Hunter has a tough life. Was it difficult to write about?
In my career, I’ve written about kids from all strata of society, with a variety of problems, but I think Hunter has the most difficult circumstances of any of my characters. I created him that way on purpose, so he would be vulnerable to the idea of a guardian angel. It wasn’t difficult to imagine his world—I grew up poor and some parts of my childhood weren’t so happy—but it was painful as a writer to see him suffer sometimes. I really like Hunter!
Your story combines many different elements (foster care, angels, and wrestling, just to name a few) into a very compelling plot. How did you go about constructing such a unique story?
As usual, I got my inspiration during a school visit. I was explaining to a group of students that I like to write thrillers and supernatural stories. One boy asked me if I could write a novel that was both...and that was such an interesting challenge it stayed in my mind and resulted in The Guardian. At first I thought the book would be a thriller that turned supernatural, but it went the other way and became a supernatural that turned thriller.
The book offers an interesting exploration of religious themes. Are you religious yourself?
I think I’m a very spiritual person. My family was religious and both my parents were very free thinking, but grounded in belief. I wouldn’t fit into any known category, but in my mind, I’m very religious.
Have you ever had moments when you’ve been sure you have your own personal guardian angel, as Hunter sometimes feels?
Absolutely. I grew up in a rural area and I was alone a lot and always as a small child felt friendly presences around me. When my mother was in the nursing home, I used to feel someone or something that walked along beside me. Laugh if you will, but it was very comforting.
Hunter has a favorite wrestler—Rolan Thunder. Although wrestling plays only a small role in this story, it is a theme that you seem to like to return to in your books. What is it about wrestling that you find so compelling? Do you have a favorite wrestler?
I liked wrestling as a kid and never grew out of it totally. It has an appeal to people who are fighting the odds and trying to live heroically, which is the definition of a writer. My favorite wrestling always was and always will be Ric Flair, but now that he’s retired, I would probably choose HHH. Hunter in the book is named after him.
What are the most profound differences, in your mind, between your last book (Headlock) and this one?
Even though Headlock deals with Alzheimer’s and has serious themes, I think The Guardian has a darker feel, and maybe that’s more aesthetic than thematic. Like, Headlock would be a Spiderman movie and The Guardian would be a Batman movie. . . know what I mean?
What are you reading right now?
Little Women. I just had a conversation with my editor, Kate Farrell, about it and how such a dated children’s book can survive so well (the answer is great characters), but it made me pick it up and read it again. I get much more out of it as an adult. And every time I read it I feel like a different sister. This time around I identified with Amy... and writers are supposed to choose Jo.
Tell us about your writing process. Where do you write? When? What do you eat and drink while crafting a story?
I spend a full year thinking about a book before I even try to write it. During that time, I’m working on something else. When I sit down to write, I do a chapter every one to two weeks, and that’s the only rule. It can be morning, afternoon, whenever I can fit the writing in. Then it goes to some writer friends for feedback and a major revision. After that it goes to market. I like to write longhand, stretched out on the couch with Phantom, my cat. I get up and get snacks periodically—coffee, fruit, cheese, chips, bottles of water, etc. When I get stuck I take a walk or go for a swim. Right now I’m working as a poet part of the time and I have a feeling that will upset this orderly process and make it different. Which will be fun.