|Q. What made you decide to become a writer?
I loved reading and I loved writing. I was really focused, and writing is easy for me because I never write unless I have something to say.
Q. How do you begin to write your books?
I always begin with a character in mind and an ending I want to get to. I like my characters to grow, to show some change. So I know that in the middle of the book I'll have to figure out how to make the change happen. The middle is the hardest part for me.
Q. How did you get your first book published?
I showed the manuscript of The Outsiders to a friend whose mother was an author. She liked it and gave it to a friend who was also a writer and who had an agent. The agent liked it and sold it to the second publisher who read it. I'd never even heard of agents at 17, and I still have that first agent.
Q. What do you like to read that influences your writing?
As a kid, I loved animal stories, particularly horse stories. I was one of those little girls who felt like she was one with a horse. Today I read biographies a lot because they are about character, and character is what drives my novels. I also enjoy Jane Austen--character is her main concern--and I'm a history buff. I think if you want to learn to write better, you need to read better.
Q. Do you have any particular writing habits?
I don't really; I keep changing my methods, working around other things in my life. That Was Then, This is Now was written in the two-pages-a-day method. Rumble Fish was written on Thursday nights, because that was when my husband played poker. My fourth book, Tex, took me the longest to write. I plotted it for three and a half years. I wrote Taming the Star Runner on a schedule, because 3 days a week Nick was in preschool, and those were my writing days. I guess my one technique throughout is to be flexible about time and seize it when I can.
Q. Do you discuss your books as you write them, or does anyone read your work in progress?
No, not really. My husband's great. He'll say, "That's nice, honey," in a vague, non-interfering sort of way. And I did let Nick read The Puppy Sister when it was in manuscript, because he had so much to do with it. It's about him; he suggested the idea. I'm thinking about a new book now, but I don't like to talk about things until they're done. I'm afraid I'll wear out my idea.
Q. Do you have any advice for those who want to write?
If you want to be a writer, I have two pieces of advice. One is to be a reader. I think that's one of the most important parts of learning to write. The other piece of advice is: Just do it! Don't think about it, don't agonize, sit down and write."
Q. Any more advice for the budding writer?
Yes--do the best you possibly can. Write, write, write, and read, read, read!