My first sale was a magazine story. I sold that to the second magazine I sent it to. But it took me 8 years to find a publisher for my first book, which was a picture book, and 12 years to find a publisher for my first two novels (I sold two novels to two different publishers within days of each other...and they came out the same season). The last time I counted my file of rejection slips there were more than 800 in there.
---> Have you ever thrown away a book that you just couldn't make work?
I wouldn't say "thrown away"...I'd say "set aside." And I've got several of of those in various stages of completion. Who knows? Maybe one day I'll figure out how to make them work. But maybe not, too.
---> Is it still exciting to publish a new book even after all this time?
Yes. That never gets old.
---> Do you get ideas for new books all the time and you keep them written down, or does one come to mind when you need one?
I write down kernels of ideas. Kernels that need development. Sometimes they turn into full-fledged books; sometimes they don't. While I've never not had a book idea to be working on, I wouldn't say ideas come easily to me. I don't have notebooks full of them at any rate.
---> Do you have entire story arcs mapped out when you begin a trilogy or a series of related books?
I did with the first three Buddy Files books. And I have a new series coming in 2014 called The Haunted Library. I know how I want that series to end, too. What I don't know is how many books my publisher will want. They can't know that until they see how the series does. Right now, I'm contracted for four books. And #4 is not the end. Hopefully the series will do well enough to continue and I will know which book is really going to be the last book. That way I can truly end the series.
---> Do you know how a book/series is going to end when you begin it?
I do now. That was NOT the case when I started writing.
---> Is there any kind of book you would like to write but haven't?
I'm working on a YA murder mystery right now. That's new for me...and I'm not sure why it's taken me this long to try it. When I was a kid and imagined my adult writing life, I saw myself as a mystery/thriller writer.
---> If you could change anything about your writing career, what would it be?
No, nothing really. I wouldn't even change how long it took me to publish my first books. I was growing as a writer in that time (and being a mother to my children). And I appreciate where I'm at today because I had to work to get here; nothing was handed to me. I've had some pretty amazing experiences in my career. I got to write for a series I loved as a child (how many people get to do that?). I created my own series. Two, actually. I've had a book on ALA's list of most challenged books. I've won an Edgar award. And I like to think there are more wonderful things ahead of me.
---> What’s the most interesting question you’ve ever been asked about your writings, and what was your answer?
I do a lot of skype chats with classrooms and library groups. One student asked me if I believed people were all good or all evil. I'm not sure what prompted her to ask me that, but it's not a question I've ever been asked before. I told her I don't think anyone is 100% good or 100% evil.
---> If you could have written any single work – novel, screenplay, stage play, poem, history, biography – that you most admire and adore, what would it be?
Several books come to mind...but I know they wouldn't be the same if I had written them. Every writer's voice is different. Unique. Every writer's way of telling a story is different. Little Women (to name one) wouldn't be the same book if I had written it.