FAQ: When (and how) did you start writing? Did you always want to be a writer?
I have always loved to tell stories, and I have always had more to tell than I knew how to share, even when I was a very little girl.
My parents joke that, whenever we went on long trips- such as the seven-hour drive from our hometown of Silver Springs, MD to where we gathered with the rest of the Rhodes family twice a year in Queensbury, NY- I had the incredible ability to talk through the entire drive. As my mother describes it, I would talk for six hours and fifty minutes, fall asleep during the last ten minutes of the trip, and then wake up as soon as we arrived with enough energy to start again.
When I was in my late third year of life, I went with my family to King's Dominion, an amusement park just outside Washington, DC. While we were there, I spotted and instantly wanted one of the giant, sleek, cat stuffed animals, which probably sold for about $20, and which my mother knew I was likely to lose before the end of the day. Being a wonderful, loving woman but also a completely reasonable one, she picked up a small, striped bear, handed it to me, and said, "It's a cat."
|Not Meow Stripe-|
That's how I met Meow Stripe. I won't tell you too much of her story here, since that would take far too long. Suffice to say, that is how I really started Writing. At first, my sister and my cousin helped me set the stories down on paper, since I didn't know how to do it myself yet. More than a decade later, my sister and I are working to finally put those stories together as a children's book.
The next project I remember is one about cats from outer space, which I hand-wrote in a diary that someone had given me as a present. The book was pink with red and white hearts on it, and had a little gold lock. The key disappeared immediately, so when I was five I had my first experience with learning to jimmy locks . I'm not sure when the book disappeared. My mother wasn't right about Meow Stripe - in fact, that queen cat is still around today - but I certainly did lose that diary somewhere along the way.
In first or second grade, my father challenged me to write a novel. In fact, he jokingly offered me $20 if I did! I started writing it on his computer- password protected, of course. That story was a fantasy novel about a raft-dwelling civilization that still lurks somewhere in my consciousness, but hasn't found its way into any current works. What I remember most about those stories is that I definitely saved them with the password "dragon," but apparently my spelling was so abysmal that after I took a short break from working and tried to open them again, I couldn't figure out how. And thus ended that experiment.
I don't remember every other attempt I made at novel-writing. I experimented with many genres, many settings and characters. Finally, in 1996, the summer after fifth grade- after two years of the most incredible, inspiring teachers, Mrs. Birdsall then Mr. Corey- I started a story that had the basic plot of, "What would happen if a vampire came to town and all my friends met it?"
Red Moon, as that book was called, wasn't very good by the standards of published novels, but I believe it was quite good by the standards of twelve-year-olds writing novels. It was the first novel I ever finished, which meant it was the first one that ever made me ask, "What else exists in this world? What do these characters do next?"
Nancy, the vampire protagonist from Red Moon, introduced me to my first shapeshifters in Blue Moon, along with her sire Mira and Mira's sire, Siete. A short, still-untitled novella let me explore the tragic history of the town of Ramsa, where both Moon books took place.
Next came Red Wine, which brought me for the first time into New Mayhem, through the eyes of a human named Rabe. Rabe introduced me to most of Silver's line... including a vampire named Risika, who had an arrogant attitude and stripes in her hair. I wrote Fala's history first, then Moira's, and then I tackled Risika's in a book I titled White Wine.
White Wine barely survived the great computer crash, which took place in the summer of 1997. I printed out the text, which focused a lot on Ather, with occasional references to a character named Aubrey, who at the time was intended to be a fairy of some kind. Yes, really. Yes, I'm serious. Obviously, I made quite a few changes while rewriting the book that summer, the bulk of which I did in the den of my aunt's house on the eastern shore of Maryland. Eventually, I ended up with the novel you now know as In the Forests of the Night.
To answer another frequently asked and related question - no, there was never a time in my life that I can look to and say, "That's when I decided to be a writer." I have always been a writer. I never decided that I couldn't be a writer. That's what really matters.