I grew up in San Francisco, but now live in an adobe house on the banks of the Rio Grande with my chaotic, messy family. I think I’ve drunk so much Land of Enchantment water that some of that ancient magic got into my blood and now spurts out my pencil—I mean ergonomic keyboard. I’ve been scribbling stories since I was a kid and it’s a thrilling dream-come-true to see them on the bookstore and library shelves. I make too many cookies when I’m revising and I’ve got the best book trailers for reals! Check them out on my website or YouTube.
I’ve stayed in a haunted castle tower room at Borthwick Castle in Scotland, sailed on the Seine in Paris, walked the beaches of Normandy, ridden a camel in Petra, sunbathed on Waikiki, shopped the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, and spent the night in an old Communist hotel in Bulgaria. For more info, visit my Webpage/ Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest / Tumblr / Youtube. Also, my just released Book Trailer for FORBIDDEN. It’s truly stunning.
What do you waste time doing?
Social Media! I have no self-control. I think I need a Writers Anonymous group for addiction.
What’s the biggest inconvenience about where you live?
The quiet solitude in the small town where I live along the Rio Grande is the thing I love the most, but also the most inconvenient. It takes extra hours every week for appts up in the city. Meeting with other writers to schmooze or critique takes more time. And for years I’ve been envious of all those famous writers who live IN New York City, where there are so many other big-name writers, as well as editor and agents to rub shoulders with. Lucky them!
If you could own a store, what sorts of things would you sell?
I’d love to own an antique store with lots of cool stuff. Clocks and books and lamps and Victorian furniture, old maps, photo albums of families from long ago. And dolls. Lots and lots of dolls with mystery curses.
What was your favorite meal when you were growing up?
Pizza. And it still is. And now I simply cannot eat pizza without a Dr. Pepper in hand.
What is the first thing that pops into your head when you think of politicians?
Corruption and Aggravation. Now if only I could be Queen of America, then most of this nonsense would stop!
What do you do every day, without fail?
Walk 2-3 miles along the quiet dirt roads of my neighborhood and river.
What is something you wish you did every day, without fail?
Do you do anything special to get your creative juices flowing?
I make cookies. Read a little bit every morning to get in the groove of magical words. And listen to music (without lyrics), strings and especially piano since I’m a pianist. Lovely, haunting and emotional music.
What are your words of wisdom for someone starting out in the field of writing?
If you adore books and read all the time, you’re already a step ahead of those who airily say, “Oh, I’ll write a book someday when I get the time.” Writers make time. They write. Often. (Although it doesn’t have to be a daily thing, I don’t write every single day.) Meet other writers. Read the award-winning books. Go to writer’s conference. In other words act like a writer, do the work and you will eventually have success. Even if it takes years. But do it because you love it passionately, not because you want to make money—although that’s really nice when it happens!
Why were you drawn to a career in writing instead of to a job that might offer more stability and security?
In the children’s lit world there is: Richard Peck, Katherine Paterson, Lois Lowry – too many to name!
What obstacles have you had to deal with in your career?
I’ve been writing for three decades and as I go to writer’s conferences and meet writers, read writer’s blogs, become friends on Facebook and Twitter, I *still* have the longest trajectory to publication than anybody else I’ve ever met. Honestly, somebody should give me the world’s biggest cinnamon roll just for that!
Lots of *practice* novels, rejections too numerous to count. Fifty queries before landing one of the best children’s agents in the business. And she has made all the difference for me. But first, I had several good publishable manuscripts ready to go out to editors.
How did you pick your writing genre?
I never stopped reading great children’s and young adult books. I was so in love with books growing up and knew by the time I was 9-10 years old that I wanted to create that same kind of magic in books one day.
What life experiences have inspired your work?
I love to travel and get so inspired by other settings, people, culture, and history. So most of my books are about other settings, people, culture and history! They take place in the deserts of New Mexico, the bayous of Louisiana, and the ancient world of belly dance and goddess temples in Mesopotamia.
When did you know for certain that you wanted to pursue a career in writing? Have you ever questioned that decision?
Of course! All the time. Especially during the years of famine: when I was writing my heart out and only receiving rejections—after already publishing lots of magazine stories and books with Random House. It was a difficult time, but I stuck with it.
I think it’s a natural thing when the road gets touch, long and lonely to wonder if you’re just going to bang your head against the wall forever. But only those who persevere and never give up are the ones who eventually do make it.