A bit about me.
I grew up in New Orleans and spent my high school years writing overwrought poems and short stories. Veering away from words and toward numbers in college, I earned graduate degrees in business, met my husband Roger in Texas, and taught accounting to college sophomores until our sons came along. I became very active in their school community and read zillions of books with them, studying and eventually trying my hand at children’s poetry and prose.
My boys were 10 and 8 when my aunt, Valerie Martin (by then a celebrated author of adult fiction) suggested we collaborate on a children’s book, which was a very happy stroke of luck for me. Anton and Cecil: Cats at Sea was my first published novel, and I'm so glad to be back in the world of words with this series. The cat brothers are dear to Valerie and me.
I also love to write nonfiction, which keeps me constantly learning and exploring, meeting people in my community and beyond, and trying to tell readers what I've learned in a way that doesn't put them to sleep. To me, this kind of writing is every bit as exciting and gratifying as fiction.
I live now in Charlottesville, Virginia with my family, our two cats, Albert and T.J., and our sweet dog Jackson, all of whom have made their way into my stories.
Here's what I said when Anton & Cecil readers asked me ...
What's your favorite children's book?
My favorite was/is The Hobbit—a perfect story, to me—with its lush descriptions and so many awesome fantasy elements: trolls, dwarves, giant spiders, elves, wizards, a huge dragon and an enormous pile of gold. The hero is reluctant but courageous and the fictional world is enthralling. What could be better? (Note: I wrote this before the three-part movie was made. I still prefer the book.)
What’s your writing routine?
At first I thought that writing two pages a day, day in and day out, was actually a modest goal, easily attainable, until I tried to do it. I think I made it for three days in a row at first, then fell off track. Now I try to prepare a "set up" the night before with a plan of action for advancing the story, just bullet points and things to remember to put in. Then hopefully I can keep my schedule clear in the morning and make notes, outline, research, and get my pages down. If that doesn't work, the dog and I take a walk, have a snack, and I give it another shot.
What part of Anton & Cecil: Cats at Sea was the most fun to write?
My favorite part to write was the end. I won’t give it away, but every time I read it I smile, partly because of what happens there and partly because the book took us a long time to write and we had such great fun doing it. Valerie and I were in total agreement about the ending and we felt pretty triumphant, high-fiving each other over Skype.
Which part was the most difficult?
The long scene between Gretchen and Cecil on the pirate ship was tricky for me, trying to get their relationship just right. I would write it one way, and we’d read it and shake our heads, and then I’d try again another way. Valerie and I probably had more discussions about the Eye and the lore behind it than anything else, as that mystical element was completely invented and so important in binding the story together.
Is there one particular character in your book that you relate the most to? Why?
Though she is a minor character, Sonya (mom of Anton and Cecil) appeals to my sense of pride in and protective worry about my sons in the big big world. She teaches them all she can and then hopes for the best, knowing they have hidden strengths to call upon. I also like Shag the cormorant’s direct and authoritative style—he reminds me of a few Texans I know.