Instead of a fascinating, miserable childhood that helps so many writers, I had a boringly normal youth. I remember running all over the neighborhood and then being spanked on the way home, because I knew better than to go so far away. True, I did know better. I just didn’t care about being a good girl. A few weeks after my brother was born, when I was five, I gently lifted him out of his bassinet, tiptoed downstairs in the early morning, and offered him to the milkman. “Here. Take him. We don’t need him,” I said. The milkman made me put him back, of course, and I must say I was beginning to feel a tad guilty. He was a beautiful, happy baby who became a great brother.
In grade school I became a real reader, spending four or five hours a day with books, figuring out who I was and what was important to me. Parts of me were like fiery Anne in Anne of Green Gables. At other times I was Nancy Drew, brilliantly solving mysteries. I was also patient, passionate Edmund Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo and stubborn Howard Roark in The Fountainhead. I was Jo, the writing sister in Little Women. I moved into the mind of each character I loved; I still do, whether I’m reading or writing.
I write many kinds of books, including novels for young readers. The Nancy Drew lurking inside me turned many of these into mysteries: When the Boys Ran the House, Witch-Cat, A Ghost of a Chance, Stolen Bones, and Beware the Ravens, Aunt Morbelia were funny, but they were also mysteries. I especially enjoyed creating Aunt Morbelia, a retired schoolteacher who first appeared in Aunt Morbelia and the Screaming Skulls. Aunt M was an inspiring, inventive woman, yet she was highly superstitious and told scary ghost stories—to the dismay of Todd, her great-nephew. When Aunt Morbelia saw how he struggled with dyslexia, she made it her mission to teach him how to learn. She persevered bravely, even though she passed out cold when Todd and his friend Jeff insisted that she tour the funeral home, and nearly had a heart attack when Todd’s cat Banshee howled in the night. An unlikely pair, Aunt M and Todd eventually forged a bond, to their mutual benefit.
Humor creeps into all of my writing, whether it belongs there or not. I can’t help it apparently. Although I strive to not take myself seriously, I take my work very seriously. Writing and reading are two of the best things you can do to figure out who you are and what is important in life. If I had the power, I’d require much more writing and reading in the schools, focusing on these skills until every kid was good at both. After that, a person can learn anything!
Three Things You Might Not Know About Me:
1. I consider chocolate a vegetable. It comes from a bean, after all, and it raises my spirits whenever I eat some, which is as often as I dare. Do string beans raise my spirits? Nope. That’s why I eat chocolate.
2. In high school and college and afterwards, I smoked cigarettes. Are we all really dumb at times? I guess so, because my smoking was world-class stupid. I don’t smoke anymore, but it was REALLY HARD to quit. Those danged cigarettes were running my life, I decided, and that’s when I quit. Nicotine is a powerful, scary drug. My dad was right about smoking, and I should have listened to him.
3. I prefer loose, billowy clothing because it is more comfortable. A Hawaiian muumuu is the perfect garment, or a fluffy bathrobe in winter. All this spandex and tight clothing drive me wacko. It’s a good thing I work at home, huh?