Obviously I liked to read. I don't know a writer who didn't. But I also liked to move. A lot. I loved climbing trees, playing "keep away" and riding my bike. I was a competitive swimmer, and later on, in junior high and high school I also played soccer and field hockey and basketball. I still swim competitively and until knee surgeries ended my hoop days, I played basketball a few times a week.
What books influenced you most when you were growing up?
My favorites then are still some of my favorites today. I loved ELOISE for the subversive humor, Lois Lenski books, like COTTON IN MY SACK for the social justice of them. I treasure, HARRIET THE SPY, and its sequel, THE LONG SECRET,for their subversive humor as well, but also for their incredible intelligence. I adored ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS and MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN because I loved being outdoors and both are so emotionally compelling. I loved A WRINKLE IN TIME because while it was science fiction, it felt completely plausible. And for fantasy, my absolute favorite was THE PHANTOM TOLLBOTH. I'm not sure there's a wiser book than that, and the Jules Feiffer illustrations are perfect. And as I got a little older, the S.E. Hinton books, THE OUTSIDERS and THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW, were favorites. I could go on and on, but that's the short list.
If you didn't write as a child, then when did you start writing and what inspired you to start?
I did kind of write as a child. I wrote when I was assigned to write, and loved to do it, but I don't really remember sitting down to write on my own. What I do remember is, while reading my favorite books, I'd look at the author photos and think that there wasn't anything better a person could do than to write a book. But my real career as a writer began in college. I went to Northwestern University as a theatre major, and like most theatre majors I thought I'd be an actor. Then I took a playwriting class, and the play I wrote was produced by the university and entered into the American College Theatre Festival where it was one of only seven productions nationwide to be invited to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. And at that point, I thought, "I want to be an actor? Why?" Seriously. Writing just felt so right.
Do you do other types of writing?
Yes. I began my career as a playwright. My first professional production was in London, then that play went on to be produced in the United States. My plays have been produced across the English speaking world, four of my plays are published and I was awarded an NEA grant and a New York Foundation for the Arts grant in playwriting. After that, I moved into television and film, where I currently make my living. I've written episodic television, most notably for "Law & Order", have written "long form" television (TV movies) for every network, and one of my feature film scripts is currently under option.
Do you enjoy researching or do you prefer working totally from your imagination?
I love, love LOVE researching. It is the best way to ground stories in reality that, yes, come totally from my imagination. I just did research in Oregon that was incredibly fun and fascinating. I went out in the woods with a naturalist who specializes in edible plants, and did some plant identification with him. This research is for the book I'm currently working on, and it was invaluable. The truth is that if you're interested in the subject, the research is a joy, and if you're writing about something, you must be interested enough in it to do the research.
Do you write every day and do you have set hours that you work?
No and no. A lot of "writing" time is just thinking time. By the time I sit down to write, work tends to flow because it's already worked out in my head. And when I get stuck, I swim. There's something about going back and forth in the pool that just unglues my mind. I've solved more story problems swimming laps. And I don't write during "set hours" because every day has its own real life challenges and I have to be flexible. I do, however, have a maximum of about four hours of good writing time before my writing travels into the "land of diminishing returns". Anything I write after that four hour window, I always end up ditching the next day.
What other jobs did you have before you were a writer?
Oh my. Where to start? I worked in a theatre box office taking subscriptions, I did temp office work, I watered plants in office buildings, I worked retail, I bartended, I waitressed, I taught sailing during the summers in Chicago, I worked in an art gallery in New York, I taught swimming, I lifeguarded, and I waitressed some more. I think that's it - or what I care to remember. I liked jobs that didn't take up too much "brain time" so I could come home at the end of the day and WRITE.
Which of your books did you most enjoy writing?
The one I'm writing now. Whatever I'm writing at the moment MUST be my favorite, otherwise I'm not sure I could get through it. So I love the one I'm with. And I do feel like I am "with book" almost like being "with child". Writing a book is a kind of birth, coming from nothing but the small seed of an idea and growing into its own entity with a life of its own.