Defying the Diva
“I’m a bully because I enjoy pushing people around and making them do what I say. It’s my thing. If you mess with me, I will shove you into your locker, and it will hurt.” This unabashed admission from a fifteen year old girl led me to my next novel about a high school student who finds herself the target of a popular and attractive classmate known for pushing people around and getting her own way.
I have never bought anything from a TV shopping channel, but I think they’re fascinating windows on our culture. The idea that people will sit in front a screen and watch a “spokesmodel” demonstrate hair spray, a set of carving knives or a cleaning product fascinates me. One night as I watched a cosmetics wizard selling concealers and lip gloss, I started thinking about the ways in which we conceal our hurts and struggles in an effort to project a perfect image to the rest of the world. This is especially true in high school as young adults try to figure out who they are and where they fit into the world. So I created high school freshman Phoebe Trask and gave her a mother who sells Bee Beautiful cosmetics, a father embroiled in a controversial court case, a boyfriend who’s hiding a secret, and a next door neighbor all struggling with questions of their own. Then I just stood back, watched, and wrote down what happened. I hope you enjoy their story.
Growing up in the turbulent 1960s I saw a parallel between the upheavals over civil rights, the space race, and the Cold War and the upheavals we all must pass through on the journey from childhood to adulthood. I wanted to explore this parallel against a backdrop of a teenaged girl’s struggle to make a home for herself against tough odds in a whole new place. So I gave teen sisters Garnet and Opal a mother determined to become the Next Big Thing in Nashville, leaving the sisters in a small town in Oklahoma to discover for themselves the true meaning of home.
The Secret Prince
Some years ago I read a book by Christopher Vogler called The Writer’s Journey, which is based upon the work of the late Joseph Campbell, a student of the roles that myth and heroes play in our lives. Vogler discussed the idea of a hero who is compelled to leave his ordinary world and embark upon a quest in order to achieve the greater good. During his quest he meets enemies and allies and endures many trials and tests on his way to claiming the “elixir” before returning home, having been changed by his experience. I thought it would be interesting to develop a novel using Vogler’s mythic story pattern. I had great fun creating warriors, wizards, fantastic beasts, a dwarf trickster, a princess hiding in a convent, and the evil Northmen who must be vanquished in pursuit of a lost amulet.
The Puppeteer’s Apprenctice
Browsing in a library one day I came across an old out of print book called The History of the English Puppet Theater. I thumbed through it idly, reading a paragraph here and there and soon found myself captivated by the true story of itinerant entertainers who made their living by giving puppet plays at fairs and festivals across medieval England. I also read about Charlotte Charke, a real puppeteer in England, a woman noted for her good taste and ambitious performances. It seemed that one good way to tell the story of these clever and brave entertainers would be through the eyes of a young girl who is as captivated by the puppets as I was, and who has nothing to lose by taking up this vagabond lifestyle. I created “Mouse,” an orphaned scullery maid, and sent her on the road with a mysterious puppeteer who is keeping secrets of her own.
Almost ten years ago, my dearest friend, the writer Leanna Wilson gave me a book called Heroines. As I read the biographies of a number of women whose lives and work were new to me, I came across a brief description of Hypatia of Alexandria who was the foremost female mathematician and astronomer of her time. Intrigued by the story of a woman of such influence whose contributions to scholarship have been virtually lost, I set out to discover as much as I could about her life and work in order to bring her to the attention of modern audiences. My hope is that this book will open yet another new window on the world for young readers.