Who are you and what do you do?
I am: wife to a kind and amazingly handsome husband, mother to two giggly little girls, teacher to about sixty brilliant teenagers, writer of several novels, and friend to anyone who will have me. (Seriously. I’m one of a handful of extroverted writers, and my extroversion is STRONG.)
I prefer my coffee black, my cereal dry, and my tea unsweet–even though I was born and raised in the South.
My favorite music comes from David Gray, Mumford & Sons, Oasis (hello 1993, I know, I know), Gavin DeGraw, and–when I’m feeling particularly girl-ragey–Avril Lavigne.
My favorite movies include the Bourne trilogy (I’ve always wanted to be a spy!), the Harry Potter movies, Pride & Prejudice (I’ve also always wanted to be Elizabeth Bennett, so if we could somehow make her into a spy, that would pretty much make my life), and Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail.
My favorite color is green. I do not care for coconut, tomatoes, or baked goods that contain nuts. I like to mow the lawn. I wish I played the drums. I once took a summer’s worth of belly dancing classes and it was really awkward. I have been hang-gliding. I dislike 98% of standup comedy. My bookshelves are organized by color.
You’re a teacher, a mom, and a wife. How do you find the time to write?
First of all, I LIKE to write, and anything I like to do typically gets done. Secondly, there are lots of other things I don’t do. For example: I don’t separate colors from whites in the laundry, make the beds, clip coupons, or cook a hot meal every night. I also don’t watch much TV. There’s nothing wrong with TV, but it can be a giant time-suck for some people (including me).
My husband and I run the household together so that each of us can pursue our own interests while keeping our family close-knit. Sometimes he spends half a Saturday with the kids so I can camp out at Panera with my laptop. I do the same for him when he’s got a project going on. This might sound cliche, but when we work as a team, we can pretty much do whatever we want.
Small goals help me be consistent, too. If I’m drafting, I aim for 500 words a day (typically about 30 minutes-1 hour of work for me). Sometimes I do more than that, but as long as I reach that goal, I’m allowed to stop for the day.
When did you start writing?
For fun: When I was about nine years old. For publication: August 2008.
What do you teach?
People often assume I am an English teacher. That would make sense with my being an author, but in fact, I teach high school Spanish.
Do you speak fluent Spanish?
Yes and no. Yes, because when I speak it, it comes out fluently. No, because I haven’t lived in a Spanish speaking country since 2003, and thus much of my Spanish vocabulary has leaked right out of my head. (I lived in Spain, just outside of Madrid, for a semester of college.)
How tall are you? (Yes, this is a FAQ.)
With no shoes on, I am 5’10”. In heels, I am a force to be reckoned with.
About My Books
Where do your ideas come from?
Anywhere and everywhere. Mostly, they just appear in my brain without warning. Sometimes they are interesting enough to warrant a story. Other times, they are fleeting thoughts, not fleshed out enough to be anything substantial. But the bottom line is that I can’t stop them. I don’t know how they are conceived; I just know that they are.
What are your books about?
The best way to answer this is to direct you to the “Books” page, which you can find in the menu up top. There, you’ll find a special section for each book. Thanks for being interested!
Where can I buy your books?
How can I get a signed copy?
I often bring books to events, and you can find a list of my events on the–you guessed it–“Events” page.
How long does it take you to write a book?
This depends on lots of factors, like whether it’s during the school year or the summer, and whether or not I’ve just had a baby. Typically, though, my timeline looks something like this:
- First draft: 3-4 months (including plotting/outlining)
- First round of edits: 2.5 months (including beta reading)
- Second round of edits: 2 months (including beta reading)
- Third round of edits: 1.5 months (including beta reading)
- Final round of edits: 2 weeks
- “Marinating” (stepping back): 1 week
- Final read-through: 1 week or less
- Total time on manuscript before my agent sees it: 10-11 months
How can I become a published author?
Step 1: Write A Book
First, you need to write a book. Don’t worry about ANYTHING ELSE until you have done this. The Internet holds ALL THE ANSWERS as to how, exactly, this feat is accomplished. I have no doubt that you and Google can find everything you need to get started.
Step 2: Revise Until Your Eyes Fall Out
After you’ve completed your first draft, take a couple weeks away from the book. Work on something else, or watch some reality TV, or maybe call all those friends you’ve been ignoring. Then, open the manuscript and go through it for plot holes, grammar mistakes, weak characterization–ANYTHING that needs to be changed. Repeat this process until you think you might die.
Step 3: Throw Your Manuscript At Friends
Okay, don’t REALLY throw it. But do find two or three people, preferably not close friends or family, who are either A) writers or B) good critical readers and are excited to critique your manuscript. They should be honest. You WANT honest. Ask them to tell you how they are feeling as they read (I usually ask for my reader’s emotions at the end of each chapter). Also ask them to point out any typos or other problems. Do not allow them to change the document; just ask them to mark any issues they see.
Step 4: Do Not Set Your Book On Fire
When you get your critiques back, it can feel like the world is ending. These people have read your PERFECT AND LOVELY MANUSCRIPT, and they have TORN IT APART. They don’t like your main character. They don’t understand why the sidekick blew up the spoon factory in Chapter 13. They think your dialogue is snooze-worthy. And, worst of all, each of your readers liked and disliked different things–for DIFFERENT REASONS.
Take notes on each reader’s feedback and categorize their comments by chapter. Mull over what they’ve said for a few days. You’re under no obligation to follow their suggestions, but you should consider their comments carefully before deciding whether or not to implement them. Once you’ve decided which changes to make, go through your manuscript and make them.
Take another couple weeks off. Read the manuscript again. Send it to more readers. Follow this process until you feel the manuscript is the best it can possibly be. If you’ve done it right, the whole novel probably looks significantly different now than it did when you first wrote it.
Step 5: Find An Agent
I’m assuming that if you’re reading all this, you’re pursuing traditional publication. That means you need a literary agent (unless you find a publishing house that accepts unagented manuscripts, which do exist but are few and far between). There is a fabulous article HERE that will give you instructions on how to find an agent better than I ever could.
Step 6: Do The Next Thing
If you found an agent, congratulations! He or she will guide your steps as you proceed through the murky waters of the publishing business. (SPOILER ALERT: Getting an agent DOES NOT GUARANTEE that you will be a published author.)
If you didn’t find an agent, well… perhaps your manuscript needs more work. Perhaps your query letter wasn’t polished enough. Do more research, try to attend a conference or workshop, do ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING to educate yourself on what could be improved.
And then? Start again.
Can you critique my query letter and/or manuscript?
Yes! I have a freelance editing business called Yellowhammer Literary Services. Click on the “Yellowhammer” tab up there in the menu for more details.