Where did you grow up?
I grew up on the Texas Gulf Coast in a small shrimping community called Aransas Pass.
What is your earliest memory of writing?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love books and writing. My earliest childhood memory is of a time when I was three, playing on the floor in front of a closet that held a small box of toys and Golden Books. I’ve always been drawn to writing, but it wasn’t until I was twelve and instructed to write a short story for my sixth grade English class that I understood just how much I loved it. I was transported, free to go anywhere my imagination would take me. As I grew older, however, the path to becoming an author seemed nebulous and unachievable. It was years later, when my children were almost grown, before I decided to give writing a real try.
What inspired you to write your first book?
A friend of mine took a creative writing course and asked me to critique her middle grade novel. For the first time I entertained the thought that I might be able to write, too. Without her encouragement I doubt that I would be an author today. My first published book, The Truth About Sparrows, was inspired by family events that transpired during The Great Depression.
Do you use your childhood as inspiration?
Definitely—my parents’ and grandparents’ childhoods as well. It has always been the old stories that have inspired me most.
What books from your childhood have most influenced your work? What about adult titles?
Oddly enough, I rarely read historical fiction as a child. I loved books that were magical, such as Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and certainly all stories ghostly or mysterious like those by Edgar Allen Poe and Alfred Hitchcock. I must’ve read every Nancy Drew mystery written. As I got older, I still loved anything mysterious, but I was drawn also to novels and the biographies of their authors: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Dear and Glorious Physician by Taylor Caldwell, and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.
What are your hobbies and interests besides reading and books?
I love good movies and museums, but I especially enjoy road trips, taking the less traveled paths, finding lovely new places to park our RV, and maybe even do a little fishing. Above all, I love spending time with my family.
Who are a couple of your favorite author/illustrators? What is it about their work that inspires and interests you?
One of my favorite picture books is Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson. It’s brilliantly rhymed and a delight to read aloud to my grandchildren, who never seem to tire of it. David Wiesner, another favorite and three time winner of the Caldecott Medal always enchants.
What one or two words of advice would you give for young authors?
I suppose the best advice I could give to any new author is to love what you write. Love the characters, the words and the images they evoke, and yes, even the revisions. Look at each revision as a chance to bring more clarity, to make some part of your story touch your reader more deeply and hopefully linger long after your book is back on the shelf.