School of Lies is a funny mystery novel about a bunch of teachers who work in a dysfunctional, urban high school. The stressful environment is a perfect catalyst for the murder that takes place. My new book, Deadly Traffic takes a teacher out of her comfort zone into the word of human trafficking when female students disappear from campus.
Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?
My MC is a Special Ed. teacher named Kendra Desola. She’s compulsive and overly inquisitive; every problem has to be examined and solved. She is devoted to her students but has learned the hard way that the best way to help them often involves breaking the rules. There’s a tension between her wanting to be a good role model and her willingness to lie when she thinks it’s useful. In Deadly Traffic, Kendra meets a young man, Win Ni (who my brother decided to call Win Ni the Pooh). Win has a good heart but he wants to be rich and is willing to do almost anything to achieve his goal. I wanted to make him a lot darker than he ended up because I became fond of him.
Who is your most unusual character?
I’d have to say most of them are unusual, but they’re true to form. The good characters I create are never all good and that bothers some people. Readers who aren’t familiar with what really goes on in public schools may think the teachers I portray are over the top. I’ve had people react in shock. They say, “A Vice Principal wouldn’t talk like that.” Oh, but they do, they do.
Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)
For School of Lies I relied on my own experience moving through different schools. I mentally filed away what other teachers told me of their experiences as well. The book, in fact, started because some of my fellow teachers knew I liked to write and said, “You should really make a book about some of this stuff because no one would believe it.” For my second book, Deadly Traffic, I read several nonfiction books about modern slavery—in this country as well as overseas—and human trafficking, and visited many websites.
What was the first story you remember writing?
My family used to make up poems and stories in the car during road trips when I was very young and I’d try to contribute when my older brother would stop torturing me. Just kidding. I do recall writing a play in 9th grade with some friends about a super pigeon named Supersplatt.
What do you like to read?
I like mystery novels, fantasy and science fiction. I try to find mysteries with puzzles and with as little gore as possible. Some of my favorite writers are Elizabeth George, Ian Rankin and Tad Williams.
What writer influenced you the most?
Mark Twain. Absolutely.
What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you’d written yourself?
Hitchhiker’ Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
What, in your opinion, are the essential qualities of a good story?
I want the main characters to have a “quest.” The quest can be a real journey or one in their heads and if there’s mystery involved all the better.
What is the best advice another writer gave you?
I asked how you tell when your manuscript is finished. The reply: “You don’t leave a book when it’s done, it leaves you.”