Welcome, Monique! Let's get to know you a little bit better. How long have you been a writer?
I started writing as a teen, but got refocused about 7 years ago.
Who are your favorite authors?
I like a lot of authors and read many genres. In historical fiction I like Pauline Toohey (Call of the Yew Tree), David Farland (In the Company of Angels), Michelle Isenhoff, (The Candle Star). Jennifer Holms (Our Only May Amelia). In contemporary realistic fiction (which I write) I love Beverly Cleary (The Ramona series) and Judy Blume (Are You there, God? It’s me, Margaret, & such as well as her Fudge series). I love fantasy as well and loved David Farland’s Nightingale and Terry Brooks’ Magic Kingdom: For Sale, Sold. I tend to concentrate lately on middle grade novels. Mikey Brooks (The Dream Keeper series) and Ali Cross’s (The Swift and Jump Boys) are great.
What are your hobbies?
I love to scrapbook and write.
If you could live anywhere in the universe, where would you live?
I am considering moving to Utah—they have some amazing writing conferences there and it is a family friendly state—important because I have 12 kids.
Besides writer, what’s your dream job?
Hmmm, something that would free up more time for writing.
How did you come up with the idea for “Being West is Best”?
Being West is Best is the 4th book of my Ginnie West series. It is the culmination of a few plotlines I have weaved through the first 3 books with a HUGE twist. The twist is the basis of Being West is Best.
What was the most difficult part of publishing “Being West is Best”?
Writing some very touching, difficult scenes. I deal with tough subjects like child abuse, spouse abuse, child abandonment, and personal accountability.
In a middle grade series, you have to write these things in an age appropriate manner and for me personally—I want to send a message that abuse in any form is wrong, but I also want to send a message that redemption is possible. It gets a little tricky when you try to separate an ugly act from a person who regrets behaving badly.
Some acts are inexcusable—but if someone realizes they are wrong and wants to make amends for their bad behavior, how do you balance the desire to try to fix past wrongs without making the bad act palatable or demeaning the person who was wronged by it?
What’s your best piece of advice to share with other writers? Write what you are passionate about in a story you would want to read. Others will want to read it too.
Story characters sometimes resemble their creators. Do any of the characters in “Being West is Best” resemble you?
Both Ginnie and Tillie have personality traits of mine—and traits I wish I had more of. Ginnie is a fun-loving girl who likes to try new things. Tillie is a little timid, but has a huge heart. I would love to embrace new adventures as easily as Ginnie does.
In “Being West is Best”, the two main characters of the story, best friends Ginnie and Tillie, become matchmakers so their parents will fall in love with each other. What’s the biggest scheme you and your friends ever tried to pull off?
Hmmm. I called my best friend as a teen and asked her this and we both drew a blank as to our own scheming. Then she pointed out that between school, extra-curricular activities, trying to write the next great American novel, that we didn’t actually have time to plot out our own schemes, preferring to plot out Ginnie’s (even 30 years ago when I created her) and whatever other character’s schemes we had at the time. I was more like Tillie on the outside and Ginnie on the inside in those days.
You mentioned that “Being West is Best” is part of a series. Are you working on more Ginnie West books currently?
I am working on Book 5—unnamed at the moment. It will be very different than the 4 previous books as it will take place at a new school—one that promotes equestrian sports. Readers of my previous books will be surprised at this turn of events because Ginnie’s mom died when she was 3 years old after being thrown from her horse and Ginnie’s dad has always forbidden her to trick ride or otherwise compete on her horse. It will also have an interesting twist tied to a national event.
I am also working on a second series. It is a family drama about a 19 year old boy who is orphaned who takes on raising his 4 younger siblings. I hope to have the first book out sometime this year.
I'd love it if you would tell us a little bit about your other books.
Book #1 is “The Secret Sisters Club”— and has been described as Parent Trap Meets American Girl. The girls scheme to get Ginnie’s dad to date Tillie’s mom. Which is fine—until Ginnie stumbles across her dead mom’s journals and wants to know more about her.
Book #2 is called Trouble Blows West—Ginnie gets on the wrong side of the biggest bully in 6th grade. When it turns out he needs help, Ginnie is determined to be his ally, because he won’t let her be his friend.
Book #3 is Simply West of Heaven: The girls are well on their way to sisterhood until a blast from Ginnie’s mom’s past threatens to upset all of their plans.
My 5th published book is a picture book called Popcorn. Readers will get a glimpse of the mom Ginnie barely remembers as Ginnie makes a late night snack and a ginormous mess. It is a funny, sweet story that showcases Ginnie and her twin brother, Toran, at 3 ½.
Thank you for your time, and good luck on your tour!
Thanks so much for having me. It has been fun.