1) How old were you when you decided to become a writer and why?
I love this question, because it causes me to smile back in time at the young girl who just knew.
I was born a writer. I was writing poetry (along with illustrations) in Kindergarten. I wrote my first novel at age eleven. And I kept diaries, then journals, then poetry journals, which I believe helped hone my paper voice.
Writing has always been like breathing, for me. Something you can’t help doing because you need it to live.
2) What inspired you to write IF YOU FIND ME?
The seed to this novel unfurled late one night when I happened to watch two news magazine stories back-to-back on parental abduction and alienation, one being the story of four-year-old Sean Goldman. American-born Sean was abducted by his Brazilian-born mother and taken to Brazil, leading to an international custody battle.
I ached for his father, David Goldman, left behind in America and desperate to get his child back. He did — five years later — but neither would be able to recapture the time they’d lost.
3) Is there anything quirky/unique about your writing process? Do you have any habits or traditions? What does a standard day of writing look like for you?
I need music on in the background; my life and hence, my writing life has a soundtrack. (Radio, classical, folk, pop, jazz, old, new: depends on the mood). I like to light a candle, in a nod to the writing wonders who went before me.
And then I let go, and let the words come. And I do the same if I have no music or candles.
The words will come, if you let them. Life has taught you universal things; through your characters, teach us.
4) What’s on your nightstand to read right now?
Way too many good books! (And I’m on a classics kick, too):
Works of Lucy Maud Montgomery
Time Between Us by Tamera Ireland Stone
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
Pinnochio by Carlo Collodi
The Giver by Lois Lowry
What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang
The Long Walk by Stephen King
5) What was your favorite childhood book?
I had many! And this, by far, is not an exhaustive list:
The Little Prince
The Velveteen Rabbit
The Secret Garden and A Little Princess
And I was obsessed with a Smokey the Bear read-along book with accompanying record. I used to listen to the record over and over again, eyes welling at the picture of a baby Smokey with his burned paws wrapped in crisp white bandages, the whole forest burned to smoking stumps behind him.
6) If you were to cast the characters of Carey, her sister, her father and her love interest – who would you pick?
I don’t really see my characters, I feel them. And I don’t get to watch a lot of television, because I’m too busy writing for all of you good folk, but here’s what I have:
Charlie: Hugh Dancy
Melissa: Claire Danes
(Right? Two wonderful actors, married in real life, who could work together.)
Carey: Kiernan Shipka (although it’s a tough role for a young girl).
Shorty: A kind, old, three-legged rescue who gets his moment in the sun.
As for Jenessa, Delaney, and Ryan, who would you choose?
7) Is being a writer your day job? If not, what is?
Yes, writing is my day job. And my night job, my weekend job, my work on holidays, too. I write every day. I have a notebook I take everywhere so I can write down thoughts, poem lines, plot ideas, book ideas … there are always ideas to pluck from the sky like oranges.
Besides that, I care for throwaway equines, mostly plucked from the slaughter pipeline.
8) What is the one thing you hope readers take away from IF YOU FIND ME?
Love heals. All you need is love – from someone. All it takes is one.
The other thing would be hope. Life likes to cycle just like the seasons. There are ups and downs. Hope is believing in the ups. The ups always cycle back around.
Take what happens to you and use it to make the world a better place.
9) Who is your first (or most critical) reader for your writing?
Myself, oh, myself. I am a raging perfectionist when it comes to my writing, to the point it hurts my brain. Perfect is impossible. Perfect leaves no room for humanly messy and wonderful.
10) What advice would you give to teens who are interested in becoming a writer?
Write. Keep writing. Write something: poetry, short stories, poems, novels, novellas, journals – just write.
It’s no different than any other craft. You start as an apprentice. You must be brave enough to be amazingly terrible, and then keep writing. Read. Read lots of books. See what those authors do.
I’m self-taught, and I followed the advice above. Other than that, don’t forget to love it. To have fun, or what’s the point?
As the old saying goes, do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.