How long does it take to write a book?
Believe it or not, I spent eight years thinking up a story about a city Christmas pageant with live animals that goes awry. After an imaginary flamingo hopped on my shoulder and insisted he wanted into the story, it only took seven more years to get him there! Though most of my books didn't take that long, they have each been through a stack of revisions before you see the words I ended up with.
Where do you get your ideas?
From life all around me! For example, one windy night near Halloween, I listened to the wind blowing dried-up cornstalks in our garden—and noticed they looked like skeletons in the moonlight. While I was wondering how to spell the sound they made, a rhyme popped into my head—"Crackle-ty clack, bones in a sack. They could be yours—if you look back." That was the seed of the story. But I didn't get the feeling of fear down right until I got lost on a trail through some strange woods with night approaching…. Let me say, I never walked so fast, and I did not look back until I found my way home safely!
If I want to write books, what can I do?
Write as much as you can! It's like sports or music—the more you do it, the better you get. Reading as much as you can is important, too. That shows all the wonderful ways you can put words together to tell stories that can touch other people.
The most important quality to have is persistence. Keep at it until you accomplish your goals. When I was about ten, I decided I'd teach myself how to do a flip off a low diving board. I smacked the water countless times, but I didn't stop till I could do it. That turned out to be good preparation for writing and publishing books!
Do you do author visits?
Of course! I love to get to meet and talk to readers. I have visited schools, libraries, and bookstores all over the country. I also participate in book festivals and conferences from time to time.