Why do you write?
When I was a kid, books were my escape. They also were my reassurance that I wasn’t the only person in the world who’d had a particular thought or experienced a certain emotion. When life got too depressing, I’d sneak off into a different world, live in somebody else’s skin, and find hope for my own future. I know there are kids out there who have things worse than I ever dreamed of. I want to create worlds where those kids can find sanctuary.
What do you do besides writing?
My alter ego is that of a mild-mannered landscaper. I prefer to do maintenance rather than installations, first because the state says that’s what’s legal, and second because no matter how much planning you do, installations are ALWAYS a headache. Maintenance, on the other hand, is very laid-back and stress free. Pull a few weeds here, snip a couple of branches there, sprinkle a bit of yard debris compost on top and, voilá, your customers are thrilled and amazed. Yard debris compost is like chocolate. Adding a little transforms the mundane into the sublime.
What other jobs have you had?
I’ve worked as a nanny, a pizza delivery person, a 7-Eleven cashier, a gas station attendant, and an auto parts store clerk. My only ‘real’ jobs were as a Quality Service Technician and a Metallurgy Lab Tech. At this last job I cut up forklifts and examined the materials and welds to see why the equipment had failed.
I was also a partner in my husband’s garage, which did maintenance and restorations on pre-70s cars. I took care of the office and did the welding and fabrication.
What are your hobbies?
Gardening, reading, and…uh…this is pathetic. I guess I don’t do much besides writing and working.
What kind of music do you listen to?
My taste is music could only be described as eclectic. I like rock from the ’50s ’60s ’70s and ’80s. I’ve been known to listen to country, though I’m not up on what’s current. I’m ashamed to admit that I like show tunes and corny stuff like the Chipmunks and Jim Croce’s Rapid Roy the Stock Car Boy. I’m also one of those few people who can go into a Mexican restaurant and actually enjoy the mariachi music.
Some of my favorite performers and bands include: the Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkle, Jimmy Buffett, Cat Stevens, Billy Joel, Huey Lewis, CCR, Queen, George Thorogood, and Greenday. Stuff my husband has introduced me to includes: Bela Fleck, Enya, and Afro Celt Sound System. I’m a total sucker for Christmas music, but only in season.
How did you start writing?
When I was in the third grade a relative gave my brother, sister, and me a cassette recorder. I started dictating stories onto tape. Back then the only things I put down on paper were poems. In 7th grade I wrote my first “book” which was about a 13-year-old girl and her telepathic cat, who get abducted by aliens. It was one big, illegible mess. My school librarian provided my first writing lesson when she introduced me to the concept of paragraphs to separate the character’s dialog. While that broke up the text a bit, it did nothing to improve my handwriting.
Who are your favorite authors?
Chris Crutcher, Will Hobbes, Joyce Sweeney, Cynthia Voight, Michelle Magorian, CS Adler, Alden R. Carter, Lynn Hall, Neil Shusterman, SE Hinton, Dianna Wynne Jones, Joan Bauer, Mike Lupica, Laurie Halse Anderson, Rob Thomas, Ron Koertge, Nancy Werlin, Julie Anne Peters, Nancy Garden, and Carol Plum-Ucci.
I’m deeply jealous of the way Christine Fletcher can create such vivid, lyrical prose. And I covet Rob Thomas’s ability to switch back and forth between character voices the way he does in Slave Day. K.L. Going also has an amazing ability with unique voices.
What kind of books do you like to read?
Ones about compelling characters in tough situations who experience personal growth. If I don’t like the protagonist of a book, I won’t read past the first chapter. The main character has to not only be interesting and quirky, but also someone I wouldn’t mind hanging out with. And I have to really feel for him or her. While I love clever plot twists and unusual ideas, for me it’s all about character.
Where do you write?
Currently I have an office above our garage with a slanting ceiling (I love rooms that aren’t perfectly square) and an abundance of cats. I’ve been known to write anywhere, though. When I worked at Shucks Auto Parts I composed scenes for the original version of In the Blood on paper towels while fronting and facing the oil aisle. I’ve also written while riding busses, in lunchrooms, in math class, even in the flagtower at Eugene Speedway. One of my favorite places to write is “in my head”. When I’m doing mundane tasks like weeding or washing dishes ideas flow. I particularly like to think things through when I’m walking. Every night I walk a mile—two in winter, when I don’t get my normal exercise through landscaping. I take a Panasonic IC recorder with me for making notes. I’m sure all the neighbors think I’m crazy, talking to myself. Or maybe they just think I have a Bluetooth.
What did you study in college?
That’s a long story. I guess I never quite made up my mind as to what I wanted to be when I grew up. I’ve studied a total of seven different subjects at two universities and four community colleges. That experience scored me two AS degrees (Mechanical Engineering Technology and Horticulture) and enough credits for a couple of bachelors degrees, if they just would have been the right credits. Among the subjects I studied but didn’t get degrees in were journalism, graphic design, automotive technology, environmental science, and nursing. What fascinates me the most about going to school is when I see universal themes in unrelated subjects. Something I learn in a chemistry class might echo a point in an art class. This just goes to show that it is a small world and Jung was onto something with his ideas about the collective unconscious.
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