What was the best part when writing this book?
Research. I tend to really get into the research aspect of writing, maybe because I started out writing historical fiction, which always requires a great deal of it, and because it’s something I enjoy. Of course, it also takes away from the actual writing time and you can easily get off track.
Did you learn anything while writing it?
This was the first book in which I used alternating voices and I learned about consistency and character development in writing in that form. I also learned a great deal about heart transplants, about how much is involved and how far they’ve come. A friend of my daughter had a heart transplant and was only in the hospital for one week! I learned about cellular memory, the theory that memory may be stored at the cellular level. I read more than I wanted to about the connection between the heart and the brain and how they communicate via nerve fibers, and about the heart’s nervous system. (None of that ended up in the book, but I think it was important for me to learn.)
Was it hard to write a book that involved death so young?
It was hard because death isn’t something we want to think about when we’re young – we want to think about the bright future awaiting us. Unfortunately, it’s something that happens – we’ve all known someone who died young and our hearts ache for a lost future and for the family.
Did you have knowledge of heart transplants before writing or was there lots of research?
I didn’t know much about it beforehand, so it did involve a great deal of research. While I was writing this book, though, my daughter’s friend ended up getting a heart transplant.
Do you have any writing must haves? (I.E. a certain song or coffee?)
When I first started writing I had four very active children and I was teaching middle school. I wrote wherever and whenever I could find a few moments alone, whether it was on the bleachers at a soccer practice or early in the morning before everyone else was awake. So I guess my only writing must have is time to myself, which I have more of now, but I’m still pretty busy. Of course, coffee is really nice!
How long was the process to get In a Heartbeat published?
I spent two and a half years working on it before my agent sent it out – I was a student in the MFA in Writing for Children Program at Hamline University and it was my creative thesis, so I worked on it with several of my advisors as well. It sold quickly and I did several revisions with my editor over the next year before it was released.
What would you tell aspiring writers?
Learn your craft and read. Also, keep writing and don’t worry about the market or any of those things you don’t have control over except the page in front of you. Lose yourself in your writing, and most importantly, don’t lose faith in yourself.
Describe your book in 8 words or less: Two girls sharing one heart.
People should buy your book because… They’re intrigued by those 5 words in #8.