The kids at Sam’s school never knew if they should make fun of her for being too smart or too dumb. That’s what it means to be dyslexic, smart, and illiterate. Sam is sick of it. So when her mom gets a job in a faraway city, Sam decides not to tell anyone about her little illiteracy problem. Without her paradox of a reputation, she falls in with a new group of highly competitive friends who call themselves the Brain Trust. When she meets Nate, her charming valedictorian lab partner, she declares her new reality perfect. But in order to keep it that way, she has to keep her learning disability a secret. The books are stacked against her and so are the lies. Sam’s got to get the grades, get the guy, and get it straight-without being able to read.
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I’m from Portland, Oregon. I’ve lived in the Northwest my entire life and can’t imagine ever moving anywhere else. In addition to loving to read and write, I also love hiking and camping, so Oregon is a great place to call home.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
Counting to D is about a dyslexic 15-year-old. I am dyslexic and intelligent—a dichotomy many people find unbelievable. For years, I was frustrated by every fictitious account of dyslexia I could find because nobody was telling my story. Eventually, I decided I needed to write it myself. Then, I had to figure out how to write, which was a bit of a struggle because I could barely read at the time. Eventually, I learned enough to craft Sam’s story.
Academically, Sam’s challenges, capabilities, and coping skills very closely match my own high school experience. The rest of this book is entirely fiction, though, and none of the supporting characters are based on people from my past.
How do you create your characters?
I try to empathize with them. I put characters in difficult situations and then think about what I would do. It was easy for me to write Sam’s character because we have a lot in common, personality-wise. But even when I’m writing about characters that I have very little in common with, I still always try to think of them as people. I find people fascinating. We’re all so different. I’ve never met a person who I didn’t want to know, or at least know about. When I’m inventing characters, I try to keep that in mind and make even the minor characters in my stories complex, multi-dimensional people.
What inspires and what got you started in writing?
I’ve always had a very active imagination, and I have been making up stories for as long as I can remember. My parents claim I started telling them long, complicated works of fiction as a toddler. There were many years during my childhood and adolescence when I didn’t know if I’d ever learn how to read. But writing—I’ve always known I’d write. I don’t know how to turn off my brain, and characters seem to pop into my head whether I want them to or not. Writing is the easiest way to deal with them.
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
I can write just about anywhere and don’t have any major requirements. I used to write on the train during my commute to work. Currently, my favorite writing spot is a big comfy chair in my home office. I have a desk in there, too, but I never sit at it. The laptop in the comfy chair is far superior.
How do you get your ideas for writing?
When I was a kid, I had a lot of imaginary friends. I never really grew out of that. I’ve just figured out that writing is a socially acceptable way to continue playing with my imaginary friends.
I write about people. Sure, they’re imaginary, but they feel very real in my mind. Once a character takes up residence in my psyche, I start putting him or her in various situations and attempting to come up with some semblance of a plot. But at every stage of the writing process, all I’m doing is hanging out with my imaginary friends. The stories always stem out of the characters, not the other way around.
What do you like to read?
I’m sort of immature, so I really like YA. It’s not only my favorite genre to write, it’s also my favorite genre to read. Good, contemporary YA with complex and interesting characters has always been my favorite, but I also enjoy urban fantasy, historical, and mysteries. Pretty much any story with an interesting cast of characters can captivate my attention for a few hours or days.
What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?
Make sure you have a life outside of writing. When the characters in your head start screaming so loudly that sitting down to write is the only way to make them shut up, by all means, write. But if you don’t have your own personal experiences, you aren’t going to have anything worth writing about. So go out and live your life. The writing will come. And if it doesn’t, you at least will have an interesting and fulfilling life devoid of writing.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Don’t be afraid to tell a new story. The reason why I wrote Counting to D was because it is a story I knew that nobody else was telling. Everyone deserves to find a story where they can relate to the characters. If you are an interesting person that doesn’t fit into any of the neat cookie-cutter boxes that are retold over and over again, don’t try to change and conform to match a preset mold. Live your own life, and write your own story. Be your own story. The world will be a better place because of it.