meat5

Me at 5, already pondering the mysteries of the universe.

nature

Nature is a great companion
when you’re working out a story.

pencil

All my ideas start with a pencil.

brain

When I start a book, this is what
my brain looks like.

searching

Me, searching for ideas.

Where do you get your ideas?
Since I was a kid, I’ve been making up stories in my head. I’ve always been a watcher and a listener more than a talker. I like to eavesdrop on strangers in diners and trains. I like to watch people on the street. Somehow it all gets churned together and characters start talking to me. They tell me their stories.


I want to write. How do I start?
All writers give the same advice to aspiring writers: read. Read what you love, but also read outside your comfort zone occasionally. If you love fantasy, try mysteries. Read nonfiction. I also tell beginning writers that setting small goals can help. Write a small amount every day—a couple of paragraphs, or even a couple of sentences will do. Words add up!


What do you do when you’re stuck?
Sometimes I draw, or go to a museum and look at art. I love going to movies in the middle of the day, but I don’t do it often enough! Usually I just head out my back door. I can walk to a beach near my house, and I like to look out at the water and turn off my brain.


Do you have any hobbies?
I don’t like to cook, and I’m hopeless at crafts. I tend to kill plants. On weekends, I like to read, go for long walks, and spend some unhurried time with my husband and daughter.


What is a typical day?
I’m the first one up in my house. It’s usually dark. I turn on lights, start the kettle, heat up the milk for coffee. I sit down at the little table in the kitchen and write something. Anything. A sentence, a paragraph, a word. In less than a half-hour the rest of the family will fill the kitchen.
Like most households, our mornings are a mad scramble. Alarms ring, the milk spills, nobody can find their gloves, and where is that permission slip? If I can touch base with my writing before all that happens, I feel as though I can get a running start into my morning. After my husband leaves for work and my daughter for school, my workday really begins. I climb the stairs to my office and stare out the window at the birds for awhile. If I’m lucky, a sentence floats up, and I am back in the world of my book.


How do you do your research?
I love doing research! I start with the library. I like to set my books in places I’ve never been, and that takes a lot of reading, looking, and listening. I love YouTube for amateur tourist videos, Google maps to take me right onto a busy city street, and tour guides.


Where do you get your ideas?
Ideas are funny things. They seem so small. Something flashes in your head—a funny character, a situation, a “what if.” It’s like a tiny green shoot in early spring. You can’t believe a snowdrop can push its way up on these cold mornings, but it does. That idea grows into a story. I’ve written hundreds of stories and I still don’t know how it happens. It’s work and it’s play. It’s inspiration and craft. It’s magic made of paper and pencil dust.