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Writing

Keeping me company while I write, surrounded by a chewed-up pencil.

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 my favorite of her books, 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 okay—I 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.

At my desk. (That's a real light bulb!)

FAQs

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!
      I wrote King of Ithaka, Dark of the Moon, and The Stepsister's Tale because I always wonder about "secondary" characters. 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 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.
      I was inspired to write The Song of Orpheus when I saw a mythological scene painted on a Greek vase and didn't recognize it. This made me think there must be lots of Greek myths that most people don't know, so I poked around and found that this was true, and that some of these "forgotten" myths are great and deserve to be better known.
      The idea for Marabel and the Book of Fate came from an editor. I loved it and was happy they chose me to write it!
      I wrote Freefall Summer during the 2012 NaNoWriMo challenge. I had always wanted to write a skydiving novel but couldn't think of a good story. Then it occurred to me that skydiving could be an important part of a modern-day retelling of the myth of Icarus. The story soon moved away from being a retelling, but some elements of the myth are still there, especially in the characters' names. Once NaNoWriMo was over, I kept writing and revising the story between other projects. Freefall Summer finally came out in April, 2018, a mere five and a half years after I started it!

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 companion novel (not really a sequel) to Cold in Summer, called On Etruscan Time. 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.

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 most take a lot longer. I usually figure on a year and a half.

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! I'm revising a YA historical novel set in Pompeii and hope to find a publisher for it in another year or so.

Questions? Contact me!