1. What is your earliest memory of writing/drawing?
In the 1970’s, country music blared from my grandfather’s A.M. radio after the morning farm report. When I first heard the song “The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia,” I went nuts. I had to hear it over and over. My grandmother wrote out the lyrics. She taught me to print as I crudely copied each word.
2. What inspired you to write/illustrate your first book?
My love of storytelling along with a belief that I had something to say and a unique way of saying it.
3. Do you use your childhood as inspiration?
Sometimes. When I was in junior high, I went to work bussing tables at a truckstop and an All-You-Can-Eat catfish restaurant. It seemed like the whole world came through that truckstop – traveling musicians, artists, truckers and families. Everyone had a story. I love people – especially the quirky ones. Real people inspire me.
4. What books from your childhood have most influenced your work? What about adult titles?
Growing up in a rural area, we had no public library and few books at home. Country music’s story songs have profoundly influenced my work. I love the lyrics of Dolly Parton and Texas songwriting legend Cindy Walker. As an adult and student of literature, I fell in love with the Southern Gothics: Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, Truman Capote.
5. What are your hobbies and interests besides reading and books?
I’m a true Southern girl, so I can cook – grits, cobblers, fried chicken. I am the queen of the Velveeta casserole. I also love traveling and watching my son play football and basketball.
6. Who are a couple of your favorite author/illustrators? What is it about their work that inspires and interests you?
Sara Zarr’s STORY OF A GIRL touched me deeply – real and honest. Regarding illustrators, I think they’re all gifted because I can’t trace my own hand. But I must admit, I am completely in awe of fellow Texan C.G. Young and his little pig “Toast.” Young’s illustrations take my breath away.
7. What one or two words of advice would you give for young authors/illustrators?
Be a student of your passion. Study and learn everything you can about your craft.