I was privileged to be allowed to read to students at Bowie Junior High school a few weeks ago. Here are some things they asked:
What themes do you write about? I write about people who struggle. In the Phantom series, the two main characters struggle with loneliness and with growing up. In All For Love, the woman struggles with so many things from infidelity, to alcoholism, to abortion and suicide. And in Stutter Creek and Lilac Lane, the protagonists struggle just to stay alive.
Who inspired you to write? Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King, Mary Stewart (The Crystal Cave); in other words, all my favorite authors
How long does it take to write a book? From a few weeks to a few months. Writing in first person (like in my Phantom series) is much easier than third person like my adult series (for me, at least).
How do you get over writer's block? If I get stuck on a story, it usually means my brain is fried, so I’ll go for a walk, or go to Sonic for a diet vanilla Coke. If I write myself into a corner from which I can’t possibly escape, I put that tale aside and start a new one. I have a file of hundreds of ideas for stories.
Were you excited when your first book was published? Yes! I was also very excited the first time I had a short story published (way back in the dark ages). I remember getting a letter in the mail and literally screaming my head off inside my truck. I think I had picked up the mail and was sitting in there to open it.
Who is your favorite author? Stephen King — although I have to say his earlier work excited me more than his recent work. I love Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, The Body (Stand by Me) and stories like that. I also loved The Dead Zone and The Stand. One of his newer works that I like is Joyland.
What is the hardest part of writing a book? Staying off Facebook and/or other social media. I also spend hours just reading articles on MSN, etc. I’m a very nosy person.
How do you decide on titles? Sometimes the title comes right away, but sometimes it’s later, in the story. And then sometimes, it doesn’t come at all and I depend on friends and readers to help me find it.
Do you have other people help you with ideas? Hmmm, no. I’m sort of close-mouthed about my ideas, but I do have a writing group (eh, Ms. Harris?) to help with rough drafts.
Do you have places you go to write? No. Just my computer (s). Or if I get an idea away from them, I write in my iPhone notes or my handy dandy mini spiral that lives in my purse.
How many kids do you have? 2.5 (I inherited a beautiful daughter from my husband’s ex, but she isn’t actually my husband’s daughter. It’s complicated. LOL.) I also have 5.5 grandchildren ;-)
Do you use symbols? Yes. And I usually don’t even know it until later, when I read it through.
What method do you use to brainstorm? Free writing — I just write without stopping and without thinking. It works best when I’m really tired. Which is most of the time.
What is your writing process? Catch as catch can. I love to write in the morning with a cup of coffee. And I always write the best parts first. I don’t outline, but I do write the ending as soon as possible. It’s like my goal, to get to the finish.
How do you choose your words to create a better mental image? The muse does that. My very best work doesn’t come to me consciously, but subconsciously. I really loved this line from ALL FOR LOVE, “The moonlight was seductive, it lay across the water like a transparent veil across a woman’s hair.” But I have no idea where that line came from. I wrote it out just like that, without stopping. And then I thought, well, I like that.
What is your favorite type of figurative language? Oh, I love metaphors, but similes are easier and they often pop into my work unbidden. I have to cut them out frequently. I also love onomatopoeia. Poe was the expert at making up his own sound words like susurration and tintinnabulation—I try to do that from time to time. I also fall into the alliteration trap sometimes—I love it, but it has to be seeded into sentences sparingly or it sort of starts to suck.
Why did you write Chems? Awesome question! Chems came from an image of a boy finding a zombie in his dad’s toolshed. But I didn’t want just any old zombie—I wanted a zombie hero. So that’s what I wrote. I decided the government could make one using chemicals. Funny thing is, my cousin and I wrote an entire novel based on this blue pseudo zombie. We wrote every night sending the pages back and forth via email (she lives in Washington DC), but alas, the book somehow devolved into a zombie romance (I know, I know, it really was a horror story then) so it’s now simply lurking about in my Mac seeking asylum from the land of the dead novels.
Thanks for the cool questions kids. Take care and thanks to your teacher for allowing me to come and invade your classroom!
Afterthought: Thank you, ToysRUs for coming back from the dark side. And thanks to the mom in Florida for helping them see the light.