No, I made them up. Sometimes fictional characters can seem so real that the reader might think they are real people, because good fiction is based on reality. But the characters in my books are just that--fictional. I start with a character who grows and develops as the book progresses, so that even to me he or she seems real by the end of the story. But they only exist in the pages of the book.
No, I need complete silence. I can’t even stand the sound of a fan blowing or a TV in another room. I do, however, incorporate music into everything I write. I use a lot of musical imagery because I think melodies make strong memories in the mind of the reader.
Marie: What do you do when you get a 'mind block'?
I rarely get them. My biggest problem is writing down all the words fast enough. If, on accasion, I get stuck, then I shut down the computer and go shopping! Retail therapy is always effective and fun.
Marie: Time and money aside, what would you rather be doing?
I love what I do. No two days are ever alike. I get to write, travel, read, sleep late, go to the beach, or do nothing at all. I’m blessed.
Marie: If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you bring with you, and why?
I’d bring building tools, the complete works of Shakespeare, and a satellite telephone so I could be rescued!
I love writing realistic fiction for teens. That seems to be my strength. I like creating charcters that seem so real that the reader wants their phone number so they can call them and talk to them.
Marie: Could you tell us three random things about yourself?
I can’t swim. I love Hagen Daaz ice cream. I’ve met President Obama. I prefer being called Sharon M. Draper. The M is important. Ok, that’s four.
Marie: How long have you been writing?
Tears of a Tiger, my frist novel, was published in 1994. But I’ve been writing all my life.
If I’m in a “writing” week, I get up at 4 AM and I write all day. I collapse around seven or eight. Then I get up and do it again the next day. I’ll do this for may two-three weeks solid. I can get the core of a book done in that time. Then I go back and revise and refine.
Marie: Can you tell us anything about a current project you are working on?
I’m working on a new book, as yet untitled. It’s a teen trauma drama., very powerful.
Marie: What is the first thing you do when you get a new story idea?
When I start a new book, as I did this summer, I write down my story plan—names of characters and their general physical descriptions, the setting, the basic plot idea, and the problem that will drive the story. Then I sit down a wait for the words to come. They usually do—in buckets and waves. It's amazing.
Marie: How do you decide if an idea you have for a story is worth keeping?
All ideas are worth saving. Not all ideas will become books, but each idea is valid and important and may come in handy one day.
Marie: What obstacles would you warn beginning authors of?
Thinking you’ll get rich quick. You won’t. Thinking you’ll get a national book tour and you’ll be interviewed by Letterman. You won’t. Thinking the first draft is okay. It isn’t. Neither is the fourth or fifth revision. Quality takes time.
Marie: What cool thing has happened lately?
Marie: What question have I not asked that I should, and what is the answer?
One ninth-grade student who was interviewing for the school paper asked me what I thought about the powerful effect my books have on kids all over the country. I told her, "The proper answer is 'It's very gratifying,' but the real answer is 'awesome!’