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More About Me

What’s your favorite book?

Wow. That’s like asking what’s my favorite kernel in a bowl of popcorn.

I like good, inspirational reading—both fiction and non-fiction, basically any genre.  In early elementary school, I fell in love with the book, Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel. The main character was a Chinese boy with the longest name ever—Tikki Tikki Tembo-no Sa Rembo-chari Bari Ruchi-pip Peri Pembo. I liked being one of the few people in my class who could actually remember and pronounce all of those syllables. Plus, the exotic name had a really cool rhythm which made the story even more fun to read.

As an adolescent, I had an instant connection with Margaret, the main character in Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. We were both confused about religion, but that didn’t stop either of us from having a relationship with God.

In high school, I became more aware of the world and my role in it. I mainly read classics because they were required for my honors English Lit classes, but actually, I found it difficult to connect with characters who didn’t resemble me in any form or fashion. In fact, there also weren’t many contemporary books featuring characters to whom I could relate. So, I pretty much stopped reading for a while and started making up stories in my head. Yep. I had a whole series mentally written before I graduated from high school.

What’s your quirkiest habit?

Apparently I’ve got plenty of those. My friends label them little “Sandraisms.” For one, you won’t find a single clock in my house set to the same time…or the right time, for that matter. Another odd thing is that I typically carry an extra pair of socks in my purse. Crazy, huh? I know!  I also do this twisty thing with my lips when I’m in deep thought. If you happen to see my crooked mouth, just know I’m thinking and probably not having a stroke. Well actually, does a potential stroke of genius count?

What’s the coolest place you’ve ever visited?

Bennettsville, SC…it’s where I grew up! I’ve visited every continent in the world, except Antarctica—so I’ve got a lot of really neat stories I’d like to share in my blog. I must say, every place has touched me in some way. But the coolest place ever is the old, familiar territory that seems to sit still and wait for me to return. Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came. Okay, I ripped that line from the Cheers sitcom. But seriously, I’m beginning to really appreciate the close-knit communities where people remember you, and even when they don’t, they say “hello” just because.

What’s your most embarrassing high school moment?

When you’re goofy and self-conscious, pretty much every moment in high school is embarrassing. That goes for the extroverted popular kid as well as the introverted wallflower. I was the cheerleader who worried about toppling from the pyramid. I was the class queen with the crooked tiara. I was also the girl who didn’t go to senior prom because her date decided, at the last minute, that he wanted to take someone else. It took dude over 20 years to apologize, but at least he did it. Oops, that’s another story. Sorry, I digressed…the question was about being embarrassed, not crushed.

I remember my freshman year in college, when the window washer had just cleaned a glass door, leaving it spotless and basically invisible. I walked toward the building, but mistakenly thought it had a wide opening. I literally kept walking and slammed my face into the glass door. Oh, I can still feel the pain. After I went inside, concerned people asked if I was okay. I nodded as I pressed my hand against the knot that slowly formed on my forehead. If that wasn’t bad enough, two minutes later, when I left to go back outside, I slammed my forehead into the same glass door again. Really? I was too embarrassed to turn around to face the stares.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?

Me eating strange foods? Not too much of a chance of that happening. I’m a pretty conservative eater. But I’ve seen plenty of weird menu items like kangaroo sausages and crocodile skewers in Australia. In South Africa, there were curried ostrich burgers served as an entree and chocolate covered ants and other bugs on the dessert buffet.

What’s a passage of Scripture you find yourself turning to again and again?

Uh, I don’t know. I think, maybe Proverbs 3:5—the one about trusting God and not leaning on my own understanding. Sometimes I get baffled because I think something is one way, but I’ve learned that I’m often wrong. So now, when I’m confused, I just say “I trust You, Lord” and I keep it moving.

But here’s the thing about that. I have a hard time remembering Scriptures and the different names of God (except maybe Alpha and Omega). I spend regular time with Him, so I know His character. This is what has rescued me out of a jam, like when I’ve forgotten to study for a test or have lost something important. I can’t necessarily recall a Scripture, and I don’t know a specific name for the God-who-changes-test-dates or the God-who-finds-stuff. But I do know He’ll make everything all right. So again, I say…“I trust You, Lord.”

Why do you write Young Adult novels?

I seem to be drawn to working with adolescents—maybe because the teen years were a time of great uncertainty for me. And now, I think I have something to offer to make it less confusing for others. I also work professionally with teenagers, many who confide in me and trust me with the most intimate details of their lives. I don’t take this position lightly. For me, it’s holy ground, and I dare not utter a word that isn’t meant to uplift, encourage, and instill hope.

That’s also why I write YA books that are inspirational. I aim to talk about teens’ most immediate concerns, their current issues—relationships with family, friends, peers, and of course, the opposite sex. My stories cover stuff like love, loss, alcohol, sex, and identity confusion. Not in a heavy sort of way, but in a way that gives clarity and meaning to whatever the character might be going through. I sprinkle my stories with humor and lightheartedness too. After all, everyone needs a laugh. I sure do!

I work in a forensics psychology setting. Each week, when I interview teens, I ask the same question—“what are your two most pressing concerns?” Inevitably, either family or school problems… or sometimes both… is the response. Teens want to be taken seriously, and they worry A LOT.  They worry about their parents’ problems. They worry about being liked or accepted. They worry about succeeding. They worry about whether their lives will have a happily ever after. And even if they’re not rescued by a super hero, they want to know that they’ll get through the yucky stuff, that they’ll be safe and everything will be all right. I pray my books offer a dose of comfort and more.