?
I think all of my books deal with revelations, uncovering things that are hidden, especially within families. I also am interested in the play between the past and present. This is really tricky when writing for kids and teens because the characters lives are so short. So, I often find myself looking at multiple generations.
Do you find it difficult to name your characters? Have you ever named a character after someone you know personally?
I do find it very difficult to name my characters. I use baby books and the Social Security names database. I actually try to avoid naming characters after people I know, which is hard when you work in a school and so many kids pass through your life.
You have a master's degree in library science and now work as a librarian at a school. Tell me about the path that led you to your library.
I started off working in television, but quickly realized it wasn't for me. I decided to move to Boston with a friend, but she needed a couple of months longer than I did to be ready to move, so I went back home and was substitute teaching. One day I was assigned to the library. I'd like to say it was an "A-ha!" moment, but really it was more of "Duh!" moment. All my life I'd done service projects and worked on literacy. Working in a library was a natural outgrowth of that, but it hadn't occurred to me until that moment. Fortunately, Boston is home to Simmons GSLIS, a fantastic library school. My education there was fantastic, though very theoretical. I was lucky to also have a part time job as a children's librarian. When I graduated, I took a position at an amazing independent high school, The Commonwealth School. I would probably still be there if my husband and I hadn't decided to move to Maine. After four years at a public high school, I am now at an independent school serving as their middle school librarian.
Happy new school year to you! What kind of programs have you been involved with that the kids really enjoyed?
I'm very proud of the coffeehouses we held in the public school where I worked. I believe that libraries should be as much about students sharing their skills and knowledge as they are places where information is retrieved, if not more so. Giving kids a creative outlet to express themselves made me very happy. I also try to use the connections I've made as a writer to get kids in touch with their favorite authors.
What are your ten favorite books of all time?
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