1. What do you do when you are not writing?
I have a full-time day job in research administration at the University of Washington. It’s exactly as exciting as it sounds, but my work team is full of geeky, funny people whom it’s a pleasure to spend the day with.
Like almost all writers, I read a lot—a mix of romance, fantasy, mystery, science fiction, YA, the occasional graphic novel, and a good bit of nonfiction. I love to cook and try new recipes. I’m a big sports fan (Go Seahawks! Go Mariners! War Eagle!). And at the moment I’m busy making plans for a big European trip this summer, which will include the 200th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Waterloo in June.
2. What is the toughest criticism you have received as an author?
It’s always hard to get a bad review from a reader who’s liked my books in the past. I know it’s impossible to please everyone, so some people just won’t be my readers. And that’s OK. But I hate to disappoint anyone who’s been looking forward to my next story.
3. How important is staying true to history to your stories?
I feel like I owe it to the people who actually lived in the past to reflect their lives as accurately as possible. On the other hand, I owe my readers a compelling story. I also know that if you’re not careful you can get so bogged down in research that you never get your own words on the page. And we should never forget that the “truth” of history depends on the perspective of the teller—even with eyewitness accounts. So as a writer of historical fiction, I try to balance all that—respect the past, but tell a good story and recognize that history is inevitably filtered through the biases of witnesses, scholars, my own beliefs and culture, etc.
4. How do you get the ideas for you stories?
It’s as if my brain has several incomplete story files at any given time—characters who need a story, tropes I’d like to put my own spin upon, historical incidents I’d like to use as a setting, etc. When enough of those pieces come together, I have a story. Sometimes it happens spontaneously, while in other cases I take a character or incident and push my imagination for the other ingredients.
5. What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
Camp counselor for 4th and 5th graders during one of my college summers. I was pretty bad at it, which was something of a blow to my ego—I was incompetent at a job that mostly entailed hanging out with kids?! And to top it off, most of the other counselors went to a different college together and were already good friends, leaving me the odd one out socially too.
6. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Working the timeline and itinerary out. I had to come up with a good estimate for how long the characters’ cross-country journey would take, when they’d find out that the War of 1812 was finally over, when they’d learn that Napoleon had escaped from Elba, how long it would take them to sail to England, etc. It’s definitely easier to write a book without extensive travel or major historical events that impinge upon the plot!
7. What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
The three central characters—Henry, Therese, and Therese’s younger sister Jeannette—and the relationships they build on their journey.
8. What type of scene is the hardest to write? Love? Action? Racy? Etc.
Action scenes. I’m not a naturally visual thinker—I “hear” my stories in my head more than I “see” them—so anything with a lot of action and movement is a challenge. I’ve been known to borrow my daughter’s My Little Pony figures to block out fights.
9. Do you read your book reviews? If you do, do you respond to them?
I do read them, though when a new book is first released I try to stay away from Goodreads, Amazon, and the major review sites for a few weeks just to keep from obsessing too much. I’ve designated a critique partner to send me any raves that come in!
I don’t respond to reviews because I believe they’re for readers, not writers, and author comments on a review thread can chill discussion.
10. Which character that you have created, if any, is the most like you? How?
There are bits and pieces of me in all my major characters, I think. For example, in Freedom to Love I gave Henry my fear that my best will never be good enough, Therese my stubborn adherence to my personal values, and Jeannette my sarcasm! And the Gordon family featured in my first few books is loosely based on my own extended family—talkative, opinionated, stubborn, a bit volatile, and strongly political yet divided between the two major parties.