Write stories. Ride my mustang horse. Read books.
What most influenced you most when you were growing up?
My Mom. I was home-schooled and learned to read at age three and loved it.
Did you write stories when you were growing up?
Began writing stories at age six. Began sending stories in for publication at age ten. All came back!!!
When you were a child did you ever have moments when you decided that you were going to be a writer when you grew up?
I wanted to be a writer ALWAYS. I think even as a toddler.
What audience did you have in mind for your career as a writer - adult or children?
I wanted to write for teenagers since I was a teenager. This is my favorite age group. I taught teens for ten years.
When you went to college, were you already pursuing a writing career?
Yes, I was. My stories for western magazines paid for my college education.
I had a paper route as a kid. My first job after college was as a high school history teacher.
How soon after that was your first book published?
My first book was published four years later.
When was it published?
Was your first book accepted immediately? or did you experience a number of rejections?
Billions of rejections.
What are the topics are some of your books?
I specialize in Black history writing biographies of people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Harriet Tubman.
Do you focus on fiction or nonfiction? Which do you prefer? Do you find one easier than the other?
I LOVE fiction. I write both fiction and nonfiction.
Do you do other types of writing - for example, educational, nonfiction, magazine work?
I used to write for magazines, but not any more. Now I write all books, both fiction and nonfiction.
What other jobs you had before you became a writer/illustrator?
I had a paper route, worked as a shrimp boat worker, picking berries, waitress, and as an insurance clerk. I failed the most as a waitress.
What kinds of things inspire you to write?
The kids in my neighborhood. I live in a multicultural, lower middle-class neighborhood, including African Americans, Mexican Americans, Arab Americans, and Filipino Americans. The kids are Great!!!
Where do you get your ideas?
They pour into my brain without even thinking. It is strangely magical.
What gave you the idea for the Urban Underground series?
From the teens I know. This series will be out in 2010.
What really triggers your imagination?
Have any of your fiction stories been about real people or events?
All of my fiction stories are based on real events.
If some of your fiction stories are factual, do you write about people that you have been interested in for a long time, perhaps since childhood?
Most of my stories are based on the kids in my neighborhood. They are my former high school history students.
Do you enjoy researching or do you prefer working totally from your imagination?
I love working from my imagination. I enjoy some research.
Do you work on more than one book at a time?
Which of your books did you most enjoy writing?
All of my fiction books
What are you working on now?
I’m doing 20 books on inner-city kids.
I often work 10 hours a day, everyday.
When is your next series going to be in book stores?
2010, The Urban Underground series.
I love humor. In the series I’m working on now I have to sometimes laugh LOL so hard that I must stop writing.
When you do school visits, what question do children ask you most?
How much money do you make?
What do you most want the students to get out of your school visits?
That I love kids and that they are all special.
Has anyone ever written you a fan letter that you’d like to share?
I have hundred of letters from fans. One boy, suffering the loss of a dearest friend and blaming himself, wrote to tell me that my book WHEN A HERO DIES helped him survive. His buddy died in a gang shooting.
Is there anything about yourself that you’d like to share - hobbies, where you were born, special talents other than writing/illustrating.
I was born in Cleveland Ohio. My dad died when I was a baby. My Mom took my brother and me across country in a travel trailer seeking work. There was lots of poverty. But since we were blessed with the greatest Mom God ever put on earth, we lived a good life. She made all of life a joy.
I live in a neighborhood, Spring Valley, California where the people are nice and friendly but we have a tragic gang problem. In the past five years, six young lives have been lost within a mile of my home. My brother and his wife ran a daycare center for 20 years and I often helped them out. Those little kids are now teens and young adults and I’ve remained friends with them all this time. They share their dreams, fears, and joys with me and from this relationship, my imagination flows.