Where were you born and raised and what was your family like?
I was born in Indiana, but lived there only a few weeks before my parents moved to Ohio. I grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, first in Berea, and then in Strongsville. I have a brother who is two and a half years older than me. Mom stayed home until we were in junior high and then went back to college herself, eventually getting her masterís degree in music. She was a professional harpist. Dad was (and still is) a workaholic and was the chief financial officer for a shipping and mining company on the Great Lakes. I guess it was a pretty typical suburban existence.
What kind of a kid were you?
Shy, shy, shy! I was a pre-school dropout. Embarrassing, but true. I cried so much that my mother eventually let me stay home until kindergarten. Probably not a good idea because then I cried my way through kindergarten. I also was always the ďfatĒ kid who got teased. I did grow out of my shyness and lost weight (but not until college) and put it back on and lost it again and put it back on and lost itÖ well, you get the idea. And, yes, I was a band geek. I played flute, eventually switching to bassoon, that tall, skinny instrument that looks a bit like a bazooka. In marching band, I played trumpet a couple of years. It wasnít that I was great at trumpet, but the band needed more brass firepower.
How did you decide to become a writer?
I wasnít one of those kids who knew at the age of four what she wanted to be. I loved to read, though, and I liked English class. I was intrigued by science, but awful at math. Unlike many of my friends who are writers, I did not fill journals with poetry or short stories. I didnít even work on the school paper, although I did have a small underground newspaper one year in high school that was a lot of fun. And, I did spend some time on the yearbook staff. I went off to college as an English/Journalism major, but it really wasnít until my junior year, when a teacher suggested I do some freelance pieces for the local newspaper, that I found my niche. I liked interviewing people and writing about them.
Where did you go to college?
I graduated from a small liberal arts college, Ashland College, about an hour south of Cleveland, Ohio. Now, itís called Ashland University. Then, I went straight to grad school. I received a masterís degree in magazine journalism from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.
But you didnít write books. Why not?
Even though I loved to read, I never thought about writing a book until I was much older. Iím not sure why. Maybe because I knew I needed a career that would pay me enough to live on. Seriously, most writers work other jobs unless theyíre independently wealthy (Iím not) or are on the best-sellerís list (I wish). My first job out of college was as a reporter for a small daily newspaper in Florida. I learned a lot about writing and definitely a lot about deadlines. I also learned that I hated covering city council meetings. Oh, the politics of small towns (and big towns, too). Later, I moved to Miami and worked for the now-defunct Miami News, the afternoon paper and competitor to The Miami Herald. I found my way into public relations writing when I took a job with Baptist Hospital of Miami. That was more than 20 years ago. And guess what? Iím still writing for them, although the company, Baptist Health, has grown from one hospital with a couple of thousand employees to five hospitals and about 12,500 employees. For ten years, I was an employee and wrote newsletters, brochures, pitched media stories, handled special events and crisis communication. Today, though, I write as a freelancer for them, mostly stories for their magazine, Resource, and several newsletters.
Would you rather write than do anything else?
I have to be honest with you; it totally depends on the day and the mood Iím in. Would I rather sit in my pjís and down a pint of Ben & Jerryís ice cream? Would I rather meet my friends for a spa day? Would I rather go to the movies with my kids? Most days, you betcha! But two things keep me writing: those darn, annoying bills seem to arrive nonstop in my mailbox and inbox, and, yes, I really do love to write.
Who inspired your love for reading?
My mom. Some of my earliest memories are of trips to the library. I remember, even before kindergarten, settling myself on the floor in the small childrenís section of our local library and devouring books like Little Bear. I even won a school summer reading contest the summer after first grade. I donít remember how many books I read that summer, but I know it was a lot. My mom and I read together all the time. Would you believe we kept up the habit even when I was a teenager? We would take turns reading chapters aloud to each other. She was a professional harpist, but she probably could have been a writer. She won some school awards for her writing. Sadly, she died before I sold a manuscript. I like to think that she knows, somehow, and that sheís proud of me.
Do you still read?
Iím always surprised when I talk to writers who say they donít have time to read. I HAVE to read, even more than I HAVE to write. It seems that I always have a book with me. If Iím at an appointment and sitting in a waiting room, Iím reading. If Iím in my car in the pickup lane at my daughterís school, Iím reading. Well, some would argue that Iím talking on the phone. ShhhÖ her school forbids drivers from using their cell phones while in the pickup line. And every night, no matter how exhausted I am when I plop into bed, Iíve got to read. I may only make it through a page or two before I have to ďrestĒ my eyes, but itís something I have to do. I confess that Iím not much of a TV watcher, so that probably gives me more time to read than a lot of people.
Why do you think itís important for writers to read?
I could go on and on about this one. Reading exposes you to a world you might never otherwise enter. Your imagination is stimulated. When I read, whether itís a newspaper article or a book, Iím constantly questioning. Questioning brings ideas. By reading, youíre also learning the musicality of writing. Hereís where my music background comes in. I really believe that writing/reading and music have a lot in common. There is a certain rhythm and style to both, a building of emotion and tension, highs and lows. Thereís a flow to dialogue. And, for those who really analyze what they read (which, truthfully, is not usually me), thereís a lot to be learned about plotting, themes, the bigger picture of a novel.
What authors and/or books do you love?
There are so, so many. As a kid, I read everything from Little House on the Prairie to every single Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys book. I loved Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies and To Kill a Mockingbird. Some young adult authors I canít put down are Sarah Dessen, Laurie Halse Anderson, M.T. Anderson, Carolyn Mackler, and of course, my local writing friends Ė Danielle Joseph, Christina Gonzalez, Gaby Triana, Marjetta Geerling, Alex Flinn, Joyce Sweeney (a writer and mentor to many of us), Dorian Cirrone, Debbie Reed FischerÖ I love middle-grade stories by Carl Hiaasen, Kate DiCamillo, and Jeff Kinney (author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series).
How do you get your ideas?
Everyone wants to know the secret of how an author gets an idea for a book. Hereís the secret: there isnít one. At least not for me. Ideas come from everywhere. As I said earlier, Iím a curious person. Iím a people-watcher. Iíve gotten ideas from things that have happened to me, my kids, my friends. Usually, itís a snippet of a thought that turns into something bigger.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Two months. Just kidding. I have written a first draft of a novel in three months, but it needed a lot of rewriting. Iíve taken a year or more to write another manuscript. I have the start of a few different stories on my computer that I swear Iíll get back to someday. So, I guess I can write a manuscript in three months to years.