When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Spending time with family ranks #1 on my "special time" list. Hubby and I also love to travel. One son can't understand why we've been to Maracaibo, Venezuela and Cairo, Egypt but never Hawaii. I can't explain that one either! Hawaii ranks high on my visit list. I make all kinds of jam and jelly and, when I don't have to cook, I enjoy trying new, exotic recipes. I'm also a so-so quilter.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Oh yes! I was in fifth grade when I wrote a rip-off of BLACK BEAUTY called "Buff, the Proud Stallion." I worked with one of those fat, grade-school pencils and a yellow legal pad and finished nine whole pages! I wrote for the school newspaper from fourth grade on, entertained friends with dramatic short stories, and edited my high school paper. I was one of "those" kids.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
My parents were teachers and Mom taught me to read before I went to school, so I can't remember the first story I ever read. It was probably a "pre-primer" Mom found. I know I was addicted to stories long before I could read. My parents loved telling me how they used to read to me. I was maybe three when they found one of my favorites, a Little Golden Book called "The Tawny, Scrawny Lion." I memorized every word. They liked to tease me by reading made-up words from the page and hearing me say, "That's not how it goes!:"
What are your five favorite books, and why?
I couldn't choose five. Ask me for fifty and I may be able to narrow it down.
What do you read for pleasure?
Everything! I'm a highly eclectic reader. On my to-be-read shelf right now I have eight bound books including Margaret Atwood's A MIDWIFE'S TALE, Edith Wharton's THE HOUSE OF MIRTH, Nora Ephron's I REMEMBER NOTHING, Shirley Walker's THE GHOST AT THE WEDDING, and a non-fiction tome called THE BOYS ON THE BOAT about an Olympic rowing team. My keeper shelves are even more varied. That's all in addition to the 30+ books I've downloaded into my tablet and haven't read yet, mostly romances and family stories. Simply put, I love to read.
Describe your desk
A jumble! Even worse is the table beside it, which compares in clutter to my two bulletin boards. I work to keep the rest of the house tidy and clean, but my office is my workshop. The chaos includes bits of research, bills I have to pay, and a variety of other items that need attention. My husband marvels that I keep it all straight, but I do.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
Born in Mesa, Arizona, I lived in the Phoenix-area deserts until just before I turned twelve. That's when we moved to northeastern Arizona. Through high school I lived on the edge of the Navajo and Hopi reservations, twelve miles from the gateway to the Petrified Forest, and within two hours of Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon, and other gorgeous, scenic locations. The contact with tribal people encouraged me to study the writing of native Americans, which led to teaching American Indian Literature at the university level. That experience also gave me the background for the Rainbow Rock series of romance novels.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My work-in-progress is a YA adventure novel that shares the story of Marissa "Dulce" Donovan, a 16-year-old American transplanted to Bolivia by her father's job. When she's in a devastating airplane accident, she awakens still fastened in her seat belt, hanging eighty feet up in a mapajo tree, one of the giants of the Amazon rainforest. Fearing she's the only survivor, she begins hunting for others. The one she finds, 20-month-old Monica, is not what she expects. Quickly she realizes that if either of them is to survive, she will have to get them out. Years ago I heard the story of a 17-year-old girl who hiked out of the rainforest after a similar crash in Venezuela. After I spent some time in Bolivia and visited the Amazon basin, this story began taking shape. It should be available soon.
What do your fans mean to you?
When I read a great review or get a letter like the one I got this morning ("I love your writing! May I serve as a beta reader for you?"), it makes my whole week. I enjoy answering letters and emails personally and making a connection with other readers who love the same stories I do.
What is your ultimate writing goal?
Every author aspires to best-seller lists--the NYTBSL being the pinnacle--winning prestigious awards, and selling millions of copies, and I admit that would all be fun. In fact I used to say my goal was to make the New York Times list and have Oprah recommend one of my books. As I mature, both in years and in the publishing business, I've realized that what I really want is to write stories I love so much I can hardly wait to get back to them, make them available to the reading public, and take pleasure from having other readers tell me they couldn't put them down either.
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