What made you pursue writing?
Without realizing it when I was younger I’ve always had a certain knack for writing. It was something that was almost second nature to me, growing in steam as I got older and had teachers assign longer writing projects like essays or even short stories. In college I minored in creative writing, but then took an almost 5 year break until I finally got into writing again. The biggest motivator for me to start writing again was that I would read book after book and feel annoyed or let down on how things went in the story. I wanted them to be different, and sometimes knew I could and would do so much better than the ending or scenes the author put on paper. So, I decided to finally give it a go and published my first short story. I was a mess in so many ways, and I needed a LOT of editing help, but sharing it on Goodreads and through Amazon was such a great feeling. Knowing people were reading my books and enjoying them gave me all the motivation I needed to keep writing. I still work full time at camp, but in the last three and a half years of self publishing it’s been pretty amazing to take it on as a side job and fun thing to do in my free time.
You are a young adult author with a specific genre. Tell us what led you in that direction.
When I was in college I wrote a lot of short stories for classes that never seemed to be right for my peers. I can remember sitting in classes and having to listen as time and time again I was told my work was “juvenile” or even “childish.” It made me not want to write, and for a long time after I graduated I didn’t sit down to write anything. But working at camp with kids grades K-5 I started to get interested in what they were reading. It started as a way to connect with them more, but as I started reading Percy Jackson, Maze Runner, Hunger Games, and so many more like them I started to see that there was this whole genre I was in love with. YA wasn’t what it is now when I was a kid, and not even when I was in high school and college, so to have a name for it and see the writing that was in that genre was eye opening. It became super clear really fast that this was the genre I had always been writing, I just didn’t have a name for it. From as early as high school I knew I wanted to work with kids, and in college I realized it was through camp, and YA books just fit with it so well. Being able to write books that will be enjoyed by the kids is beyond motivating, and further emphasises my desire to write in the genre.
Your novels actually keep out comments of drugs and sex—popular themes in young adult novels. What made you decide to do so?
As I mentioned I work with young kids, grades K-5. In working with them over the last 8 years I get to see the books they read and the movies they watch. It’s pretty clear they read above their reading level, which in many YA books can mean reading about things they aren’t ready for or don’t need exposure to. With that in mind I knew right away when I started publishing that I wanted to write stories and scenes that were appropriate for all ages. I wanted kids who read my books to first of all not read something they weren’t ready for, but then I also never wanted to have to worry that a kid I knew had read something I write that crossed a line in that way. The best way I’ve seen this play out is with my all star cheerleading books. A lot of moms will contact me to see if their younger athletes would be okay to read my books, since teens in fiction can also mean a lot of things not appropriate for kids in elementary school and even younger. But, since my books don’t have any swearing or drinking, or anything in that realm I’ve been able to share the stories with kids as young as 6. It makes for a good clean read for any age, and also helps me represent who I am as a Christian by not giving in to the popular themes in the genre.
The character, Max Turner, definitely stands out from the crowd. Do you feel she is someone who represents female empowerment or do you see her has someone highly influenced by other figures in her life?
Max is by far my favorite character I’ve ever created for a book. It took a while to really solidify who she was as a person, but from the second I got started bringing her to life it was clear that she had the potential to be a real beacon to young girls. Since Max is the lead character in a series about all star cheerleading I wanted to make sure she wasn’t just some stereotypical girl. Mostly since all star cheer is so different than sideline cheer and what most people thinking of when they hear cheer, but also because it would allow people who don’t do cheer to also connect with her. As a result readers get to see the world of cheer through Max who is short and athletic, but nothing at all like someone would think of when they imagine a cheerleader. Max is a tomboy, she’s played every other sport under the sun, and she doesn’t like anything pink or glittery. It makes joining cheer hard for her at times, but as she grows as an athlete and character she also spreads the message that being who you are is okay. Never once in the series has Max decided to become a girly girl, or become something she isn’t. Instead she is 100% herself while still going out of her comfort zone to do new things like cheer itself. My hope with this is that girls that don’t feel skinny enough, or short enough, or tall enough, or that don’t have the right hair color can still feel like there is a place for them to fit in and be celebrated.
Did you expect such a response to work?
When I started self publishing the response was slow but exciting all the same. I was brand new to the world of publishing and honestly didn’t know if anyone would care what I had to say. So, it was fun to see people responding positively to my books. When I started publishing my all star cheerleading book however it was like a whole new level of shock at the response from readers. Since there are no other YA books about all star cheerleading my TNT Force Cheer Series has been rather ground breaking in a lot of ways. For the first time athletes can read a book and relate to the characters because it’s about what they are actually doing when they take the mat or practice at the gym. Since I’ve also ensured that everything in my books is level accurate, there are not moments like in the Bring It On movies where things occur since they sound or look cool. As a result, I’ve been blown away by the gyms, coaches, parents, and even big names in the cheer industry that have taken notice of my work. Since I also have a YouTube channel that I started when I began writing my cheer books it’s been another way to connect with fans and also the cheer industry which has also been a big shock as well. Going to cheer comps to vlog and meet fans blows me away every time, especially when people come up to me and are nervous about meeting me because they’re my fan. It’s a lot to take in at times, but an amazing feeling all the same.
How do you feel about current movements regarding female empowerment? Do you feel that women are finally getting a voice. If so, are they using this power effectively or are they lacking?
It has been amazing in the last few months to see the way women are finally standing up for themselves and really taking a much bigger stand overall. I think it is a trend we have been on for a little while now, but with everything going on in hollywood it has really exploded and I love it. Seeing women being strong, being powerful, and not being taken advantage of or mistreated is something we’ve been in need of for a long time. I have be empowered for sure, and I can’t wait to see more of it. As a female author it makes me want to continue to use my voice and also help other women in my industry. I am proud to have a female editor, and to get to work with so many amazing actresses for all of my audiobook productions. All of it has me proud of what we are doing, and also excited to see where we will take things in the months and years to come.
Should we expect some great things from you in 2018?
Yes! I’m really excited to share so many projects with everyone in 2018. Since I’ve been so busy with my cheerleading books and also attending cheer events I made a goal to get back to my other writing as well. I have a goal to publish 5 new projects this year, and have already published one new book: Welcome To My World. I am also excited to do more traveling for cheerleading this year and all the fun that will come from that. The most notable travel is a two week trip to Florida to attend the World Cheerleading Championship and also the D1 Summit.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
My biggest advice for aspiring authors is just to do it! Go for it. I had a college professor once say that everyone has a story to tell, and that really resonated with me. For some people, that story might be one to tell your best friend, or your family. Or maybe it’s one you’re meant to tell the whole world. But, you will never know if you don’t give it a try.