How did you get started as a writer?
I've been writing forever. (I won third prize in a poetry contest in third grade.) I wrote radio commercials for years and lots of bad short stories that I couldn't get published—for good reason—they were awful. But the more I wrote, the more I learned.
Did you always want to be a writer?
No. I wanted to move to California, become a movie director and marry Michael Cole from The Mod Squad
, which gives you an idea of how old I am. I think I became a writer by evolution. I went from writing commercials, to short stories and articles, and eventually books.
Where do you get your ideas?
Everywhere. It could be something I hear on the news. It could be something someone says to me, or something I overhear. (Yes, I'm guilty of eavesdropping in public.) And I like to watch people and make up stories about who they are and what they're doing.
What's the secret to writing a book?
The secret to writing a book is...that there is no secret. Writing a book is like everything else in life, you have to show up and do it. There may be writers who wait for inspiration to hit and then the words just pour out, but I'm not one of them. I work from an outline and I write a certain number of words each day. Some days it's easy. Some days I keep clicking on the Word Count and moaning, "Am I done yet?"
How much research do you do for your books?
That depends on the book. I've searched for information on everything from vintage guitars to the Dewey decimal system to how to duct tape a person to a chair.
Do you have a family?
Yes. I'm married with one daughter in college. We live on the east coast less than two hours drive from the ocean. I like living somewhere with all four seasons, although there are times in the middle of January that living on a Caribbean island starts to sound like fun.
Do you have any hobbies/interests? Do any of those hobbies inspire your writing?
I run. I don't really like the actual running part, but I love the feeling of having accomplished several miles before it's even 8AM. I'm not a graceful runner—or a fast one—but I am persistent. My main character in the Second Chance Cat mysteries
, Sarah, is a runner. I also practice Wu-style tai chi
like Kathleen in the Magical Cats mysteries
And I love to cook!
How do you relax?
I think cleaning is relaxing. Yes, I know that seems a little weird to some people. It's not really the first image that comes to mind when you think about relaxing. But when I'm scrubbing a floor my mind can wander while my hands are busy and it's a good way to figure out story problems. So when a book isn't going well my floors get scrubbed a lot!
Besides writing, what was your favorite or most interesting job in your past?
I was once an all night disk jockey. Even though I'm a morning person, I liked the job. Before I started, I had no idea there was a whole sub-culture of people who worked the night shift—not just the obvious, like police officers and nurses. I met artists and musicians who liked working all night and sleeping when the rest of us are awake.
You have a great wit and sense of humor in your writing. Is that a bit of you coming through your characters?
I don't think of myself as being funny or witty. I tend to see myself as a serious person. Years ago I worked with Canadian playwright, Norm Foster, who is incredibly sharp and funny—and very, very observant. I learned to pay close attention to everything that's happening around me—that's where the humor in life and writing comes from.
You write well about the cats in your Magical Cats mysteries. Are you a "cat person"?
I love cats. I like their independent spirit. I don't have one because my husband is extremely allergic to them. (If he dies first I'm getting a cat. People laugh when I say that because they think I'm kidding!) Even though I don't have a cat myself, I do have "cat friends"—cats in my neighborhood that I spend time with so I can get my kitty fix. There are two directly across the street and two more around the corner.
What do you like to read?
The short answer is everything. I read a lot of mysteries, but if something about a book intrigues me—the title, the subject, sometimes even the cover art—I don't pay any attention to the genre. I tend to read more than one book at a time and one of them is usually non-fiction.
Are there any particular writers who have inspired you?
Children's author Robert Munsch is a big inspiration. He's so, so talented. The characters in Munsch's books aren't perfect but they're very real. My favorite Robert Munsch book, is Giant or Waiting for the Thursday Boat
, his most controversial book because of the way he depicts God. He wrote Love You Forever
, which is an incredibly sentimental story, but he's also the author of The Paperbag Princess
, which turns all the fairytale princess stereotypes inside out. Munsch has written wonderfully funny books like Get Out of Bed
and Thomas' Snowsuit
that make kids and adults laugh. (If you've ever struggled to get a little person dressed to go outside in the wintertime you really should read Thomas' Snowsuit
What advice would you give someone who wants to be a writer?
Read, read, read. Read everything. Good books. Terrible books. Stories you like. Stories that bore you. Not only will you develop an ear for sentence and story structure, you'll also start to figure out where your writing interests are. And of course, write, write, write. Like anything else, practice will help you get better. I think you need to write a few crappy books before you can write good ones.