I began writing about 9 years ago, when my second kiddo was born. I wanted to be a novelist, but learned very quickly that I didn't know anything about novel-writing. So I concentrated on "smaller" projects for several years, while at the same time studying and learning everything I could about writing the novel. In the meantime, I won the Erma Bombeck Global Humor Award twice (2005 & 2006), and began writing a column for The Kansas City Star. I also blog for The Star's mom blogsite, Mom2MomKC. In my non-writer life, I'm a stay-at-home mom of three kids, two cats, and two dogs (basset hound and boxer), and spend my days listening to the "Wicked" soundtrack and cleaning the same ten square feet of house over and over again.
2. What got you started writing? What brought you to YA?
3. Tell us about your most recent/ upcoming release?
HATE LIST is the story of the aftermath of a school shooting, told from the point of view of the shooter's girlfriend, Valerie Leftman. Val's got a tough road ahead of her as she returns to school. She's technically the "hero" who stopped the shooting and saved the lives of some fellow students, but also the "villain" who, without realizing it, began the list that her boyfriend used to choose his victims. She has to navigate all the emotions and fear of having lived through the shooting, having lost her boyfriend to suicide, not to mention having gotten shot herself in the process of stopping the shooting.
I'm not a big "plotter," because I find that for me, personally, to write down what's going to happen sort of takes the story out of me. I get to a point where I feel like I've already told the story, so I don't have the same amount of oomph! for writing the story itself. That said, I don't start writing until I have the major plot points figured out in my head. I always know where the story is going to go, and how it will generally get there, but the details are up for the characters to decide.
5. Many authors have told me their characters talk to them, and sometimes even have different ideas of where the story should go than the author. Do you hear your characters?
Yes, absolutely. In fact, one thing that I do make sure I do before sitting down to write a story, is write out an exhaustive "character profile" of my main character. That way, she's more "real" to me when I actually start putting her in sticky situations. For Valerie, my main character in HATE LIST, I actually had her "go to therapy" before I started writing. She told her therapist lots of interesting things that really helped when trying to get into her head in the story.
6. Who is your favorite character (of your own)?
Valerie Leftman, my main character in HATE LIST. I love Val because she's strong and I have a lot of hope for her. She's going to struggle, but she's a good learner and she's got a good heart, so I know she's ultimately going to have a great life.
7. What hobbies do you have when you're not writing?
Well, I'm a stay-at-home mom of three, so there isn't a ton of time for hobbies when I'm not writing, just because there's all the mom stuff to get done. Of course, I'm a constant reader. I read every day (actually, every night, and I can't sleep until I've read enough to satisfy me, even if it's 2AM before I've found a moment to read). I love to get outside and play with the kids -- take them to the park, play soccer or baseball or basketball, whatever. I love musicals and try to take in at least a couple of them every year (and I listen to musical soundtracks on my iPod constantly), and I'm a Disney fanatic, so I collect Disney snowglobes and trading pins, and am almost always planning a trip to Walt Disney World, even if, technically, we're not actually going there anytime soon.
8. If you had not become a writer what would you have done instead?
I always wanted to be a high school English teacher, but for some odd reason I majored in Psychology and worked in Human Resources. So I guess it's fair to say if this writing thing hadn't worked out, I'd still be filling out insurance forms and payroll for some company. Or I'd be back in school, getting that Education degree.
If you wrote a book about your life, what would the title be?