Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Where do you get your ideas?

A. Often, ideas for my books are inspired from small moments in my life.  These moments can range from going down a Louisiana dirt road like Tiger does in My Louisiana Sky, to standing in line to see the fattest boy in the world like Toby does in When Zachary Beaver Comes to Town.  I rarely realize that these small experiences are potential starting points for novels.  Sometimes years later they knock on my door and ask me to tell their story.


Q. Are your books based on real people and true events?

A. Although many of my books are inspired from moments in my life, they are transformed with my Imagination.  For instance, one character could be a mix of three people from my childhood. In When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, Antler was created from combining the two Texas towns of Claude and Memphis.  Or like the character Kyle in Part of Me, someone walking across the schoolyard might be the first seed for a character.


Q. What is your favorite book?

A. My favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird, but the one that inspired me to start writing was Carson McCuller’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.  Her characters seemed real to me. They made me believe the stories were true. I wanted to write stories like that.

Q. How old were you when you started to write?

A. When I was in fifth grade I started to dream about writing, but it wasn't until I was thirty-three that I committed to it. That day was

Q. Will you write a sequel for When Zachary Beaver Came to Town?

A. I’ve learned to never say never.  If you ever see a sequel to any of my books it’s because I was so excited about the idea that I didn’t mind the countless rewrites all my books require.


Q. What did you think of My Louisiana Sky and When Zachary Beaver Came to Town?  

A. I’m honored that two of my books became movies. Movies can lead people to books. I’ve read many books after seeing the movie and finding out that it was inspired from a book. People always ask me about the changes made in the movies from my books.  They are two different storytelling devices. A movie can’t tell everything that a book does.


Q. Did you have anything to do with the making of the movie? 

A. Nope, I just wrote the book.


Q. Are you related to your publisher, Henry Holt?  

A. No, it’s just a strange coincidence, but some of the employees tease me that he’s my Uncle Henry.


Q. Do you have any children?

A. Yes, I have one daughter, Shannon, who is a writer and works as a youth librarian assistant. She’s also a fabulous storyteller.


Q. Do you have any pets?

A. We have a schnoodle named Georgy-Girl. We adopted her from an animal shelter. For months she didn’t bark. Now she barks at anyone who approaches our front door. She even barked daily at the scarecrow I hung on the door in the autumn. I was so glad when Halloween was over.


Q. How many times do you have to rewrite your stories?

A. Some of my stories only need twelve rewrites. Some need almost a hundred.


Q. What do you like most about writing?

A. I get to stay home and work in my pajamas.


Q. When is your birthday?

A. September 9


Q. Where were you born?

A. I was born at NAS Pensacola in Florida during a hurricane.


Q. What’s your favorite color?

 A. Green.


 Q. What are your favorite foods?

 A. Dark chocolate with orange, chicken and dumplings, and sushi.


Q. Our class is doing book reports and I chose your book.  Will you send me information about yourself?

A. This website should offer you a lot of information. If you still can’t find the answer to a question, you’re welcome to snail mail or email me. Please keep in mind it may take a long time for me to answer. I don’t want you to get a bad grade so make sure to give me plenty of time.


Q. I want to be a writer, but I don’t know if I’m talented enough. Does writing come to you easily?

A. Don’t worry about how much talent you have.  Perseverance and passion endure. Writing is hard.  But when you have a passion for something, it is worth every bit of time and effort.  Work hard, dream hard!