• How many books have you written?
All in all, I wrote &/or illustrated about 50 books, a very good,
blessed run while it lasted.
• How long have you been doing books?
And it lasted from about 30 years, from 1986 until 2016.
• Of all your books, which is your favorite?
I do have different favorites, too, for different reasons. Three Young
Pilgrims because it was my first historical picture book. Remember the
Ladies because it's about brave women & girls. Just For You to Know, my
first and likely last novel (but who knows? not I!), my most personal
book, my heart's darling. I adored doing those "Cheryl Harness
Histories" for the Nat'l Geographic, with those pen & ink drawings, you
know. The Queen With Bees in her Hair has my all-time favorite
• What's your favorite book by other authors?
I'm a big fan of Laurie R. King's Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series
and recently, of Imperfect Union by Steve Inskeep and Old Baggage by
Lissa Evans. Jack Finney's time travel novel, Time and Again, meant a
lot to me as did A Peculiar Treasure, by Edna Ferber, a wonderful author
• Which do you like better, writing or illustrating?
Illustrating is more comfortable as I've had more experience there, but
writing, while much more challenging, is terrific once I get going -
that's the hard part. And I love the researching and revising.
• Why do you do history books?
My favorite books when I was a kid were all of those by Laura Ingalls
Wilder. Maud Hart Lovelace's delightful Betsy-Tacy books, too. Both
series were wonderfully told stories set in the past. And my kind of
realistic illustration kind of goes with long-ago tales. I was WAY
better at drawing horses than cars and planes! And how I'd love to be
able to really SEE the past - can't in real life, so I'm a mental
• How did you get started?
I earned an education degree to be an art teacher, but I bombed as a
student teacher and wound up as a commercial artist. I joined the
Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators. www.scbwi.org And I
went to Uri Shulevitz's children's book workshop in the summer of 1984.
I started illustrating books nights & weekends, greeting cards by day.
As time went by, I began writing, just to see if I could. It's a
little-by-little determination-operation. A tortoise I've been, not a
• What do you paint with?
Watercolor + colored pencil + pastel, sometimes. Mostly watercolor and
very pointy paintbrushes and my bony fingers.
• Do you have any pets?
I have my Kitty Boy, whose proper name is Albert, and Beaufort, a.k.a
Beau, a.k.a. Mr. Squirty on account of what he does to trees and fence
posts. Beau came into my life a few years ago after a big dog got loose
and thought that Mimi, my poor little Shih Tzu, was a lunch bunny.
• Of all the people you've written about , who would you like to
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Abigail Adams, but I'd be too bashful to talk
to them. I'd totally get a bang out of listening to them talk to each
• Would you want to live in another time?
Not unless I could get a return ticket to THIS time, to my pets,
air-conditioning, and painless dentistry!
I'd totally, completely LOVE to visit other times though, to see what
people really looked like and hear their voices.
• Do you have any hobbies?
Over the years, my hobbies haven't changed all that much.I was the sort
of kid who loved to go to the movies, which didn't happen often, and
seeing old black-&-white films on television. I obsessively read, drew,
painted, and played with non-hardening clay. When Mom needed to grocery
shop in peace, I was my younger sibs' babysitter. Mom paid me with dime
store Plasticine and drawing paper. I learned colors by mixing pink,
yellow, blue, and white clay. I arranged my varicolored lumps of clay on
an old plastic plate, my 'palette.' I made dinosaurs for little brothers
and tiny lady-figurines. In time, Mom taught me how to sew on her old
Singer. I'd sew my school clothes, later: petticoats, 19th century-style
gowns, even a corset, all of which I wore when I visited schools.
Nowadays, I sculpt figurines and dolls, such as the one pictured on this
page, and sew their outfits - much smaller! And the clay is Super
Sculpey brand polymer resin. After a bit of baking in a kitchen oven,
it's nicely hardened, ready to be carved if you wish, and/or painted.
• What's the best part of your job? And do you like it?
Even when I didn't, I did. I loved meeting and getting to know other
authors: Vicki Grove, David L. Harrison, Veda Boyd Jones, for instance,
and Natalie Kinsey Warnock. Best of all was getting to visit with school
kids and librarians and seeing other parts of the country. I've never
liked GOing, but I surely do love BEing places!
• So why don't you do books anymore?
After 2008, the book business sort of changed out from
under me. And in the course of some unhappy experiences I lost my
optimistic faith that anyone would want any book of mine. That said, I
am definitely still an artist. A real artist, whether you're young or
sort of an old retired one like me, is never unemployed!