Q: Where were you born?

A: I was born in Franklin, Indiana where my mom and dad were newspaper reporters.

Q: Where did you get the idea for The Pumpkin War?

A: I have always been very interested in how people resolve their resentments and grudges. When I was 15, my maternal grandmother died and my mom’s cousins sent a very modest floral arrangement. My mom was so insulted, she never spoke to them again. I found this shocking. It felt very wrong to me, but I also felt helpless to do anything about it.

Now that I am the mother of teenage girls, I feel a deep responsibility to help them develop the tools to process and resolve resentments and hurt feelings. Because people who love each other do sometimes hurt each other. Friends hurt each outer. Spouses hurt each other. It’s a natural and normal part of life. So then the resentment or hurt feelings begin, that’s when real communication and emotional intelligence  should kick in. But we don’t really teach these tools.

I wanted to write a book that is fundamentally informed by examining what it takes to have a vibrant, authentic relationship with someone and what needs to happen when things go wrong.

Q: Are you writing any more stories about Billie and her friends?

A: I would like to, but it’s still percolating in my brain.

I would like Billie and Sam to travel to Spain to visit Billie’s grandfather so Billie can learn about her ancestry and she can be there when her grandfather faces the end of his life.

Q: How did you become a writer? What inspired you?

A: I decided to be a writer until I grew up and figured out a “real career” because I loved learning. I am still trying to grow up.

Q: What kinds of stories are you working on now?

A: It’s a secret.

Q: What kinds of stories do you like to read?

A: I love stories that take you on an emotional journey while they also involve politics and history and a “search for meaning” in sly and subtle ways.

Because ever since I was a kid, I have read for two reasons. I DO want to know “what happens next.” But more importantly, i want to know “what it means.”

Q: What are a few of your favorite books and why?

A: My favorite books are always changing.

I love Avi’s historical fiction like, “The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle” and “Crispin.” I love the elegance of Sharon Creech’s work in “Walk Two Moons.”

I always love the depth and emotional power in Laurie Halse Anderson’s work like,”Chains” and “Speak.”

I adore Jack Gantos and his book, “Dead End in Norvelt.”

I thought “The One and Only Ivan” was brilliant -- written with the spareness of a poem and just packed an emotional wallop that was amazing. 

Q: Are your stories based on your real life? Are the people based on people you really know?

A: All my characters might be inspired by someone -- as a jumping off point -- but then they are transformed into actual characters by way of my imagination.

What is NOT from my imagination is the emotional underpinnings of the story. The Pumpkin War is about navigating a friendship when things go wrong.

I had a “best friend” who hurt me and left a deep wound that lasted for years. So I spent a lot of time thinking about what a healthy and reciprocal friendship looks like and what kind of communication true friends offer each other. I eventually realized she was not the friend I’d imagined she was and that she had a history of ending friendships in cruel ways. So I learned a lot from that.

When I make a new friend now, at some point I always say, “It’s not “if” we will ever have a  bump in our relationship, it’s ‘when.’ I hope when that happens we can count on each other to share authentically about the nature of the upset and talk it through until the repair to the friendship has been achieved

Q: What three things would you bring with you on a deserted island?

A: A book that could always magically turn into another book when I was finished with the first one. Sun block. And my family. In reverse order.

Q: Do you like cats or dogs? Why?

A: I love cats because they’re so independent. They’re the opposite of people pleasers.

I love dogs because they’re people pleasers.

Q: What is the first book you ever remember reading?

A: I read Harriet the Spy in first grade. It was love at first word.