Even as a child I was an avid reader. The first chapter books I read were Christmas gifts– The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Fifty Famous Fairytales. I remember lying in bed early in the morning while the rest of my family was still asleep. My sister and I slept on bunk beds in the same room, but I wanted my own bedroom. My parents pumped air into an air mattress and put it in the spare bedroom so that I could try out sleeping in my own room before they moved an entire bed. I read the Wizard of Oz right there on that air mattress. It’s surprising the little things we remember.

After I discovered the library, I delighted in reading all sorts of books, from classics such as Little Women and Treasure Island to modern stories to historical novels such as Johnny Tremaine. Soon, someone introduced me to mysteries. My favorites were the mystery series with beloved characters that I could follow book after book: Boxcar Children, The Bobbsey Twins, and The Hardy Boys. Odd as it may sound, I also loved biographies of famous people.

As a teenager I don’t remember reading much. I think I was more of a daydreamer in those days, thinking up my own stories and wishing I could write them down. I lacked self-confidence and didn’t even try to write.

As an young adult I read gothic stories— eerie romantic mysteries set in old English castles or manor homes, many with a young governess as the protagonist. Her affections were usually divided between two men, one of whom was, in most cases, a murderer. I moved on from there to romance novels and then to time travel romances, a genre made popular by novelist Diana Gabaldon.

Eventually, I returned to reading mysteries. I also read suspense, thrillers, an occasional literary or mainstream novel, an occasional fantasy, and many nonfiction books. By the time I began putting my own ideas on computer screen, I’d read so many different kinds of books, all of which had influenced me in some way, that I didn’t know what genre truly fit me. My ideas, drawn from my own reading interests and experience, when jumbled all together, didn’t exactly fit into a genre.

My romance novel didn’t have enough romance early enough. My mystery was too happy and had too much romance. My time travel novel had too much mystery and romance and not enough science. Over the years, I’ve learned to narrow my focus. That doesn’t mean I can’t be myself. Even though I primarily write mysteries now, I still bring in a bit of those old gothic novels into them by setting my stories in intriguing locations. I add in a touch of romance, sometimes a piece of history, and lots of secrets. This seems the best recipe for me.

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