Frequently asked questions
Award-winning author of books for kids and teens answers questions from readers.
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Where do you get your ideas from?
A – Ideas, ideas, ideas! I have more ideas for stories than I could possibly ever write. They come from everywhere. Songs, bits of stories I remember from sitting on my grandfather’s knee, snippets of overheard conversations, memories, places or events that inspire, newspaper articles, radio clips, anecdotes passed along from a friend, the things I have done with my children, etc. etc. I keep an idea file, and whenever something interesting comes along, I
How many books have you written?
A – So far, I’ve published sixteen books. They include a young adult novel, The Smell of Paint, many picture books: Waiting for the Whales, Jessie’s Island, Moonsnail Song, Eagle Dreams, Tides of Change, Going to the Fair, A Pod of Orcas, This is the Dog, Island Santa, I Love Kisses, and Island in the Salish Sea. I have also written a board book series: What’s That Sound? By the Sea and What’s That Sound? At The Circus, What’s that Sound? In The City, and What’s That Sound? On The Farm. I’m working on a couple of different projects at the moment: an information picture book, a chapter book, and another YA novel.
How long does it take to write a book?
A – The answer to that question will probably be different for every writer. It usually takes me between six months and a year to write a picture book. Some people think that’s an awfully long time for a picture book. But, most of the stories I write require accuracy and background knowledge. For example, I had to know a lot about Orcas, as well as west coast flora and fauna to write Waiting for the Whales. Eagle Dreams, the story of a boy who helps an injured bald eagle fly again, required that I do a lot of research on bald eagles. Sometimes I can get the information that I need by reading books. Sometimes I have to visit places like a raptor recovery
or interview specialists, and that takes time. Perfecting the story’s language is the other thing that I spend a lot of time on. I spend months reading what I have written out loud, listening for where it doesn’t sound right, rewriting, then reading it out loud again. Waiting for the Whales took me 10 drafts and almost a year to write. It’s important to me to spend time on making a story the best that I can make it. centre,
What advice can you offer young people interested in becoming a writer?
A – The best advice that I can give someone interested in becoming a writer is to READ READ READ!! And, of course, WRITE. You don’t learn how to write by talking about it or thinking about it, but by doing it. Keeping a journal is a good way to start. It also gives you the opportunity to become an observer, which is what writers often are. I suppose the last piece of advice I’d give is to give equal time to your imagination. One of the things I’ve found I had most in common with other writers is the time we spent as children imagining. I remember being constantly told to stop daydreaming. Well, if I had, I probably wouldn’t be a writer today.
Is writing hard?
A – Sometimes yes and sometimes no. When a story is going well, and you’re happy with it, there is nothing more wonderful; no job on earth I’d rather do. But, there are hard moments too. When you’ve rewritten a story many times, and it still isn’t any good, it can be very frustrating. If I get stuck, I usually try to work on a different story. I’m sure that being a doctor or a hockey player or doing any kind of job isn’t always easy either. But then, I don’t write because it’s easy just as I’m sure doctors and hockey players don’t choose their professions because they’re easy.
Do you do a lot of research?
A – Yes! Research is a big part of how I prepare for a book, although sometimes reading and research will inspire a book. For example, I was reading a lot about coastal history just because I was interested in it. I was sure others would be as interested as I was, so I wrote Tides of Change. But, when I started working on Waiting for the Whales, I knew very little about Orcas. That meant I had to do a lot of research. Sometimes I know quite a bit about a subject, but need to check details with an expert. Other times I need to become more familiar with a setting, such as a country fair to get the details right. I visited about twenty country fairs before I wrote Going to the Fair.
Who inspired you?
A – When I was growing up, we didn’t have any books in my house except the bible. I didn’t even start reading outside of school until I was a teenager. The first writers who inspired me were people like J.R
I hope that I have made being a writer seem within your reach too.