Tom is looking forward to spending spring break in Mexico with his girlfriend, Kat. Her father, an FBI agent, has invited Tom to join them at a fancy Cancun resort for some much-needed R&R. But when the daughter of a local law-enforcement officer goes missing, Kat’s dad is pulled into the investigation. Soon after, Tom notices a yacht in the marina with a suspicious-looking crew and a kid matching the missing girl’s description. Investigating further could lead Tom into the dangerous world of ruthless Mexican drug cartels.
What planning or research did you do for your book?
The Mayan Riviera has always been a great place to visit, with all its history, beaches and bright blue water. We’ve visited there for years, so I like to say I have “lived my research.” Unfortunately, the western Mexican drug cartels started actively moving into the Mayan in the last couple of years, and many of the incidents in the book are based on real things that happened (and continue to happen) in Cancun and the surrounding area. Readers were begging me for more Tom and Kat adventures, so I thought I’d send them on vacation and see what trouble they would manage to find.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I started working on my first novel when I was 14 or 15, but I wrote stories from the time I could write sentences.
Given how much I love the part of Mexico known as the Mayan Riviera , it was more a bad surprise than a good one, but I was amazed at how close to real life my story turned out to be. When I began writing it, the dangerous incidents were in the recent past, and it looked like things were becoming under control. Since I finished Mayan Murder, more and more incidents like those I imagined for the story have popped up in the real media. Law enforcement is actively working to shut down organized criminal involvement, but some crazy stuff is still happening!
What is the most challenging part of being a writer?
Finding the time to write! I work full time as a teacher librarian, so holidays and summers are writing time. I find I need to immerse myself in my plot and characters. I’m not one of those people who can pick up their laptop and just jump back into a story after dealing with daily life, parenting, work, etc. I hope I can get better at that!
What is the most rewarding part of being a writer?
I love it when readers come up to me and tell me they “hate reading” but they really liked my book. I write for reluctant readers, so knowing I hooked a kid who normally doesn’t read is a big deal for me. I know I did my job well. I also love it when kids are mind-blown hearing that the events and places in my novel are based on real life. River Traffic is based in my small town, and so many kids thought I’d made up the history that brings the two main characters together. When they learn it’s all true—and they had no idea about any of it, despite living here — they are shocked. I always encourage them to go do a little research. It’s the teacher librarian in me.
Mayan Murder is available now.