When were you born?
After the invention of the Frisbee but before the invention of the Barbie doll.
When did you start writing?
In Grade Four. My first story was about Theo and Trisha. Theo was a turnip. Trisha was a tomato. Their love was doomed.
How many books have you written?
I’ve written 26 books. Sixteen have been published. So far.
What kind of books do you write?
I write fiction and non-fiction for teens, tweens and young children. I write articles for magazines and newspapers, and I also write women’s fiction under the name Laura Tobias.
Where do you get your ideas?
Every book is different. Ideas sometimes start with a character who pops into my mind. Other times, they come from an event or even a place. My ideas start small and grow. Sometimes I sit down with other people and brainstorm, but mostly I do a lot of thinking by myself. I gather bits and pieces like a bird gathers material for a nest. Eventually birds get enough stuff to build their home and eventually I collect enough random bits to write a book.
What’s your writing process?
I use the J.D.I. principle. Just do it. Writing is my profession, my job, and I do it every day. Even those days when I don’t feel like writing, I write. Sometimes I write a blog, sometimes an article, often part of a book. If I’m not writing, I’m often researching. For novels, I use a large binder to collect notes on characters, plot points and timelines. I’ll toss in maps, articles and pictures too. Sometimes I store research material on my computer – I love Dropbox – but I generally have hard copies too. I get tired of sitting at the computer all the time; it’s nice to get away from the screen.
How long does it take you write a book?
That’s a hard question to answer. Each book is so different. In Plain Sight took a few months to write while The Art of Getting Stared At took almost two years, although a lot of that time was devoted to researching the subject while I worked on other things, including another book. It doesn’t depend on the length of the book either. Picture books can take years and many re-writes while others come together quickly.
What are you writing now?
I always have multiple projects on the go – books, articles and blog posts. I recently sent my editor a contemporary YA novel about a girl who does a good deed – she saves a life – but her life goes to hell afterwards. The editor is considering it right now so fingers crossed. In the meantime, I’m brainstorming another YA with a bit of a magical realism bent, and I’m starting work on a Laura Tobias title, my adult writing persona. I’m also tweaking a picture book manuscript, writing an article on chicken, querying editors on future projects, and working on my next blog.
Which do you like better – writing for kids or adults?
I like them both – and one isn’t easier than the other. It all depends on the kind of day I’m having and how the characters are behaving!
Which book is your favorite?
Honestly – I don’t have a favorite book. I love them all for different reasons. I usually really love the one I’ve just finished writing!
What book did you love in high school and what book did you hate?
Charlotte’s Webb by E.B. White isn’t a high school classic but it’s a classic I think everybody should read. Even in high school. But Beowulf should be banned.
How can I become a writer?
Write. Write letters or journals or stories or poems. Write lists. Just write. Believe in yourself and your writing. Don’t listen to people who make you feel bad about your work. Consider it training. Even the best writers get criticized. And read! Read everything. Books you love, books you don’t. Trade magazines. Articles about writing. Read every day. Read while riding your bike. I do. My stationary bike, at least.
What’s your favorite thing about being a writer?
Wearing slippers to work. Going outside when I feel like it. Slurping tea with no one around to hear me. But mostly I like the actual job of writing. Playing with words and ideas . . . and making up stories that make people laugh or cry.
What’s your astrological sign?
I’m on the cusp of Leo and Virgo so I like to say I have the creativity, drama and generosity of Leo mixed with the productivity, observation skills and reliability of Virgo (We won’t mention the downside of each).
What’s your favorite food?
Popcorn with too much butter.
What’s your least favorite food?
Liver and lima beans.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Spy on people at the grocery store. Plan my next meal. Walk, read, dig in the garden. Watch movies. Play with my dogs. Daydream.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
Seriously, if you had to pick another job, what would you do?
I was a journalist for years and I’d probably still be doing that because I’m a huge news junkie. But I might be a doctor. Or maybe a criminal psychiatrist. Because I’d get lots of story ideas and I could . . . oh, wait . . . NOT a writer.