What advice would you give an aspiring writer?
Write an entire book. That seems simplistic, but it isn’t. It is the very first step in the process. If you have an idea for a story, write it. Get to the end. Then you can figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are. Many writers get so caught up in making their writing perfect that they never get to the end of a novel. They are too busy revising the beginning. Often, once the novel is written, the beginning changes or gets cut. You won’t know if this is true for you until the book is written and you know where the story is going. Once you have the book finished, I recommend joining a professional writing group like RWA to help improve your writing and help you learn the business.
How much are your protagonists like you (or visa versa)?
Most people assume that Rebecca Robbins is a great deal like me. She has red hair and… and… that’s about it. The two of us have red hair, but I am totally jealous that she is shorter than I am. Being tall is great for reaching the top shelf at the grocery store, but it isn’t much fun when you are a theater performer. There are never enough tall leading men to go around.
Paige Marshall and I probably have the most in common because we are both stage performers. The big difference is while we both went into teaching to supplement our performance income, I love it. Paige is still adjusting to dealing with teenagers.
My young adult protagonist, Cia is about to turn 17. So I probably had more in common with her back in my high school days. However, I would like to think that I am loyal to my friends and want to believe the best in people. As for her mechanical skills—well, let’s just say she has me totally beat in that area.
Do you still teach singing?
YES!!! I love singing. More important, I love teaching. My students are wonderful sources of inspiration and continue to teach me about life while I teach them about singing.
Do you belong to any writers groups?
YES! Over the years, I have belonged to a number of writers groups. Currently, I am a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Sisters In Crime and SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators).
Do you belong to a critique group?
I used to! When I was first learning the business of writing and through the first few years of seriously pursuing publication I belonged to a local chapter of Romance Writers of America. That chapter was a great critique group and taught me a great deal about my own writing as well as the publishing industry. Now, I am lucky to have an agent who reads and helps me improve anything that I write as well as an editor that is smarter than I am.
Who are your favorite authors?
Tough question. I love all genres, so I read a lot. I love Margaret George. Harlan Coben and David Baldacci always keep me turning the pages as does Iris Johansen and Lisa Scottoline. Maeve Binchey is lovely and I am a sucker for Debbie Macomber. Since I have so many romance writing friends, I can’t pick a favorite. I read a lot of them and think there are a lot of smart women with a flare for writing the genre.
Why did you write a young adult series? Are these books similar to your adult titles?
My young adult series and my adult books couldn’t be more different. My adult books are light and funny. While I hope they have a gripping puzzle to solve, my goal is to make my audience smile while they read. My young adult books are far more series and while there might be an amusing moment, the story questions are larger and more intense than a simple murder. (As if murder is ever simple!)
The truth is, I never believed I could write a young adult book, let alone a series. I’ve read a number of my friends books and didn’t think I could come up with a plot that appealed to teens. However, because I work with students that apply and audition for colleges every year, I see the pressure the process makes them go through first hand. Between the ACTs, the SATs, college applications, essays and auditions, the stress level of high school juniors and seniors is pretty high. Seeing that stress made me think about my own experiences with the college testing process and the hopes that I had when applying to schools. Suddenly, I had an idea for the book that became THE TESTING.
What would you do if you weren’t writing?
I’d take a shot at being a superhero. Leaping tall buildings with a single bound sounds like an interesting challenge. However, if all the capes and tights are spoken for I’d still be teaching voice lessons and thinking about how I could fit some shows into my schedule.
Why a roller rink?
Why not? Actually, the inspiration for the roller rink setting came from my mother, Jaci Charbonneau. She was an artistic roller skater who competed both in solo and dance competitions. She appeared on ABC’s Wide World of Sports and was even pictured in the World Book Encyclopedia under “Roller Skating”.