Did you enjoy reading as a child? If so, what were your favorite types of stories? If not, what about it didn't you like? What would you choose to do instead?

I loved reading, mostly fantasy based stories, or sci-fi stuff. When I was too little to read, my dad would read Tolkien, Asimov, and Frank Herbert to me. When I was old enough to read on my own, I just picked books off of his shelf. I remember rereading Lord of the Rings as a 16 year old and actually understanding parts of the book that were elusive to me as an 8 or 9 year old. But even though I was a book lover, I enjoyed loads of other stuff, too. We had 9 acres of forest at my childhood home in New Jersey. I was outside a lot. I loved to draw and paint, and help my brother and his friends build go-carts. My dad had a doo-wap quartet, one of my favorite things was sitting on the deck with them, trying to sing along.

What kind of student would you say you were? What was your favorite subject? Your least favorite?

I was a lazy student. Seriously. I loved learning, but never what was being taught in the classroom. I was really bored in school and could get by without a lot of effort. In elementary school, I was in Olympics of the Mind (now called Odyssey of the Mind,) which was a program to help kids learn to problem solve in creative ways (we built balsa wood houses and boats, we wrote plays and skits, had to answer trivia.) When I was having fun and engaged, I loved school. When it was dry and uninteresting, I turned my back on it. It lead to really poor study habits and as a teenager, I really had to apply myself to get anything out of school. Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn't. As you can guess, I loved my English classes, Drama class, anything having to do with creativity, even stuff like wood shop or home-economics. I disliked analytics, math was the bane of my existence, and science wasn't too far behind it. Funny thing is, I am now a data analysis for a lot of huge companies, and I'm working on getting my masters in Anthropology. Science and math. Ha. Oh, and now? I could go be a career student. I love collegiate learning.

Who was the most influential adult in your life growing up? What was it about them that made them so important to you?

One was this woman that my mom worked for. My mom was doing some cleaning jobs to help supplement her income as a lab analyst. She cleaned for a lady named Ruth, who also went to our church. Ruth was the kindest, most gentle soul you could ever meet. She was also the textbook definition of a girly-girl, which I am not. She hand-crafted dolls and figurines that were so beautiful. As a child of 4 & 5, I was just mesmerized by her and her creative side. I would often go with my mom to her cleaning jobs, but when I went to Ruth's house, she would usher me through the kitchen to grab a snack (always something delicious that she whipped up herself,) and into her workshop to help with her dolls. We made one doll together, a little black haired ragdoll, with a blue flowered dress. And she made one for me, something so intricate and beautiful, with hand-sown clothes and yellow-yarn hair. I still have both dolls, sitting on a shelf in my office. Ruth died when I was 8, in a car accident that left her husband in a coma for weeks.

As an 8 year old, it must have been very difficult for you when Ruth died. Was that your first experience with a serious loss? How did you manage to cope with her passing and the circumstances surrounding it?

It was my first serious loss and I think my mom was trying to shield me from it as much as possible, at first. I remember hearing her talk on the phone with someone and I knew that a person had died in a car accident, but I had no idea who or, quite honestly, what that meant. Then, at our congregation, they made an announcement right before singing at the end of the sermon, saying Ruth died and that Gene was in critical condition. I can very distinctly remember dropping my song book and looking up at my mother. I must have given her quite the look, because after that, she asked me if I wanted to go to the funeral. Of course, I did. I asked if I could go see Gene in the hospital, but I wasn't allowed. He did eventually recover, and when he did, he had me over to his house to talk a few times. It felt strange that Ruth wasn't there. As to dealing with her loss, on a grander scale, I don't think it hit me until I was older and thinking about my own creativity. I remember being 15 and working on my first novel and thinking, "Ruth would love this!" But of course, she wasn't there.

You know, her dolls were so important to her, I could tell that she put love and care into making each one. And so, they became important to me. I also have this little tiger figurine that she made and painted for me. On the felt pad bottom, she just wrote To: Sara Love, Ruth. It's simple, but it's in her hand writing and even though the little thing is chipped and old, its green eyes still shine and it reminds me of her. I'm really big on having something to hold on to, when you don't have loved ones with you: a note, a doll, a rock, a photo, a shirt, it's all about being able to reach out and touch something that makes you feel closer to that person, when they can't be there. And yes, I'm a sap.

