Did you always want to be a writer?
Always? Hmm, I'm really not sure about the early days and years of my life. I am sure I was more interested in cartoons and action figures than writing, so I highly doubt it. But I do recall writing little stories way back in elementary school and catching the writing bug. It stayed with me, and I kind of always knew I'd eventually write and publish a book or two. Teaching actually took my mind off the idea of writing and being published, but when I read more and more with my students and heard their opinions more and more, I started to realize I knew what the middle and high school reader wanted in a story. I've been at it ever since, trying my best to bring my readers what they crave.
Where do your ideas (your stories) come from?
Life. That's my #1 answer. Every second of life is material for your writing. Whether it's a personal experience, or maybe a random notion that crosses my mind, every second on this planet is an opportunity to find inspiration for a story. This also relates to learning, my #2 answer, since everything I learn is material to be used for my writing as well. When I read something, or watch a program, or observe something, it captures me in wonder. There are times when I learn something new, like years ago when I learned about Nikola Tesla, where I find myself saying, "I just HAVE to learn as much as I can about this and write about it."
What were your favorite books to read as a child and teenager?
The book that got me hooked on storytelling was MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN, by Jean Craighead George, which now seems rather boring as I read it as an adult. It was that sense of “I could be Sam Gribley” that got me turning page after page, and I’ve been turning pages ever since. When I was in middle school, THE OUTSIDERS totally grabbed my entire being and squeezed it. I felt like I was a Greaser, a part of the brawls.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Revise! Revise! Revise! What you THINK is ready for the world is really not. At all. If you haven’t had tedious dreams where you’re revising the project you’re working on, stressing over each sentence--each word--then you’re not ready to send it off into the wild.