1. You were a teacher for many years. When did you decide you also wanted to be a writer?
When I heard rumors about a murder and a cover up of the murder in my home town, I wanted to tell the murdered woman’s story.
2. Many adults have a rosy picture of teen life. I remember good times, yes, but also insecurities and worries. Where do I fit in? What do I want to do with my life? Will I have a date for the prom? In creating your books, do you draw on your own memories or on your students’ lives?
My characters’ experiences are a compilation of my memories and events I witnessed while teaching.
3. The main character in Blame is 17-year-old Jacob who discovers by accident that his father is hiding something that could destroy his family. He agonizes over what to do. What is the most important message you want your readers to take from this story?
I’m bearing two messages: Even if it comes with pain, family is worth saving, and it’s important to have a friend or friends to turn to when times get rough.
4. When Jacob and his co-captain get into a fight and refuse to tell their coach why, the coach tells them to work it out. Should he have done more?
No, the coach understood it was too painful for the boys to discuss what the problem was. It was too private and embarrassing. He gave them his card, so they could contact him when and if they were ready to discuss the reason for the conflict.
5. Jacob is obsessed with being clean and is constantly washing his hands to the point where they are red and raw. Why did you add this to his personality? Should his parents have encouraged him to see a therapist?
This part of Jacob’s character is from me. I’m excessive compulsive about germs. I wash my hands until they peel. I kept hand sanitizer on my desk for students to use. One young man came up four or five times a period to clean his hands. Finally, I told him his hands were going to start peeling if he didn’t stop using so much hand sanitizer. He looked at his fingers and said, “Oh, is that why my hands are peeling?” Since I don’t think I need a therapist, I wouldn’t suggest it for teens. Part of my job at one school was to stand in the bathroom between classes to deter students from smoking or fighting in the bathroom. A shocking number of students did not wash their hands after using the facility. Since germs spread through hand contact, I’ve made it a habit to wash my hands more frequently than many others do.
6. You write about teens who are definitely not part of the “in” crowd? Why did you choose them over the popular kids?
Popular teens don’t usually need an advocate. On the other hand, alienated kids need to know they are not alone with their problems.
7. Do you have a favorite character in your books? What do you like about him/her?
I love all my characters, but Dallas, also known as Squirrel, dares to be different. She wears her own style of clothes, loves trees, and dares to stand up to bullies.
8. What part of the writing process is easiest to you? What is hardest?
Brainstorming ideas, coming up with the what ifs, and choosing unique characters, is the easiest part of writing for me. The character arc challenges me. There’s an old cliché that states, “A leopard doesn’t change its spots,” yet writers must show character change. It’s difficult for me to write about measurable character change.
9. What kinds of books do you like to read? Can you mention a couple of your favorite books?
My thanks to Melody for sharing her thoughts with us. Her books can be found on Amazon and also through her publisher, Taylor and Seale. And here’s a special note for SCBWI members—Melody will be on the First Books Panel at the January conference (Saturday at 11:45). If you’re there, stop in and say hello.