1. Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a father of two - a thirteen-year-old girl, and an eleven-year-old boy. They are amazing kids! So much fun and so creative. I work for a large public school system in the Washington DC area - I taught middle school English for about 15 years and now I’ve got a desk job working with data to support the English learners in our school system. Not quite as much fun as working with students each day, but it’s exciting to be working with teachers in all of our schools.
2. What kind of books do you bring with you when you go on holiday?
I mostly read YA fiction or adult nonfiction. Those seem like a big contrast, but I really enjoy both genres. I guess as an English teacher and as a father, I’ve always gotten into what my students or kids were reading. There are so many amazing YA books out there, with great characters and stories, I can’t resist them. And they’re usually an easy and relaxing read, definitely a favorite for any vacation. When it comes to nonfiction, I like history that reads like fiction. If I’m in the mood for nonfiction before a trip, I like to find something related to wherever I’m going. For example, we took a month-long drive across the U.S. a few years ago, and I grabbed a book on the history of Route 66. It was a lot of fun to read about places as we were driving through them.
3. If you could spend a sunny day anywhere how would your perfect day look like?
Definitely with family and definitely out in nature somewhere. We do a lot of biking and hiking with our kids, so on a sunny day that’s what we’d be doing. The DC area has some nice spaces for that close to home - bike paths and parks, but we also like heading west into the Virginia countryside and the Shenandoah Mountains.
4. Could you tell us about your hobbies (when you are not writing or reading)?
I guess my biggest hobby other than writing is woodworking.. My father is a carpenter, so I had a good role model when I was growing up and he still gets lots of phone calls from me when I have a question or get stuck in the middle of a project. My latest project involved taking apart the original doors from our 1930’s home and combining them with new wood to create bookcases. They’ve made a nice addition to our living room and were a good use for old wood that would otherwise have been thrown away. Recently, my son and daughter have both come to me with woodworking project ideas they want help with, so I must be doing something right.
5. Where do you find the inspiration for your stories?
I guess most of my inspiration comes from my personal interests. Without giving too much away, the character of Miss E. is based on someone from American history. The people in the story don’t know it, but Bets, the main character eventually figures it out. The real “Miss E.” is someone I’ve always been interested in and curious about, so I really enjoyed researching, learning more about her, and getting a sense of what she was like as a person. I’ve also always been interested in the 1960’s, the anti-war demonstrations, and the music of that era. So setting Miss E. in the 60’s was an easy choice, and I enjoyed creating the scenes and characters for the story. Music from the “Woodstock” playlist I put together was always in my earbuds whenever I was writing.
Some people have asked if the character of Bets is based on my daughter. I wouldn’t say I had my daughter in mind when I wrote that character; Bets definitely took on a life of her own as the story grew and her character evolved, but she certainly shares my daughter’s free spirit, her curiosity, and her determination. So maybe it was a subconscious inspiration.
6. If you could be any leading character from a bestselling book, who would you be and why?
That’s a tough question. The first thought that popped into my head was someone from Harry Potter simply because I’d like to be able to use magic. I’m reading the Game of Thrones books right now, but I wouldn’t want to be any of those characters just because they seem to die off pretty quickly. I’m rereading the Raven Boys series, and I’d be pretty excited to be one of those characters just to be part of a Maggie Stiefvater book!. I’ve always enjoyed planning and setting up treasure hunts for family, and those characters are on a real live treasure hunt, although it’s a supernatural and creepy treasure hunt. The Raven Boys characters also become a close group with strong connections to each other, and I think having close friends is an important part of life.
7. What's your favorite reading spot?
When I finished writing Miss E., my wife surprised me with a very cool retro looking chair. Miss E. has a bit of an airplane theme, and this chair actually looks like it was part of an airplane… like a leather pilot’s seat with sheet metal sides. It is super-comfy and has become my favorite place to read.
8. What is your favorite holiday destination and what do you like so much about it?
My favorite holiday destination is my parents’ cottage in northern Ontario. It’s on a lake with a nice beach, and there’s a sailboat, canoes, hikes in the wood, fires at night, card games, and good books. Tons to do, or nothing at all to do except relax. My family has been going up there since before I was born, so in the summers I grew up there. Now my kids have childhood memories of being at the cottage as well. That’s the best part. .
9. Do you have any advice for authors who would like to write a sunny story?
I guess my best advice is to write something you’d enjoy reading, something that you’re excited about. If you like the story, if you feel a connection to the characters and are excited about what you’re writing, that’s going to come through to the reader and they’re going to feel that same connection, that same excitement.
10. What can we expect from you in the future?
I just started writing the sequel to Miss E.! The next book takes place two years later, in 1969. I had a couple different ideas that I was excited about starting, but in the end I realized I just wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the characters in Miss E.yet. I fell in love with them while I was writing. People have asked about a sequel, and at first I didn’t really think it would work because Miss E. has a pretty clear ending. But then I realized that there’s a lot more to Bets’ story. She is still figuring out high school, dealing with her parents, discovering who she is. And the Vietnam War is still happening. So she’s got a lot more to experience, more to learn, more adventures. It feels great to be writing again, and I’m exciting about where the story is headed.