Do you believe in the Loch Ness Monster?

I have learned over the years that I’m not the only one who finds the subject of cryptozoology, the study of hidden animals, fascinating. And although it seems an impossibility, every year, scientists find new species on this planet that we didn’t know even existed. And every year there is a top ten new species list released. I think it’s amazing that we are still finding new discoveries on Earth even today. There was a time that we believed that the giant squid only existed in folklore, until one washed ashore. There was even a time in history that the panda bear was thought to be a myth. This all begs the question, what might we find next? I suppose anything is possible. Which makes the mystery of the search so exciting. I am definitely open to what’s yet to be discovered, but until I see it with my own eyes, I also remain skeptical.

How did your mother’s blindness infuse the character of Hammy Bean so kids can learn about it?

The character of Hammy Bean Tibby was completely inspired by my mom. I learned a great deal more about her during the process and I also spoke with others in the blind and visually impaired community during my research. Everyone who shared their own personal stories were integral in helping me create this character. In my author’s note in the book, I wrote about the community’s request for a “flesh and blood character” and not a superhero and I tried to accomplish that. This community graciously taught me more about the use of adaptive equipment and technology available today and how the community navigates our surroundings using various aides, including sound or echo location. But I also learned a great deal about their thoughts on feeling marginalized and their desire to belong and be “seen” for their abilities and not their disability. I’m incredibly grateful for all the guidance I received with this story. My mom is an inspirational person and it was truly an honor to create this character in her image.

When you went to Loch Ness, did you see Nessie?

Considering my interest in cryptids, you’d think I’d have an amazing sighting to share. Unfortunately, I have never had a sighting of my own. I’ve never spotted a Bigfoot, I’ve never experienced a Martian abduction and I didn’t see Nessie either (but not for lack of trying). When we visited the Highlands of Scotland, we spent the majority of our time on or near the Loch Ness. One thing I learned while I was there is that the loch itself is so large, it’s easy to see how something undiscovered could remain hidden in the dark waters for so long. The loch is twenty-four miles long and a mile across and the water is black in color from the peat that grows along the water’s edge. While there, we learned that about 50% of locals believed there was something in the water that was not yet discovered and of that 50%, most believed it was either an large eel, a sturgeon or possibly a new, yet to be cataloged combination of species. I also learned that the Scottish people are lovely, the country is beautiful and the sticky toffee pudding is scrumptious. I can’t wait to go back!