When and where were you born?
What was your family like?
June 12, 1951, in Los Angeles, California. I grew up two
blocks from the ocean, in Manhattan Beach. When my bedroom window was
open at night I could hear the waves and often a foghorn. I lived with
my younger brother and sister and our mom and dad.We didnt have
any pets but there always seemed to be a neighborhood
cat that befriended us.
What school did you go to? College?
Believe it or not I went to three elementary schools,
two junior highs, and three high schools (Manhattan Beach & Lancaster,
California; Alamogordo, New Mexico). It was hard being the "new
kid." I was extremely shy so I usually felt left out. As a result
I spent a lot of time alone, reading and daydreaming. Now I realize
this solitude shaped me as a writer: Every one of my books has a central
character that finds him/herself in a surprisingly new situation,
with strangers, and needing to make a friend. After high school I moved
around a lot, and attended several colleges.
How old were you when you started
About ten years old. My stories were extremely short, a
paragraph or so in length. If someone had told me I
would grow up to write books, I wouldnt have believed it. It seemed
impossibly hard. Schools didnt promote writing as they do now, so
I never knew girls might grow up to be authors. I dreamed of being an
airline stewardess or a ballerina!
How did you start writing professionally?
In college I took a journalism
class. The teacher said if I wanted to become a reporter I should just
go to a newspaper and talk to the editor. So I did! My hands
were shaking when I walked into the newsroom. There were clacking typewriters
and people shouting. When I found the editor I told him I had no experience
but was willing to work hard. He said to go cover a certain news event
(I think it was a parade) then write a story about it. If he approved,
theyd print it, put my name on it [a "byline"] and pay
me $10. A few days later I saw my first article in print! And there
were more to come. Some months later this editor, Charlie Ferrell, took
a job with the Southern California Area Chamber of Commerce, as editor
of their weekly newspaper. He asked if Id like to be his Associate
Editor. Would I! Soon I was interviewing men like Vice-President Walter
Mondale and seeing more by-lines. It was a great experience.
During this time I took another journalism class at
Dominguez Hills. The instructor was Art Seidenbaum, a columnist for
the Los Angeles Times. I would show him clippings of my stories for
the Chamber of Commerce and hed coach me with suggestions. When
he became Book Review Editor for the Times he asked if Id like
to be an editorial assistant in his department. Eventually I became
a copy editor and a reviewer myself. This led to a bi-weekly column,
reviewing soft-cover books, then childrens books. Charlie and
Art were my mentors: generous, wonderful men. They gave me unique opportunities
that changed my life for the better.I loved the bustle and noise of
the newsroom and the challenge of writing under pressure.
What was your
favorite book as a child?
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott ODell.
I loved this story because from my bedroom window I could see the Pacific
Ocean. When it wasnt foggy we could also see the purple shape of
Catalina Island on the horizon. I knew that St. Nicholas Island, where
Karana lived alone for 18 years, was in the same direction, further west.
It felt to me that this story took place in my own back yard. The dolphins
and other sea creatures were familiar friends.
Another book I loved was Rascal, by Sterling
North. My father gave this newly published story to me for my tenth birthday
still have it. Of course my girlfriends and I all read Nancy Drew Mysteries,
trading them back and forth. In fact two volumes on my shelf right now
have my friends name written on the front page, in her pretty 6th
grade penmanship. She probably has some of my copies on her shelf!
Who is your favorite author &
do you have a favorite book?
I love Mark Twain and Charles Dickens. As far as childrens
stories I often re-read the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Also I read lots of magazines, newspapers, and research material. I usually
have seven or eight books going at the same time in various stacks around
the house. My all-time favorite book is the Bible; I read it every day.
you have any children? Where do you live?
My husband and
I have two adult sons plus two golden retrievers, Daisy, age 13 and Poppy, 3. We live
in Boise, Idaho, for now. Wanderlust beckons.
do you like to do in your spare time?
Swim, walk, read,
spend time with my family, hang out with girlfriends, watch my husband
photograph. I love crossword puzzles.
Do you ever get writers block?
How do you get out of it?
ALL THE TIME! Sometimes Ill pretend Im writing
a letter to someone, with the ideas Im trying to get down. The casualness
of this "letter" helps take the pressure off so I dont
try to be "perfect." Sometimes Ill set the manuscript
aside for a couple days. Starting a book is the very hardest thing for
me, staring at that blank page. So sometimes Ill write an ending
or middle part, to distract myself. When Im really frustrated and
cant put a single sentence together I seclude myself in prayer and
often ask friends to pray for me.
What are the favorite books youve
Bronte’s Book Club because the setting is from my happy childhood in California, in a town by the sea. The story is about a young girl who is new to Gray’s Beach and tries to make friends by starting her own book club. Like Bronte, I was often the new kid at school, shy and lonesome. I combined those experiences with those I had leading a girls’ book club as an adult, which was a lot of fun.
My Darlin’ Clementine because it’s set in my adopted state of Idaho, when it was still a wild and rough territory. I took elements from my favorite folk song by that name and wove them into a mystery of sorts: was Clementine really ‘lost and gone forever’ after falling in a river’s ‘foaming brine’? Why did her beau ‘kiss her sister’? Where was this ‘cavern in a canyon’ where her father, an old 49er, excavated for a mine?