Q: Where do you get your ideas?
Ideas come from everyone and everywhere—a conversation overheard, a book read, a walk in the woods, a friend, an acquaintance, and often just from a feeling. The SLUG books were originally inspired by working in the garden. The slugs in my garden are not very endearing, but that's exactly what makes them so irresistible in the books. My first book, IZZIE was inspired by my own childhood. KARIN'S CHRISTMAS WALK was inspired by my uncle, though he was not like the uncle in the book except in my feeling for him. WELL, I NEVER! was inspired by a story I loved as a little girl. The PORKCHOP books were inspired by my stepdaughter's kitten. Even the books that seem to come out of the blue are often anchored in a feeling I have now or had as a kid.
Q: Do you have any pets?
Right now I have a cat named Archie, who is endlessly entertaining. Lately he has been playing a new game I call "Let's Pretend I'm Trapped in the Bathtub." My bathtub has sliding doors. When one has been left open, Archie hops into the tub, then scratches on the doors as if he needs to be let out.
In the past I've had a dog named Peggotty after the character in David Copperfield, a parakeet named Blinky who said good morning and good night to each member of the family by name, a chameleon I called Charles, and too many cats to name.
Q: When did you start writing?
I'm not sure exactly when I started writing, but my first poem was published in the school newspaper when I was in the sixth grade, and after that I was always writing something-stories, poems, journals. I painted my dad's old army footlocker, bought a padlock for it, and kept all my writing inside it so no one could see what I was thinking.
Q: What's your favorite food?
Lobster. There are so many pictures of me holding a lobster at one celebration or another that it's become a family joke. Lobsters are so associated in my life with good times—holidays at the beach or up in Maine, birthdays, anniversaries, you name it—it's no wonder I like them so much.
Q: What's your favorite book of yours?
It's always the one I'm working on at the time, although that's difficult right now because I'm currently working on three.
Q: What's your favorite color?
I can never decide. I especially love the color of the trees in early spring—it's such a fresh, new green. But then I love the way snow looks blue in a certain winter light. And the orange and purple sunsets we sometimes get in western Massachusetts. And the yellow of the sundrops in our garden—they somehow make all the other flowers more colorful.
Q: Did you always want to be a writer?
No. When I was little I wanted to be a doctor or drive a truck. Later I wanted to be an architect or an interior designer. I was about 22 when I decided I wanted to write and edit children's books.
Q: Do you have any hobbies?
Gardening—I have some big gardens, full of flowers and vegetables.
Reading—I read all kinds of books (history, philosophy, mythology, fantasy, poetry, mysteries, adventure stories, biography, political and foreign relations books, and, of course, children's books), and I always have a book with me wherever I go so I'm never stuck waiting for a train or the dentist without something to read.
Travel—I love to travel to foreign countries (especially Italy), but I also love to hop in the car and just take off. Usually these days it's someplace in Massachusetts, Maine or Vermont.
I want to start painting again, but I haven't yet.
Q: Have you ever written a mystery?
I've written eight—the Eagle Eye Ernie series. Ernie was one of my favorite characters to write about. Right away she started doing things I hadn't planned—like painting her shoes to look like white bears. She was always surprising me.
Q: What did it feel like when your first book was published?
Fantastic! I threw myself a party, and friends came from all over the country. I especially loved knowing that I was now in the Library of Congress.