Q. What are you working on now?
A. I'm working on a number of picture books. Picture books = fun + hard work (lots). Most readers, and many writers, don't realize a picture book is the most difficult kind of book to write, because you have to tell a wonderful story, with fascinating characters and a complete plot, but must do so with very few words.The most difficult part is putting that little "twist" at the very end, that sentence that makes the reader chuckle, pause, or say, "Oh, yeah!" Plus, you have to use language that lends itself to illustration.
I'm also writing a contemporary novel for young adults. Keeping up with the technology teenagers use today and their swiftly changing pop culture is a challenge I'm enjoying. Viral media, social media such as Facebook and Twitter. They all come into play in the story, so it's a exhilarating writing experience.
Q. Where do you get your ideas?
A. Book ideas are everywhere. Some books are inspired by a character, such as my Samantha Gill, Belly Dancer, who sprang from a fascinating young girl I saw in an airport.
Others come from my experiences, such as Beating Bully O'Brien. That book came about because one of my first grade classmates was a bully who picked on my best friend.
Newspapers and magazines suggest other books. I wrote Saving Casey because I read about animals who are sacrificed so that humans can lead better lives.
A photograph I saw in a National Geographic Magazine inspired Sarah On Her Own. It made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I had to learn as much as I could about the photograph and put what I learned into a book.
I wrote Woody Guthrie, America's Folksinger and Jackie Robinson, Baseball's Civil Rights Leader because I had always admired Woody and Jackie for the contributions they made to our world.
Woody lived during the days of the Dust Bowl, and Children of the Dust Days came out of the research I did for his biography.
I wrote Flush! Treating Wastewater because, when my son was very young, he accidentally flushed a toy car down the toilet and wanted to know if he could get it back. If he wanted to know what happened to his car after the flush, I decided a lot of other children wanted to know what happens after they flush the toilet, too.
I got the ideas for the books I'm working on now from a visit to the Alamo in Texas, a song Woody Guthrie wrote, and experiences teenagers have with today's technology.
This is the photograph that inspired me
to write Sarah, On Her Own. In the book, it belongs to Richard Kean, Chief Lieutenant in charge of protecting the Virginia settlement of Martin's Hundred in 1620.