For the first half of my adult life I didn’t know any children.
I was only around kids when I officiated amateur sports, but as soon as those games ended, I went home. What children did off the fields where I blew whistles and called balls and strikes was completely out of my purview.
When you consider that I also never had any biological children – though I tried – and came from a small family devoid of any regular kid contact, you can see why I never gave much thought to children. I don’t know if I blocked young people out of my mind once I realized I would never produce any of my own, but I might have.
And yet, today, as an author, the plight of children often takes center stage in my novels.
Almost two decades ago, I walked into my first classroom as a teacher. A mid-life career change following my years as a sports reporter propelled me into a Title I high school in Phoenix, where the vast majority of students live in poverty and are often afflicted with the privations inherent in a world where there is not enough food, where drugs and alcohol run rampant, and where children are sometimes left adrift without caring adults to guide them.
I did not notice right away that children kept appearing in my books. It could have happened after the child who told me she was repeatedly raped by a relative and her family blamed her. It might have been after a 15-year-old student called me from a group foster-care facility and told me he was hungry. Or it might have been the day I chastised a student for being repeatedly late to class, only to discover he was homeless.
Whatever the catalyst, young people and their ability to adapt and thrive in severe situations have become part of the stories I tell. My upcoming release, A Light in the Desert, recounts the life of a lonely pregnant teenager, one with a facial deformity that has made her the subject of ridicule and prevented her from attending school. And yet, Kelly shows grace and grit when faced with challenges, and possesses an understanding of human nature that sometimes surpasses the adults around her.
Today, I spend my work-days surrounded by my students. And, by a quirky twist, I am a mom, as well. Though my boys – former students who came my way via the foster care system – are now in their twenties, they remain my children. (I don’t think they’ll mind if I call them that.)
So, I’m guessing, young people and the issues they face will continue to appear in my writing.
Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group
Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook
As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.