The second person I thought of was my Grandmother. She moved to the US in 1936, as an 18 year old Slovak. She was amazingly interesting, cooked like nobody's business, even on her limited income, and I think she loved me more than any other human being ever has. She would do or say the most thoughtful things. When I would stay with her, she would hide cookies under my pillow before bedtime. She always took the time to walk to the park that I loved, even though it was twice as far as the other park. She wrote to me at least once a month, despite living only an hour apart. I still have dozens of cards and letters from her that were filled with "just because" or "thinking of you" messages. She spoke little English and had the most delightful accent that I can still hear in my mother's voice sometimes. Discovering her fried spaghetti recipe, by taste-test after taste-test trial was one of the most fulfilling accomplishments of my life. Every now and then, my house smells like her kitchen. And that makes me smile.

Do you consider yourself intelligent? Sure, in a book-smart sort of way.

Do you consider yourself funny? Sometimes. I know how to make certain people laugh.

Do you enjoy getting together with people? Would you consider yourself 'popular'?

I like people most of the time. I like parties, especially if I'm planning on it, I can be in the right mind set. Popular is a weird word, but I guess people like me well enough for my own peace of mind. Ha.

What was the worst job you've ever had?

Telemarketer. 4 hour shift. Never went back.

What was the best job you've ever had?

I love what I do now, which is freelance data analysis and translating. It's interesting and rewarding. I only wish I had more to do!

What genre of writing do you prefer to read? What are you reading right now?

I don't like to read a certain genre, but I generally will only read something if it comes recommended to me. So, if you want me to read a book, tell me about it! I like literary, classics, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, and children's books.

Right now, I'm reading The Yiddish Policemen's Union, by Michael Chabon. I'm working on my own murder/mystery and a friend said that this might help. I'm also reading Best Russian Short Stories, from The Modern Library, the 1917 edition. It's filled with Gogol, Chekhov, Tolstoy, and others. I love to have some short fiction in my pile of reading material. I usually rotate between De Maupassant, Hemingway, and various geographic collections. AND I've recently started reading about The Incas again, in preparation for my next book. So, I have The Lost City of the Incas by Hiram Bingham on my desk. It's filled with inaccurate information and myths, but overall, it's an interesting read by the archaeologist who discovered Machu Picchu.

Do you have a favorite author? A favorite book?


I have a favorite author, Neil Gaiman. He is the kind of writer that makes me want to be a better writer, even though I don't write in his genre. I have three favorite books. And they're all different and none of them are by Neil Gaiman. Ha! Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo. Road Fever, by Tim Cahill. Sho Gun, by James Clavell.

How would you characterize your writer's voice?


Oh goodness. Really? Someone once said it was ethereal. I thought it was a compliment.

Is there a particular time of day or night you find most productive?


Night, when the house is quiet. Or anytime I can get myself to a coffee shop with a notebook and pen.

Are there any rituals or routines you follow when it comes to writing?


No. Just some method of documentation (laptop or notebook) and a clear head, which usually requires a cup or two of coffee.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what type?


Generally, no. I like the quiet. But lately, while editing, I've been listening to Irish folk music. It gets me in the right mindset and reminds me what I'm supposed to be doing, if I let things distract me!

What would you like to achieve with your writing? What goals do you have?


I would like to write books that people read. I'd like to be able to have a sustainable career as a writer. My smallest goal right now, is to finish editing my manuscript by the end of January. After that, I'd like to get an agent, and get published. In the meantime, I'll start my next novel.

What would you say your writing strengths are? What are your weaknesses?


Bringing realism to main characters, giving them depth and making them interesting. I have a harder time maintaining that with secondary characters, and I have to focus on that when I'm editing. I'm really good at plotting out a story before starting, but that sometimes makes for a fizzle in my writing at the 2/3 to ¾ mark.

Do you prefer to read dialog or narrative? Which do you prefer to write?


It really depends on the story, for me. I love the swaths of narrative that fill the pages of Les Miserables, but Clavell's use of dialog and the way it moves the story is amazing. In my own writing, I find dialog more fun because it requires you to get into the heads of different characters and finding their voice.