Q: Are you Caitlyn or Ashley?

R: I’m neither—and both!  My books are fiction, and the characters are not real, even though the stories are told from their points of view.  Sometimes, when I was writing, I did draw on personal experiences.  For example, I really do like to paint and draw, I actually attended a modeling convention, and once, I got offered a ride on a bus with a football team, just like Caitlyn and Ashley! 

Q: Where did you get the idea for Painting Caitlyn?

R: I got the idea after running into an old high school acquaintance several years ago.  Although I’d barely known her, she began telling me about the boy she’d dated in school, and how he’d abused her.  Once they’d broken up, she’d really changed as a person.  That conversation got me thinking about the fact that several of my friends and I had suspected abuse in their relationship, but it really wasn’t something that was talked about.  I then began thinking about things that had happened to other people I knew—jealous and controlling boyfriends, guys who pressured girls into having sex, smart girls who somehow thought they had to please their boyfriends no matter what the cost.  I knew their stories needed to be shared, so I invented a character to represent all of us.

Q: Did you always want to be a writer?

R: No.  Although I was lucky enough to have great parents and good teachers who told me I was a talented writer and encouraged me to pursue it, teenagers don’t always listen to what adults recommend!  I wanted to have a talk show, like Oprah Winfrey.  I did a whole bunch of different jobs after I graduated from university—I worked in a hospital, I owned a hobby store, and eventually I ended up teaching French, but  I kept writing for fun, and  sometimes to sort out my thoughts.  When my friend Kirsten Koza published a book in 2005, I realized that it was something I wanted to do, too, so I finished Painting Caitlyn and sent to Lobster Press. 

Q: How did you choose the names of the characters in Painting Caitlyn?

R: I selected names for the book in a variety of ways.  I wanted the names of the younger characters  (Caitlyn, Ashley, Tyler and Brandon) to reflect popular names for teenagers today—so I used a Baby Names website to find out  what baby names were most popular in the early 1990’s, when those characters would have been babies.

I found the name Conner the same way, and I considered spelling it
Connor, until I noticed that the “er” version means “Wise”, which is how I saw his character.  

For the “crush”, I chose the name “David” partly because of its historical and artistic significance.   Caitlyn at one point considered her crush, David, to be the “ideal” guy, and the sculpture
David  by Michelangelo is considered to representative of  an idealized version of the male human body.  

Mrs. Vanderstraeten is a bit of an inside joke.  My husband’s family name was Vanderstraeten, but back in the 1940’s, when they emigrated to Canada, they decided to Anglicize it by removing the “Vander” and just becoming Straetens.  Although I didn’t take my husband’s last name when we got married (because I was proud of the things that Kimberly Peters had already done, and I didn’t want her to “disappear”!), I wanted to acknowledge his family….and since I am a teacher, who
could have been Mrs. Straeten,  I took it one step further and went back to the original Dutch version of the name. 

 

Q: How can I get my book autographed?

R: If you can’t make it to one of my readings, check out my bookplates. You send me an envelope, I’ll send you autographs.  Bookstores, please note that this offer is open to you, too!