Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, I remember it very well. I was a sophomore or junior in high school. I grew up on a farm and went to a small school in the nearby town. We had only one high school English teacher for all grades. She gave our class an assignment to write a story. I wrote a humorous story about a girl going on a date. Her parents insisted she introduce her date to the entire family--both parents and all five siblings. She would get a couple of family members in the living room and go to look for the rest, and by the time she got back with someone else, the first two had disappeared. Finally, after this went on for a while, the boy gave up and went home, and the date never happened. You might guess that I came from a large family--I was the oldest of six. My mother always said she had two litters because she had three girls very close together, then a large gap with no children, then my two brothers and baby sister. There is a difference of 16 years between the youngest and me.
I know the story doesn't sound very exciting in the summary above, but I was thrilled because the teacher read the story to every one of her English classes. In my class, the students laughed in the right places and seemed to enjoy the story. Students from other classes later told me they liked my story when the teacher read it to them. That was a huge boost to my ego and convinced me I wanted to be a writer.
However, reality got in the way for a long time. I listened to the folks who said I couldn't make a living as a writer and was in business for many years before I started my writing career. It's true that I don't make a living from my fiction, but I make a comfortable living from my freelance business.
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Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up on a farm about six miles outside Dilley, in south Texas. I developed a strong work ethic and value system. The work ethic helps me get things done, and my values are reflected in my stories. My characters either already similar values or they come to those values through the story. I also learned to appreciate simplicity and plain speaking. That is apparent in my simple, easy-to-read, conversational writing style. Even my characters who live in the city and work for huge corporations share the simple country values I grew up with.