Works for young readers
Five stories in the educational series The Reading Works, 1975
Nat Turner and the Slave Revolt, The Millbrook Press, 1993
Harpers Ferry: The Story of John Brown’s Raid, The Millbrook Press, 1993
Growing Up in Colonial America, The Millbrook Press, 1995
Virginia, in series Celebrate the States, Benchmark Books, Marshall Cavendish, 1997 (second edition 2005)
Tennessee, in series Celebrate the States, Benchmark Books, Marshall Cavendish, 1998 (second edition 2006)
Kidding Around Nashville, John Muir Publications, 1998
Kentucky, in series Celebrate the States, Benchmark Books, Marshall Cavendish, 1999
Anna of Byzantium, Delacorte Press, 1999
The Trail of Tears: An American Tragedy, Perfection Learning Corporation, 2000
Six entries in the multi-volume encyclopedia Women in World History, Yorkin Publications, 2000
"The Children’s Crusade," AppleSeeds Magazine, December 2001
Cold in Summer, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, 2003
The Ancient Greek World, in series The World in Ancient Times, Oxford University Press, 2004 (with Jennifer Roberts)
The Ancient Chinese World, in series The World in Ancient Times, Oxford University Press, 2005 (with Terry Kleeman)
On Etruscan Time, Henry Holt, 2005
The 100-Year-Old Secret (Book 1 of The Sherlock Files), Henry Holt, 2008
The Beast of Blackslope (Book 2 of The Sherlock Files), Henry Holt, 2009
The Case that Time Forgot (Book 3 of The Sherlock Files), Henry Holt, 2010
King of Ithaka, Henry Holt, 2010
The Missing Heir, (Book 4 of The Sherlock Files), Henry Holt, 2011
Dark of the Moon, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011
The Stepsister's Tale, Harlequin Teen, 2014
The Song of Orpheus: The Greatest Greek Myths You Never Heard, 2016
I grew up in a town where many authors live, and thought of writers as just ordinary neighbors. The wonderful Jean Fritz was one of these authors. She gave me an original illustration from her book that is still my favorite, The Cabin Faced West (the drawing is now hanging on the wall above my computer). And since I liked writing I thought it might be a good job to have someday.
But when I grew older I got discouraged about writing, because every time I read a wonderful book I would think, “Oh, I could never write that. Why even try?” And I was right. I could never write Charlotte’s Web or Mrs. Mike (two of my favorite books). It took until I was grown up to realize that this was okayI didn’t need to write those books. Someone else had already done it! But there were other books that no one but I could write. So I started writing again. My first book wasn’t published until I was almost forty, and I regret that I wasted all that time being discouraged.
Where do you get your ideas?
I learned about Princess Anna Comnena while doing research on medieval women writers. I wondered how she became the kind of person she was, and even when I finished my research, I couldn't get her out of my mind. So I wrote Anna of Byzantium to try to figure her out. I'll never know if I succeeded in uncovering why the real Anna Comnena turned out the way she did, but at least I was able to stop wondering about her!
The idea for Cold in Summer came to me slowly. We used to spend a lot of time on the beautiful Center Hill Lake in Tennessee, which was formed when a dam was built, flooding a valley. It felt creepy to swim above what used to be a town, with houses and churches and stores. But that odd feeling wasn’t enough to make a story.
The author Sid Fleischman said that one idea is like a stick: you can’t do much with it. But two ideas are like two sticks: you can rub them together, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get a fire. My “second stick” for Cold in Summer was something that an old man who lived by the lake told my husband. He said that there was a crack in the side of the hill that blew out cold air in summer and warm air in winter. These two ideas came together to form the basis for Cold in Summer.
I wrote King of Ithaka, Dark of the Moon, and The Stepsister's Tale because I always wonder about the "secondary" characters in a book. What did Cinderella's stepsisters think of her? Were they really mean and ugly? Somehow I don't trust someone who says that her stepmother is cruel and her stepsisters are mean and ugly and they make her do all the work. It might be true, but someone else might see things differently! So I wrote those books to figure out what the secondary characters might think.
Will you write a sequel to Anna of Byzantium? What about The Sherlock Files?
No and no. I'm not curious about Anna any more, and if I wrote more mysteries, my detectives would be a bit older. It got hard figuring out how they could do all the things they needed to do in order to solve their mysteries!
I did, however, write a sequel to Cold in Summer. The main character (Ariadne's younger brother, Hector) gets involved in time travel to an ancient village in Italy where he has to right an old wrong without influencing the present. It's called On Etruscan Time.
How long does it take you to write a book?
I never know! I squeeze in writing between so many other things that I don't think I could ever count up the hours. I wrote one book in six weeks, but others have taken two or three years.
Which of your books is your favorite?
Whichever one I'm working on at the moment!
Are you working on anything now?
I usually have a lot of projects going! Right now I have four books under contract (and I've written only one and a half of them!). More on that later!
Questions? Contact me here!