Did you always want to be a writer?
I never thought that one day I would be a writer. While I always loved to read, I never thought that I could ever write a book myself. I started writing my first book when I was in my mid forties.
What made you decide to become a writer?
One day I was walking outside with my daughter who was then 10 years old, and she asked me what school was like for me when I was her age. As I started explaining to her how different my school experience was from hers, we both began to talk about what a good story it would make. Over the next several months I kept thinking about that and eventually decided to write a story about my experiences just for her. Being the mother of six children, I did not have a lot of spare time to spend on this. Sometimes it was weeks, even months before I got back into writing the story. Then one day, my husband happened to read it because it was open on the computer screen. He really liked it and encouraged me to turn it into a book. Since part of his professional work involved writing, I trusted his judgement and became more serious about my project. That summer, I took the laptop with me to our cottage and finished the first draft of A Whisper In My Heart. I enjoyed the experience of writing it so much that I was hooked. My mind began filling up with ideas for other stories. I had often wanted to suggest my story ideas to other authors. Now I decided I was going to write them myself.
Why do you write for children and young adults?
I started writing my first book for my daughter when she was ten years old. After that it just seemed natural to keep writing for that, or a slightly older age group. As my children were growing up, I always tried to keep abreast of the books they read so that I knew what they were thinking and imagining. This also allowed us to discuss many new and interesting ideas. I enjoyed the combination of simplicity and depth that I found in the young adult books that became our family favourites. That simplicity and depth is what I strive to capture in my books.
Do you write every day?
I try my best to do some writing every day, but with a large family like mine it is often difficult. Sometimes there are weeks between my writing sessions but I always have the books that I am working on in mind and keep thinking and re-thinking the scenes I will be writing next.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Because I don’t generally have the time to write every day, and when I do, it is often only for an hour or two at a time, it takes me a couple of years till my first draft is done. Then there is usually a long process of revisions; perhaps another year or two.
Do you always know the end before you write it?
I think I know the end when I start writing, but in both my completed novels, that end changed dramatically by the time I finished the book. The novel I am working on currently has already taken so many twists and turns from my original idea that I would have to say I no longer know how it will end. Though I always have a vague idea of where a book is heading, I have learned to trust to the impulses of my characters and the subsequent changes in the course of events.
Where do you do your writing?
I do most of my writing on my laptop at the kitchen table. This way I can get to it every chance I get, and I can also stop whenever someone needs me.
Does anyone read your books while you are in the process of writing them?
Yes, I usually have a few select people read my first draft. They include a professional editor as well as two or three people from the age group I am writing for. My family also gives me a lot of good feedback.
Where do your ideas come from?
My ideas come from past experiences or events that I am familiar with. I just ask ‘what if’ this or that happened. In my imagination I follow a great variety of scenarios. These often seem to have a life of their own.
How do you do your research?
I do most of my research on the internet and through talking with people. I really enjoy the talking with people part, and have met many fascinating people in the course of researching a topic. For my second book I traveled to Hungary and spoke with the nuns who had lived through the Nazi occupation during the Second World War and who hid Jewish girls in their convent. I also learned a lot from my mother and aunt who were two of the girls staying there.
What kind of books do you like to read?
I like to read most kinds of books as long as they are fiction. I like historical fiction, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, drama, adventure, just about anything. What I enjoy are books that have some meaning or value apart from pure plot. Though I like to read mostly fiction, I occasionally read biographies or memoirs if they are written in an interesting and conversational way; and not just dry historical facts.
Who are your favourite authors?
I have several authors that I consider my favourites. It is very hard to pick just one or two. I read different authors for different reasons: some for their style of writing; some for their exciting plots; some for what insights they give me about life. Also, I find that some authors have one or two outstanding books that I re-read several times, while their other books I don’t care much about. Author’s whose books I generally like are:
For adults: Orson Scott Card, Jodi Picoult, Elizabeth George, Jane Austen, Alexander Dumas.
For children or young adults: Scott O’Dell, Cynthia Voigt, Carol Matas, Mildred Taylor.
What other things do you like to do?
I like to be outside as much as I can. In the spring, summer and fall I ride my bike every day for at least an hour on the paths around Ottawa. In the winter I cross country ski. When I am at our cottage I like to paint rocks. Here are some pictures of the rocks I have painted. One of my greatest pleasures is spending time with my family, especially at the cottage.
What is your favourite book that you have read?
That is very difficult to say. It changes a lot. But right now I would say it is ‘My Sisters Keeper’ by Jodi Picoult.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to be a writer?
Read a lot. Especially the kind of books you would like to write. And of course write every chance you get.
Who is in your family?
I have been married to my husband for more than 30 years. We have five sons, a daughter, and twelve grandchildren.
Are you working on a new book now?
Yes. As soon as I finish writing one book, I start on the next. I have many ideas for books to write.