What's the story behind your latest book?
One of my earliest memories is of a cereal box—Super Sugar Crisp, now called Golden Crisp—with an actual, playable cardboard ‘flexi record’ printed on the backside. My mom had just taken the box from the grocery bag, and it sat on the kitchen table, waiting to get stored. At age 4, I was already a music fan and pop culture scholar in the making, so I was both fascinated and excited. Still a preschooler, and so not great with scissors, I enlisted by big sister’s help in cutting the record from the package. I’m guessing the box, missing most of its backside, ended up in the cupboard.
The small album, featuring brightly colored images of Archie and the gang, played at 33 1/3 speed and had 4 songs from cartoon band, The Archies, including one of my favorites, the mega-hit, Sugar, Sugar. The flexi-record stayed on my family’s turntable for at least a day. Which, in little kid time, is forever.
Fast forward about
two decades, and I have a son who reads, collects, and studies comics and comic
culture. As we strolled through garage sales, flea markets, and used bookstores
for old issues of Batman and other superhero comics, he’d encourage me
to find some for myself. Just like that, comics, specifically Betty and
Veronica, were back in my life.
Fast forward a few more years, and I’ve become a fiction writer and a college professor. As I scroll through TV shows, waiting for something to catch my attention, I spot an ad for Riverdale. I’m intrigued. They’ve created something new yet still familiar. I’m curious and wondering what is similar and what is different. Soon, I’m tuning in to the show on a regular basis and using my fiction writing experience to analyze the storyline and the characters. What works? What doesn’t? Why did the creators make the decisions they did? Eventually, I was so far down the Riverdale rabbit hole that I began to do more formal research.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Two things: telling stories and growing as a writer. Each story is unique because of the characters. So telling stories is a way of giving someone a voice. I know, the characters aren’t real people, but they represent real struggles, difficulties and motivations.
Growing as a writer matters to me; I constantly test boundaries and give myself opportunities for growth. Expanding into non-fiction, after years of writing fiction, gave me a new challenge.
What do you read for pleasure?
Like most writers, I read everything. Most recently, I read Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica and The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse.
Describe your desk
My desk is a beautiful antique, a gift from my mom. She used it for many years in her law office, then retired and passed it on to me. It’s a dark walnut stain, handmade in the mid-1800’s in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It has super deep drawers, so I have plenty of room for my postcards, extra pens, post-it notes…
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio which is sometimes referred to as the gateway of the south. There is a tradition of story-telling that is unique to the South and it continues to influence me. I see it in the way I connect characters back to their families and my love of small details.
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a science fiction novel and an article about creative writing theory. I usually work on more than one project at a time. That way, if one needs to sit for a minute while I sort something out, I can continue writing the other.
What drives you to keep on writing?
Readers! They are the best. Their excitement for the next book is so appreciated and always keeps me excited too. They love reading as much as I do! And, of course, the above mentioned challenge that comes with writing.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Having fun matters. Writing what you love matters. So–if it isn’t fun and writing it doesn’t make you excited, move on.
What is the one thing you want your readers to know about your books?
I switch genres and subgenres to nurture my love of writing. I love a challenge. As soon as someone tells me something can’t be done…I’m off to try and do it.