Why a roller rink?

Why not? Actually, the inspiration for the roller rink setting came from my mother, Jaci Charbonneau. She was an artistic roller skater who competed both in solo and dance competitions. She appeared on ABC’s Wide World of Sports and was even pictured in the World Book Encyclopedia under “Roller Skating”.

What advice would you give an aspiring writer?

Write an entire book. That seems simplistic, but it isn’t. It is the very first step in the process. If you have an idea for a story, write it. Get to the end. Then you can figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are. Many writers get so caught up in making their writing perfect that they never get to the end of a novel. They are too busy revising the beginning. Often, once the novel is written, the beginning changes or gets cut. You won’t know if this is true for you until the book is written and you know where the story is going. Once you have the book finished, I recommend joining a professional writing group like RWA to help improve your writing and help you learn the business.

What is RWA?

RWA, or Romance Writers of America , is a professional writing organization which exists to help promote and educate romance writers. A wonderful friend, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, gave me a piece of advice “Join RWA. Then join Chicago-North RWA.” It was the best advice I ever got. Only, I waited eight months before feeling qualified enough to attend a group with other real writers. Chicago-North is a critique chapter and with the help of those writers, I learned everything I could want to know about conflict, POV and character motivation. I don’t write romance, but good writing transcends genres and these writers don’t hold it against me. In fact, they helped me realize that writing mysteries is where I belong.

What other writing organizations do you belong to?

I am a firm believer in associating with other writers and pooling information to make sure as writers we make the more informed decisions for our careers. Because of that I belong to a bunch of writing organizations: RWA, ITW, MWA, SCBWI and Sisters in Crime. Also, I belong to the RWA mystery suspense group Kiss Of Death.

How much are your protagonists like you (or visa versa)?

Most people assume that Rebecca Robbins is a great deal like me. She has red hair and… and… that’s about it. The two of us have red hair, but I am totally jealous that she is shorter than I am. Being tall is great for reaching the top shelf at the grocery store, but it isn’t much fun when you are a theater performer. There are never enough tall leading men to go around.

Paige Marshall and I probably have the most in common because we are both stage performers. The big difference is while we both went into teaching to supplement our performance income, I love it. Paige is still adjusting to dealing with teenagers.

My young adult protagonist, Cia is about to turn 17. So I probably had more in common with her back in my high school days. However, I would like to think that I am loyal to my friends and want to believe the best in people. As for her mechanical skills—well, let’s just say she has me totally beat in that area.

Do you still teach singing?

YES!!! I love singing. More important, I love teaching. My students are wonderful sources of inspiration and continue to teach me about life while I teach them about singing.

Do you have a critique group?

Yes, I do. I belong to the Chicago-North Chapter of Romance Writers of America which is a critique chapter. The first time I read my work in front of those savvy writers was one of the most terrifying moments of my life. I also belong to a small group of writers of mixed genres that meets once a month for support, industry chat and sometimes a good kick in the butt when I need it. Writing is a solitary experience, but I believe every writer needs to have a place to go for critiques, questions and support. I have been lucky enough to find two. Family is great for support and cheerleading. They’ll love you through the plot holes and bad grammer. Other trusted writers , however, will tell you not only when you are getting it right, but most importantly, when you are getting it wrong.

Who are your favorite authors?

Tough question. I love all genres, so I read a lot. I love Margaret George. Harlan Coben and David Baldacci always keep me turning the pages as does Iris Johansen and Lisa Scottoline. Maeve Binchey is lovely and I am a sucker for Debbie Macomber. Since I have so many romance writing friends, I can’t pick a favorite. I read a lot of them and think there are a lot of smart women with a flare for writing the genre.

Why did you write a young adult series? Are these books similar to your adult titles?

My young adult series and my adult books couldn’t be more different. My adult books are light and funny. While I hope they have a gripping puzzle to solve, my goal is to make my audience smile while they read. My young adult books are far more series and while there might be an amusing moment, the story questions are larger and more intense than a simple murder. (As if murder is ever simple!)

The truth is, I never believed I could write a young adult book, let alone a series. I’ve read a number of my friends books and didn’t think I could come up with a plot that appealed to teens. However, because I work with students that apply and audition for colleges every year, I see the pressure the process makes them go through first hand. Between the ACTs, the SATs, college applications, essays and auditions, the stress level of high school juniors and seniors is pretty high. Seeing that stress made me think about my own experiences with the college testing process and the hopes that I had when applying to schools. Suddenly, I had an idea for the book that became THE TESTING.

What would you do if you weren’t writing?

I’d take a shot at being a superhero. Leaping tall buildings with a single bound sounds like an interesting challenge. However, if all the capes and tights are spoken for I’d still be teaching voice lessons and thinking about how I could fit some shows into my schedule.

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