Did you always know you wanted to write?

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been writing. I’ve always had this unusual imagination, and I love to embellish stories to make them more interesting. During any other job I’ve tried (or no job at all!) writing has always insidiously snuck in through the side door or a window and viola…I’d be writing again. I think when you have one true love, it always finds a way to surface because it is in your blood. You can’t NOT do it.

What was your favorite subject in school?

Hands down, it was always some form of English. Anything having to do with writing and reading. But I hated the grammar/punctuation rules and always wanted to break them. And I despised specific story assignments. I wanted to make everything up myself so it would be original. I didn’t want to be one of thirty stories on the teacher’s desk, “My Life As a Chocolate Chip Cookie” so instead I would do, “The Oreo From The Wrong Side of the Package!” But math was my least favorite subject and I think I had to cheat to get by in geometry! Even today, I will not show you my check book…you’d get dizzy.

Who were your favorite authors as a child and who are your favorite authors now?

I really liked Judy Blume and Lois Lowry, and of course, Carolyn Keene. Old standbys that I can reread continuously would be Jane Bowles, Margaret Atwood, Joan Didion, Raymond Carver, Tobias Wolff, Joseph Heller, Saul Bellow, Ann Beattie, John Updike and Joyce Carol Oates.

Where and when do you write?

I've started pieces in restaurants on the backs of matchbooks before, which demonstrates the "burning" desire I've always had to be a creative writer. I can’t seem to get into the habit of carrying around a notebook or journal. But mainly I work upstairs in a sweltering hot bedroom as nobody will let me turn the air-conditioning on because they insist it’s cold. I’m nocturnal and suffer from insomnia so any new writing of any inspiration is done late at night. Editing and second drafts are done during daytime hours when my imagination is underactive. Many times I’ve jolted awake from a dream and there it is…someone (I swear it isn’t me) has dictated a story. Now if they’d only hang around to proofread it!

Where do you get your ideas?

This is such a hard question, and there’s no real concise answer. What usually happens is that I start with a basic recipe for a story. Something that happened to me, or to someone I know, and then I get cooking on it. But it gets whisked, blended, chopped, diced and mixed-up with a thousand other ingredients until it’s a whole new entrée. (Can we eat yet?) The truth is that stories are transmitted from places you would least expect, but you have to be open for them to be received. A news item, overhearing a conversation at the gym, a fight at McDonalds, or a telemarketer’s involved spiel. Lullabies & Alibis was ignited from a letter to Dear Abby.

How do you name your characters?

That’s the last thing I do. I will write first using only generic pronouns and then after I’m finished and see what actions the character takes, that’s when I bestow them with a particular name. I often try to make the main character’s name symbolic in some way. Nordis Spect = No Respect. But no respect for whom? Friends? Society? Morality? Herself?

What’s the hardest part of the writing process?

That would be the first draft because I can’t free myself up enough to just write it in a raw state and not edit as I go. Ideally, you just get it all down, in whatever form it takes – a free flow, laid back, steady stream of language, etc. But I get so obsessive/compulsive that I start shaping and polishing from the start. That really slows me down a great deal and I should just quit doing that. But you can’t stop things when you’re neurotic.

How much are you like the main character, Nordis?

Less than you may think, but more than you can know. Actually, I think writers can’t help but put a little of themselves and their histories into their characters. Nordis has experienced many things I’ve experienced but reacts differently than me. We definitely share sentiments about the world. Oh, and we both hate the sun and see 11:11 on clocks!

Who was your greatest influence?

Probably that would be my father and for many reasons. First of all, he was so colorful and larger than life that he was walking story material on a daily basis. And he was always proud of me and encouraged my creativity. I couldn’t wait to come home from school and tell him if something good happened to me so I could hear him bellow, “Way to go, Steph!” But if nothing happened that day, I would absolutely invent something to tell him. And the more elaborate the better. “Guess what? Today I won an award for best essay deviation! You should have heard how the teacher called me to the front and…” I would have more stories to reiterate to him with better dialogue and character development than real life! I miss him terribly but he still influences and inspires me.

What Would Be Surprising To Know About You?

I won’t go on roller coasters but I adore wild river-rafting. With how much I love reading, I’ve never participated in a book club. I don’t have much patience for typical puzzles or challenges (I hurl them across rooms) but love to craft stories with intricate plot twists that must all fit together. I was featured on the Bravo Television network as a party planning extraordinaire, planning an event for 200 people—yet I can’t figure out what to make for dinner. Some people call me “Lucy” as in “Ricardo.” I keep an entire set of pots and pans in the trunk of my car because you never know when you’ll need to scramble eggs. Oh, and I’m talking to myself here. Nobody is asking these questions!

The author with her father.

The Author, with Her Inspirational Father, Joseph Mark.