I write, and read, and then write some more. I live in Ohio with my husband, two children and two cats in a cluttered house surrounded by semi-wild gardens.
I grew up in Mt. Pleasant, a small town in Iowa, spending my time outside playing in the woods, or helping my father build his offbeat inventions, and writing stories. When it came time to decide on a college, I thought I would try out city life for a change, and so I moved to Massachusetts to attend Tufts University, where I obtained a degree in International Relations.
Degree in hand, I quickly realized I was not meant to work inside in an office, and because I had become obsessed with plants, I decided to get a degree in Landscape Horticulture, as a way to get back outside. I worked as a landscape designer and taught landscape horticulture classes for several years before returning to writing.
Hi, Dee! Can you tell us a little bit about ALL IS FAIR? What inspired you to write this book?
I was first inspired by the Downton Abbey television series because it was set at a time when women were breaking out of traditional roles to become who they wanted to be. I’ve always been interested in history-I have a degree in International Relations-and during my studies, I was always struck by how most ordinary people on both sides of a war of course didn’t want to be part of an armed conflict but were given no choice by leaders who were consumed by the desire for power. It’s the young who are most tested in those terrible times. One of my favorite quotes is something Franklin Roosevelt said: “We need the courage of the young. Yours is not the task of making your way in the world, but the task of remaking the world which you will find before you.”
What can you tell us about Mina and Lucas?
Mina has lived a very sheltered life but she chafes at the limitations placed on her by society and her own family. She’s not good at traditional academic subjects except she has an incredible talent for languages. (I admire people like this.) She wants to eventually be a playwright but the war has made it hard to even think about the future.
Lucas has grown up in the United States, though his father is German. He hasn’t seen his father much nor spent much time in Germany so he is conflicted about who he is, even though he hides it well behind what seems to be an easy-going nature. At first Mina finds him overly confident and annoying, though as she gets to know him, she realizes he has far more depth to him than she thought.
How long have you been working on this book?
A long time! I wrote it as a middle grade book back in 2012. I eventually decided it didn’t really work as a middle grade in terms of content, so I rewrote it as young adult. It’s often difficult for me to decide which age group works best for my stories. I tend to do a lot of experimenting.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
I’ve felt like giving up many, many times. I wrote and submitted on and off for twelve years before I got my first agent. Back then I would stop writing for several months, but eventually decide I’d give it one more try. Stubbornness is a trait that serves writers well.
Who was the first person who told you should be a writer before you knew it yourself?
I didn’t tell anyone except my husband and a few family members that I was writing until I got an agent, so I never had that kind of feedback. I wish now I would have reached out to more people and been part of critique groups, but I was just too unsure of myself. I’d encourage everyone who wants to be a writer to do the opposite of me.
If someone wrote a book about your life, who would you want as the author, what kind of book would it be, and what title would you give it?
Good question! I’ve had a great life so far, though I’ve made so many mistakes and bad decisions along the way that a book about my life might be an instruction manual of what not to do for people who don’t like change. Miraculously, it’s all worked out for me but I know I’ve been lucky. I’d need an author who was good at writing humor, because I tend to find the lighter side of most things. I love Libba Bray’s writing, so I’d pick her. I’m terrible at titles in general but maybe ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS SIDEWAYS?
Is there a book, besides your own, of course, that you think everyone should be reading?
This is a hard question for me because my reading jumps all over the place, depending on what I’m writing at the moment. If I’m writing YA, I don’t read YA because I need to keep my focus on my own writing style. I also read a lot for research purposes, so those aren’t books I’d necessarily recommend. I think the most brilliant book I’ve read recently is CIRCE by Madeline Miller. Miller is brilliant at storytelling and immersing the reader in the world of the story.
What’s next on your writing agenda?
I’m working on another YA historical, this one set during the Russian Revolution. It’s been fascinating doing the research and I’ve read so many accounts of incredible bravery that I’m in awe of people who survived it.
INTERVIEW : YA SH3LF