Here are the answers to some of my most frequently asked questions.
What inspired Caterpillar Summer?
I had two major inspirations for Caterpillar Summer: my relationship with my my middle brother, Andy, and my love of the North Carolina coast. Andy and I were very close. He had multiple disabilities and needed extra support. As his big sister, I felt an extra responsibility to him. We also had a lot of fun together.
What inspired The Queen Bee and Me?
A lot of books have been written about bullying, but I wanted to write a story where the main character was feeling conflicted in a best friend relationship that had a lot of history--some good, some bad. I was also inspired by a bee report I did when I was in third grade--they are so interesting and some of the dynamics fit the story perfectly.
What inspired These Unlucky Stars?
Around the time I wrote this, there were a lot of discussions on my neighborhood group about kids who had been spotted ringing doorbells and running away. It made me think about pranks gone wrong and the idea of being lucky or unlucky in general. I also wanted to write a book about mistaken first impressions.
What inspired Honestly Elliott?
I wrote this story at the beginning of the COVID pandemic. I was missing spending time with my family and friends, and the story of a boy who was also experiencing that "missing piece" came out of that feeling. I also wanted to write a book about ADHD and Celiac disease, which are both disabilities that I have.
What inspired When Sea Becomes Sky?
My brother Andy died when we were both kids. I wanted to write a story about loss that was more than a story about loss. I was very interested in the way grief affected me as a writer (both as a kid and now, as an adult) and I became interested in the idea of art and ephemeral art as a way of expressing certain aspects of life and permanence. I was also inspired by the Carolina saltmarsh.
What inspired Trouble at the Tangerine?
My previous book When Sea Becomes Sky had some mystery elements that I really enjoyed, so it seemed natural to want to explore a more traditional mystery. Simon was modeled in part after my husband, who moved a lot when he was growing up--not quite as much as Simon, but close! I was also by Karina Yan Glaser's Vanderbeeker books and the show Only Murders in the Building.
Are any sequels planned?
So far, all of my books are standalones but there are no sequels planned. There are lots of new stories and characters that I'm excited to explore. But it's definitely a possibility for the future--never say never!
Do your books have any Easter eggs?
Yes! There are two Easter eggs in each of my books. One is that Gingerbread Island (the setting of Caterpillar Summer) is mentioned in each book. The other is a secret! Only one reader has found it so far. If you find it, send me a message and I will send you a gift.
What genre are your books?
My books so far are all contemporary realistic fiction for a middle grade audience. Trouble at the Tangerine is a mystery and so is When Sea Becomes Sky. But I am interested in trying other genres--stay tuned for more details!
Did you do the art in your books?
I only do the words. I am very lucky to have had wonderful artists to make covers and interior art for my books. I could not be happier with their work. If you would like to know the name of the artist or cover designer, that information is on the page that is specific to that title. You can select the name of the book you are interested in under the "Books" menu.
Are you a Bex or a Davey?
In When Sea Becomes Sky, Bex says she doesn't like sad books. Davey argues that books are supposed to make us feel things--and that, anyway, most books aren't all happy or all sad, they're a mix of both.
I personally am a Davey. But it's not wrong to be a Bex, either. Thankfully, there's a lot of room in the world for different kinds of readers.
Which book is your favorite?
This is one of the most common questions but it's difficult to answer! I truly don't have a favorite. All of my books are special to me in different ways. I will say that the most challenging book to write was When Sea Becomes Sky, and I am extra proud of that one.
Where did you go to college?
I went to University of California, Irvine, and majored in Literature and Linguistics. Then I went to Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis, where I took classes toward a teaching certificate.
Go Anteaters! Go Hornets!
Why do you write for kids?
1. Kids are the best, most enthusiastic audience.
2. I remember being a kid very clearly, so it's easier to imagine what my characters might be thinking or feeling.
3. Books we read when we are kids can become a part of us forever.
4. Middle grade books tend to be hopeful in some way, and I like that.
Will you turn one of your books into a movie/show?
That would be really cool! There aren't any plans to do this right now, but maybe in the future.
What were your favorite books when you were a kid?
Where the Red Fern Grows
by Wilson Rawls
Danny, the Champion of the World
by Roald Dahl
The Narnia books by C.S. Lewis
All Beverly Cleary books