In Her Own Words:
Many readers ask me where I get my ideas. This is probably the hardest question to answer, because a book contains hundreds, maybe thousands, of ideas, squirming and changing and evolving as I write. I don't know the story before I begin. I only have a vague image in my mind of a character and a place. Then I write in order to find out what the story is. I want to know why the character is in this place and what is happening now, what happened before, and what will happen later.
Sometimes people and events in my “real life” spark ideas for stories. In Absolutely Normal Chaos for example, Mary Lou's family is very much like my own family. Like Mary Lou, I have a sister and three brothers (my brothers' names are the same as those in the book), and when I was Mary Lou's age, my cousin came to live with us, but none of the things that happen to Mary Lou's cousin happened to my own cousin. In Walk Two Moons, the trip that Salamanca takes with Gram and Gramps follows the same route that I took with my family when I was Sal's age, but we weren't searching for my mother (she was in the car with us) and we didn't face the danger and difficulties that Salamanca does.
The fictional town of Bybanks appears in many of my stories. Bybanks is based on the real town of Quincy, Kentucky, where my cousins live on a farm, and where I spent many wild days as a child, running through the hills. Other real-life sparks include: My father, Arvel, was the inspiration for Uncle Arvie in Pleasing the Ghost, and the two years that I lived in Switzerland sparked some of the ideas in Bloomability. A trip that my daughter took, sailing across the Atlantic when she graduated from college, inspired The Wanderer.
I am also often asked if I am going to write sequels. Most of my books are already related to each other, though not exactly sequels. You will find familiar characters and places popping up all over. I suspect that this will continue to happen in future books, because each book I finish seems to leave threads with me that I want to pick up again when I start a new story.
I love to hear about my readers' families and interests, and many readers ask about my family and my interests. I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and later lived in Washington, D.C., and later still spent twenty years in England and Switzerland. My two children (a son and a daughter) are now grown and living in the U.S. and my husband and I have also returned to the U.S. We live at the Pennington School, where my husband is the headmaster, in New Jersey. We have no pets because we travel so much. Some things I enjoy doing are reading, kayaking, swimming, and cross-country skiing. When I was young, my two favorite things to do were to climb trees and ride my bike.
I hope you take many “walks” with many characters and that you will enjoy the worlds they take you to.