|To quote Kristina from Crank, "So
you want to know all about me?"
Okay, as promised, I was adopted as a
baby and grew up in Palm Springs,
California. I went to a great private
school, where my teachers convinced me
I could become anything I wanted. I knew
from age 9, when I published my first
poem in the Palm Springs Desert Sun,
that I wanted to be a writer.
Q: Where were you born?
A: Long Beach, CA.
Q: Who were your parents?
A: I was adopted by Albert and Valeria
Wagner. At the time, he was 72; she was
42. Having older parents definitely
presented some challenges, as well as
many, many great things. In 2000, I found
my biological mother, Toni Chandler.
I discovered she is a writer and poet.
Q: Nature or nurture?
A: Both. From Toni, I inherited a talent for
writing. From Valeria, I received a true
love of language. She read to me every
night when I was young, and had me
reading chapter books before
kindergarten. From Albert, I learned an
exceptional work ethic and the value of
honesty. That has found its way into my
writing, which I consider completely
Q: Brothers and sisters:
A: One little brother, Albert Jr., adopted
|High School and College
We moved to the Santa Ynez Valley for
my freshman year of high school. It's a
beautiful piece of California, just inland
from Santa Barbara.
High school was neither awful nor
wonderful for me. Making friends was
hard at first. But once I made them, I
enjoyed spending time with them. Most
leaned toward creative activities like
dance, theater, creative writing and
choir. So did I.
As for sports, not really. I ran some
middle distance track like the 220 and
440. Did okay, but wasn't a star.
I went to UCSB and studied Journalism,
but left school to marry, have three
children and start my own business. That
marriage crumbled. When I met my
husband, John, in 1984, I sold my
business and decided to pursue my
dream of writing.
Q: What are your children's names
A: Jason (32), Cristal (30) and Kelly (28.
My husband, John Hopkins, and I
adopted Orion, who is now 12 and doing
great. Yes, he's the baby at the back of
To see some family photos and learn
more interesting factoids, please
visit my Album page:
|We moved to Tahoe in 1984
and I returned to my
journalistic roots, going to
work for a small newspaper.
I continue to freelance articles for
newspapers and magazines today.
But in 1998, I visited Air & Space
Smithsonian, where I saw an
exhibit on Women in Aviation. I
decided the subject would make a
great children's book, and thus
was born my dream of writing for
I published my first two
nonfiction titles, Air Devils and
Orcas, High Seas Supermen, in
Since then I have published 20
nonfiction books for children. I also
continued to write fiction, including
picture books and short stories. In
2002, I began a novel, loosely
based on my oldest daughter's
story of addiction to
methamphetamine or crystal meth.
|I met my first fabulous editor,
Julia Richardson, at a book
She read the first few pages of my
novel and liked them enough to
take a chance on them. Crank
published in October 2004 and
quickly drew readers, rising to top
10 lists within six weeks of
publication. Thanks to my
wonderful readers, my debut
novel, written in a unique poetic
style, and its sequel Glass, are
touching lives across the country
and around the world.
My other novels, Burned, Impulse,
and Identical, are on totally
different subjects, but have
touched as many lives as the first.
All five novels have found
Top-Ten berths on the NY Times
|Speaking of children
My grown children live in Albuquerque, Las Vegas and San
Antonio. We see them a few times a year, usually at holidays.
Orion lives at home with my husband and me in a beautiful place
called Washoe Valley, Nevada. It is between Reno and Carson
City, