[Editor’s note: This interview was conducted by Miriam Ruff to trace one person’s path as a reader; to demonstrate the relationship between writing and reading; and to convey the experiences of a homeschool mom teaching her children the love of reading. It has been edited slightly for length, fluency, and clarity.]
MR: You are an avid reader, a writer, and a homeschool mom. Let’s break this down. First, let’s talk about reading. Did your parents read to you? If so, from what age.
FQ: No, my parents never read to me. There were very few books in my house growing up. So I entertained myself by telling myself stories.
MR: What kind of stories did you make up? Were they real life or fantasy?
FQ: Fantasy. Survival stories. (My childhood wasn’t the best.) Mostly stories about me rushing in and saving the day and then everyone adoring me for my bravery. Oh and there was one that I wrote down about Petunia Pig and a Valentine’s Day card that I entered in a National Storytelling contest and I won third place. Before that, I didn’t share my stories with anyone. They were private.
MR: Wow. How old were you when you learned to read by yourself? Who taught you to read and how did they teach you?
FQ: I was in Montessori School from the age of two. I’m sure I learned then. I don’t remember anyone sitting down to teach me. I think I picked it up from the other students. In Montessori there weren’t classes, you free roamed and worked on learning from the different stations that were set up.
MR: Can you explain what a Montessori school is for our readers who aren’t familiar with it? What do you mean by “stations?”
FQ: Maria Montessori was an educational theorist who developed a means of student learning that was scientifically based. In our school (I’m reaching back 45+ years in my memory here) there were areas that were set up: an art area, a science area, a math area, small motor skills area. Puzzles, experiments. There was an old fashioned claw bathtub filled with pillows you could hang out in. You just roamed around and worked on something that interested you. You shared your discoveries with your fellow students. I liked the art and science areas the best. An example, as we were pretty young to write stories, we had boxes with cardboard letters in them and we could use them to spell out stories on our tables before our hands had the dexterity to hold and manipulate a pencil. I spelled out stories from gosh, I remember doing it as a three year old.
MR: So you didn’t have any grade levels, per se. Usually when kids get to third grade, they stop learning to read and start reading to learn. Did you experience that transition?
FQ: In me? I left Montessori and went to a Catholic school already a reader so they moved me into second grade. I didn’t have access to many books as a child. We were allowed to have one book a week from the library and they encouraged the girls to read saints biographies. So that was mostly what I read. While I didn’t have books and reading material available to me as a child, I always knew I’d be a writer and a storyteller when I grew up.
MR: So your writing really grew from your lack of reading, not your love for it? I think that’s pretty interesting. Your books are intensely researched, so you must read a lot to find the information. How do you remember it all? And how did you choose the genre [Ed. note: romantic suspense] you generally write in?
FQ: When I’m getting ready to write a book, I read intensely from biographies about people who are similar to my character. I also read extensively about the subject matter of the book. As I’m writing, my fingers remember bits and pieces. It’s always surprising to me. As to the genre, that came as a surprise to me, too. I have an undergraduate degree in foreign languages and have traveled all over the world – I would have thought I’d write books about traveling. I have a degree in history and I’ve almost finished a degree in art history and while they both are themes in my books, I don’t write historicals. I have a degree and a master’s degree in psychology/counseling – you’d think I’d write psychological thrillers, and again it comes up in my plots but it isn’t my genre. What I write now are really the same stories that I wrote in my head as a child. The girl is smart and strong and faces the monster and in the end she is respected and loved for her abilities.
MR: Life does surprise us sometimes. When did you really start to become an avid reader?
FQ: I always wanted to read. I found that traditional school made it almost impossible to be a reader. I worked full time in college and so I had to wait until I was an “educated adult” to find the time to educate myself. One of the few gifts of my childhood was my two years at Montessori; there I was free to explore my interests. I developed a love of learning. I didn’t exercise this until I went to college because my home circumstances weren’t good. But in college I took as many courses as I was allowed. I went to school year round. I took advantage of every experience I could muster to grow my education and understanding. I attribute this to my personal nature and Montessori.
Next week we will post the conclusion of this interview, in which Ms. Quinn provides more information about becoming an avid reader and her journey as a homeschool mom teaching her kids to read.