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FAQ


Where did your story ideas come from?
So far, my story ideas have come from things that happened in my own life. Many of the ideas for Free as a Bird came from my experience of working in an institution for mentally disabled people and having a sister who had Down Syndrome. With Reading the Bones many of the ideas were from when I was an archaeology student at university. There was one night in particular when I was in the lab by myself working with the remains of a burial from a five thousand year-old Coast Salish fishing village not far from where I lived. I started to wonder about who this man was. What might he be thinking about me poking, measuring, weighing and examining his ancient and cracked old bones? That was a turning point from seeing simply a box of old bones to feeling a sense of respect for the life they represented.

I enjoy history and seeing what there is to learn from people who lived long ago. And as a writer, I’m particularly interested in every day heroes who overcame difficult circumstances, limitations or prejudice and changed the world in small ways.

Where do you write?
I wish I could say that I have my own writing room with a big window that looks out on the mountains or a beautiful lake. But the fact is I have a little cubby in my bedroom that’s just big enough for a comfy chair, a small table, my laptop computer and me.

What do you like about being a writer?
I remember hearing author, Joan Didion, say: “I don’t like writing, but I like having written.” That’s how I feel too. For me the best part of being a writer comes after the book is done and I start to hear from people who enjoyed reading it.

What’s the hardest part of being a writer?
I’d have to say that the hardest part of being a writer is getting the first draft written. That’s because every time I’m about to begin a new book I have to overcome the fear that I won’t be able to do it. To get past this self-doubt I remind myself that I was able to do it before and then I make small goals. Some days the ideas flow easily, other days I can’t write more than a hundred words.

How long did it take you to write your books?
I got the idea for Reading the Bones when I was a student in university. It wasn’t until twenty years later that I actually wrote it. So you could say it took twenty years for me to write my first book. The second book only took about a year. How long a book takes to write really depends more on what’s happening in the rest of my life.

Do you have any advice for a new writer?
My advice isn’t unique…it’s what every experienced writer tells others who want to write: read lots of books, especially in the genre you want to write; and then write…as much as you can, in as many different genres as you can, for as many reasons as you can! It also helps to have a group of fellow writers to share your ideas with, so find yourself a writers’ support group or start one.

What did you read when you were a kid?
It might surprise you, but I wasn’t a big reader when I was a kid. We raised horses, had gobs of other animals, lots of kids nearby, open fields to explore and so many favourite games to play. So I was never much for sitting still for very long. It wasn’t until I grew up that I discovered how much l loved to read. Some of my favourite children’s books are: A Wrinkle in Time; The Giver; I Am David; and The Sky Watchers.

What is your family like?
I have a very generous and loyal husband who always encouraged me to follow my bliss. That was important since I changed my professions so many times in life. I also have two sons who are a lot like I was when I was a child--they love to be outdoors, to travel, and to play sports. I’m really proud of how generous and kind-hearted they are. Besides the humans in our household we have a cat…who mostly sleeps, and a dog…who mostly barks.

 

 

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