I met Whitney at North Carolina Book ‘Em. Her enthusiasm was contagious. Her passion for not only writing but also teaching makes this former educator very happy. I enjoyed reading her book, I am Currency, and I have the rest of the series in my reading queue for the summer.
As a former teacher myself, I saw so many teaching points/topics in this book. Did you write it with that in mind? Have you tried teaching some of this in your own class?
Absolutely! As a former middle school English teacher, I wanted to write books that could be cross-curricular (there are so many lessons that could come from the novels and could span different subjects such as science, English, history, etc.). I have taken a break from the classroom while I have been focusing on writing so I haven’t taught them yet, but I have worked with classroom teachers on curriculum for the books are there are curriculum guides on my website.
How did the idea for this book develop?
The I Am Currency series was born from one single tag line (one that came to me in the middle of the night that I scribbled down on the paper beside my bed to save for the morning): Knowledge is power…but what if it were currency?
I immediately knew I wanted the main character, Nevel, to have a sort of realistic superpower. This is how he got his photographic memory. I also knew I wanted adventure and a lot of action… and so the story was born in a chase across the Australian Outback.
You mention many classic books throughout the story. Why did you choose the books you chose?
I make many references to classic literature in the books in the hopes that readers will consider reading those works (If the classics are in Nevel’s library, perhaps that could bump them up a few notches on the cool list?! I know it may be a stretch, but certainly worth the try!) I was an English major and I just have a soft spot for the classics (which you may find me re-reading at any time).
How long did it take from idea to publication? What is the biggest lesson you have learned in this process?
I would say about 18 months. It’s a long process. It can be a “hurry up and wait process”. It is so exciting when you get that first book contract and you want to tell the world…but if you do, you have to tell the world to wait about a year and a half before they will see it. The biggest lesson I have learned is that you can never do too much editing/proofing (It will drive you bonkers if you catch a typo after publication).
What ideas do you have for your next series?
I have been working on a middle-grade novel with a female character as the lead. It is totally different but has been a fun distraction when I needed to take a break from IAC.
How do you balance writing with the other demands in your life?
Remember the old I Love Lucy episode when she is working in the chocolate factory and the belt goes faster and faster and she ends up in a chaotic mess? Often, this would be the best example of my attempt at balancing it all. J Like most moms, some days I am organized and have everything working like clockwork…other days, it’s a chaotic mess!
In one of the posts on your blog, you talk about being a free-range kid. How do those experiences influence what and how you write?
I grew up in rural Virginia where we spent summers barefoot with grass stains on our knees. It was ideal. My mother was a wonderful gardener and had a children’s garden for us. Every plant in that garden did something; the lamb’s ears felt like stuffed animals, the snapdragons turned into puppets, the balloon leaves filled with air, and the other plants were full of scents and tastes that were unforgettable. We were truly free-range kids who roamed and played and discovered the world around us and I am positive it played a huge role in my story-telling. If I have writer’s block these days, a day with my own kids out in nature is usually the perfect cure.
What are the unique challenges with writing YA Lit?
I taught middle school for many years so it is not difficult for me to write for young adults. Plus, I think I am still a young adult at heart. The challenge is always authenticity. In any writing I do, I want to give the reader a real and true experience –nothing false or contrived.
What is the last book you read and why did you choose that?
I try not to read in my genre when I am in the writing mode so as not to influence my writing. The last book I read was The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman and I loved it and was completely absorbed in it; read it in two days. Great story, impressive first novel.
If you could only have five books on your bookshelf, which five would they be?
Oh, you don’t know how hard this is for me to answer! I have shelves and shelves and love them all, hence the library in the mind theme in my novels… If I had to choose, they would have to be: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, One of my antique books with a collection of classic poetry – Fireside Poets, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.