When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

During elementary school when I found myself scribbling stories every day and dreaming about life in the card catalog – and especially when I *published* a ghost story in Mr. Rogers 6th grade class.

Mr. Rogers = My Favorite Teacher

How long does it take you to write a book?

A few weeks to a few years. All depends on the idea, life, and my mental state. And how many revisions I need to do. Like 37 or some other obnoxious number.

How did you find your agent?

The yellow pages. Kidding!

I was a good writer and DID MY HOMEWORK. I searched websites for months, made lists, emailed potential agent’s clients, searched Publisher’s Marketplace and Query Tracker and read hundreds of blogs. I became a dang good investigator! The FBI may want to hire me.

I knew exactly who I wanted after all that awesome research, followed her to the SCBWI National Conference (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), queried her, but it wasn’t until a year later that I officially signed.

The best part: Seven weeks later she sold a three book deal for me with Scholastic Press!

Where did you get the idea for The Healing Spell?

I was absolutely enchanted when I visited Louisiana for the first time. I wanted to live there, talk to everybody, speak Cajun French, eat the food, and drink the bayou water. I keep going back to visit and now I can’t stop writing about it.

Do you eat crawfish and suck the heads?

I love crawfish etoufee which is a wonderful sauce with crawfish in it and smothered over grilled catfish, but you couldn’t pay me enough to suck those heads.

What is the easiest part of novel writing? Hardest?

I LOVE shiny new ideas that are full of possibilities and I know are going to get me on the bestseller lists. At least I can dream! Drafting a new idea is joyful, exciting, and you never know what road your characters are going to take or what dangerous things are up ahead.

Hardest for me are revisions,  especially the revision where it feels like I’m never going to get this unwieldy, unmanageable, sucky, “what was I thinking” thing to *work* and I’m tearing apart scenes, characters, throwing whole chapters away, rewriting the opening page for the 87th time. You get the picture.

Now revisions with an editorial letter can be fun, and my gorgeous editor gives me direction and kudos and love. I know exactly what I need to fix, change, or throw out. No swimming upstream without a paddle or a life vest. Or my bikini.

Who are your favorite Southern authors?

Barbara O’Connor, Kimberly Willis Holt, Deborah Wiles, Kerry Madden. Check out their books. You won’t be disappointed!

Why do you describe yourself as a Renaissance Woman?

A very intuitive friend told me that several years ago, and the more I think about it, the more I think she’s right! And I adore the whole image it evokes, too. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a Renaissance Woman?

I think it’s because I love so many varied and unusual things: I actively dream about living in different countries and different time periods, love to belly dance, love ballet, love all kinds of books from chick-lit to ghost stories, to historical, ancient Egypt, Middle-grade, YA, Suspense, Southern, Family secrets, homeschooling, my church family, piano, singing, baking. SEE MORE FAVS BELOW.

Why do you write about so many different settings?

Because they’re all so fantastically COOL and interesting and I like the challenge of bringing a place alive. Some writers are great at dialogue, some are great at plotting, but I have a special ability to bring a certain place in the world alive in all 5 senses; hearing, taste, touch, smell, and sight. I’m also getting pretty good at dialogue, if I do say so myself.

My editor at Knopf for The Last Snake Runner actually thought I was a long-distance runner because I’d brought Kendall’s dangerous Snake running so alive, but nope! I was never on the track team and running gives me a side-ache so I avoid it at all costs. But I know what it’s like to sweat in the desert and have your legs and lungs burn like fire!

What’s up with you as a belly dancer?

It’s good exercise. It’s beautiful. Anyone can do it no matter what size you are and even if you’ve never danced before in your life. Wearing sexy costumes is also a plus. And for me, it’s research, baby! My book, SECRET RITES OF THE GODDESS will be out in 2012!!

Typical work day?

Um, I do a bit of reading first thing in the morning, exercise, breakfast, shower, some phone calls, check email, look up Internet stuff, Research reading, check email, open up a Word Document and stare at it, check email, read blogs, post comments, check email, Facebook, eat lunch, repeat Morning’s schedule. Write a little or a lot depending on where I’m at in the current manuscript. Cook dinner. Eat dinner. Do massive amounts of dishes. Maybe more writing in the evening depending on what the family is doing.

Best thing about being a writer?

All of the above

Favorite Things?

Dion’s Pizza
Warm homemade cinnamon rolls
Brownies with chocolate chips
Any Italian food, especially sausage cannelloni
Reading in bed
Delicious books
The ocean and the beach
San Francisco Victorian houses
Antebellum Plantations
Oak trees dripping Spanish Moss
Hugging babies
Emails from my agent
Phone calls from my editor.
Book covers that make you drool
Making lists and checking things off
Anything Purple
Anything Chocolate
My family. I saved the best for last.