Thursday, February 11, 2010


Photo courtesy of Voyager Academy Website.

Back in September I met Jenny Murray at a SCBWI Carolinas writing conference. Jenny is the curriculum director at Voyager Academy where she recently read BLUE with some of her middle school students.

The students - Alexis, Darith, Caroline, Courtney and Jake - tossed a few questions my way. I decided to answer them here.

1. What inspired you to write this book? (Blue)

Homework! I signed up for a history writing workshop and before I even went to the class, the instructor gave me an assignment to research a local story. So I called our history museum to get some ideas. I discovered that in 1944 North Carolina had a polio epidemic and that Hickory (with help from March of Dimes, Red Cross etc) had put together an emergency hospital in just 3 days. I started reading about that and the drama of people's lives being changed by polio, grabbed me.

2. Do you plan to continue to write about diseases?

Why do you want to know? Do you think I'm a little obsessed?

Hmmmm. Maybe, I am. My next book takes place in a mental hospital - so that kind of fits the pattern, doesn't it? I might actually be moving away from diseases. But I think my books will always be about tragedy and compassion. Not sure why, but some stories of pain grab me and make me tell them. Stories can be very demanding that way.

3. Do you plan to always write historical fiction?

Probably. But it doesn't matter what I plan, really. I sometimes think I'm going to write one thing and then, another story comes after me.

I actually began writing contemporary stories but I wasn't finding a publisher for them. Then I discovered Father Damien and the story of Hawaii's leprosy settlement and I got caught up in researching it. I was completely hooked. (So, although Healing Water was published after Blue, it was the one that helped me to realize that I'm a history writer.)

Now I know that history is my niche and that research is a never-ending adventure which I thoroughly enjoy. Hidden stories from the past are begging someone to tell them. Might as well be me.

I will tell you, though - that the book I'm working on now, actually has both a contemporary plot line and a historical one. So, see - I'm not all about dead people!

Thank for the questions!


  1. Why did you title the book "Blue"?
    I love symbolism and I think the title is all about symbolism.

    I always like to throw this question back to the students. What BLUE symbols do you see in the book?

  2. We are Alexis, Jake, Darith, Courtney, and Caroline. We hope you don't mind answering a few questions for us!
    1. How did you come up with the personality for Ann Fay? Did you do research on how girls acted during this time period.
    A friend told me once that his father died when he was 14 years old. At his father's funeral someone told him he'd have to be the "man of the house" now. He said he didn't want that responsibility. I think that helped me to create Ann Fay - a girl who had lots of responsibility thrown at her that she didn't want. I wanted to explore the idea that all of us have inner strength that we don't realize until it is necessary.
    And yes, I did base Ann Fay on lifestyles of the time. I know lots of people from this area who worked very hard and had lots of responsibility at a young age. I also read many polio stories.