What made you want to write a novel about blind adolescents, Blindsided?
I was invited to speak at The Maryland School for the Blind some years ago and was so impressed by the teenagers, especially. I was surprised because many of them were just regular teens with a great sense of humor despite their situation. Also, before I left, a student gave me a poem he had written about being blind. Driving home that day, I vowed I would return to do a story about those kids.
You've written both children and young adult novels. Have you thought of expanding to adult novels?
I’ve thought about it, sure. I have written short stories for adults. But I’m quite happy writing for young adults these days. I had a bad middle school experience so maybe part of my psyche is stuck there . . .
On your website, your author info speaks of keeping a diary and having over twenty pen pals. Was that where your love for writing began? Or was that just a growth of it?
I have always loved reading and writing stories, from the time I was four and five years old. I was one of those kids stapling paper together to make a little book then drawing pictures and scribbling out the words I didn’t yet know how to write to tell my stories.
Both you and I have cats named Romeo! That's a cool coincidence. Animals must be a huge inspiration for your novels?
Oh, my gosh, I love animals. I grew up on a farm and had many, many pets growing up including my beloved palomino, Goldenboy. These days I have a chocolate lab named Sophie and two cats, Shoog and Romeo,both of whom actually belong to my daughter who is away at college. While she’s gone they’re mine, all mine, and sometimes I call Romeo, Mr. Romeow. He is a Maine Coon cat and quite the lover.
With writers as parents, do your children enjoy writing as much as the rest of the family does?
No, they don’t. But they have other talents.
When writer's block hits, how do you overcome it?
First, I try to just write something – anything – and hope that gets me started. If that fails, then I turn off the computer and read for a couple days. I find that reading unlocks my own creativity.
As you work on your stories do you chose the pen & paper method, typewriter, or pc?
Your novel What Mr. Mattero Did has a very serious subject matter. Was this written for a fictional education, or a different reason?
The story was inspired by an unfortunate situation in Maryland some years ago. While accusations, such as the ones made by the seventh grade girls in my story, must always be taken seriously, I wanted to write a story that showed both sides of the issue. What happens when a middle schooler makes up a story about a teacher? And what happens to that teacher and his or her family?
Before Blindsided, you spent many months with blind people (teenagers and adults). What did you learn the most from that experience?
I learned so much in those months when I was visiting the Maryland School for the Blind that I don’t think I could ever point to just one thing. But for sure, I discovered that many of those young people are just kids who happen to have a vision problem. They don’t want to be different. They don’t want to be treated different. They just want a life -- a job, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a place of their own. They want to be happy.
With Blindsided being written about blind people, was the novel published in Braille as well, for the people in reality who could most enjoy it?
The novel is currently being made into Braille by both the state of Maryland and The Library of Congress’ National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.