What inspired you to write Out of My Mind?
What if you were brilliant but could not communicate? I've often wondered about what's really going on in the mind of a person who cannot share their thoughts. I have a pretty good idea, because I have a daughter who is disabled. I'm pretty sure she's really smart, but I'm her mom--of course I'd want to believe that. So I created Melody-not as a portrait of my daughter, but as a character who is truly her own being. The story of Melody is fictional, of course, but is based on the reality of thousands of intelligent children and adults who are trapped inside uncooperative bodies. When a fictional character is created, the author has the power to allow any dreams to be achieved, and to allow triumphs as well as tragedies to occur. Melody has spunk and determination, and a great sense of humor. She has dreams and hopes like we all do.
How long did it take you to write Out of My Mind?
About three years, with maybe twenty or thirty edits. Revision is the hardest part of writing!
Everyone needs a mentor, a life coach, someone to champion them on to success. Mrs. V fills that role in the novel. Sometimes it's hard for parents to give their children everything that is needed in life. Mrs. V is that person who goes above and beyond what is required of her because she sees potential in Melody, and because she loves her. We all could use a Mrs. V in our lives.
When I was a child I read voraciously. So I read ALL the Little House on the Prairies books, ALL the Little Women books, ALL the books of every writer that piqued my interest. So I don’t have a favorite. I think all of them combined to create in me an appreciation of words, an ability to evaluate quality of expression, a love of storytelling. I honor them all, and thank them for challenging me to create my own words. I hope my stories do the same to the next generation of young writers.
If you could live anyplace real or fictional, where would it be? Why?
I love going to Florida to visit the ocean, but I think I prefer a place like Ohio where the seasons change. I love the soft colors of spring, the bright sunshine of summer, the golds and bronzes of autumn, and the silken white beauty of winter. I like watching the seasons change. It makes me happy.
If you could befriend a character from one of your books, who would you befriend? Why?
I think I’d like to meet Miss Ginger from Panic. She loves music and dance, and understands their power. She is a strong positive influence on the young people in her care.
Music is important to Melody. Who are some of your favorite artists? Do you like to listen to music while you write? If so, what do you listen to?
Melody can "hear" colors, and "taste" music. The artistic side of her shows a deep understanding of the necessary mingling of art and music to create words and images and ideas. Melody's love for music helps her, even soothes her when her life gets too overwhelming. Music gives her expression in a world where she is unable to express almost everything. Me, I play the piano a little, but mostly I love listening to music—classical, jazz, the blues, and country! I need silence while I write, however. Strange, but true.
You write books in a variety of different genres. Is there a genre that you prefer? Or is there a way you decide which genre you are going to write next?
I usually decide on the genre when an idea comes to me. Copper Sun came from a trip I made to Africa, and I felt I need to tell the story of those who had been taken from there against their will, so of course it was historical fiction. Most of my books fall into the realm of realistic fiction. I don’t do fantasy. I like reading it, but I don’t choose to write it. If ever I really meet a vampire or a zombie, however, then I’ll write that book!
Are you currently working on a book? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?
Yes, I’m working on two new books. The sequel to Panic, which is for older teens, and another middle grade fiction book. It’s historical fiction and is very different from anything I’ve written yet. It’s based on a diary left by my grandmother.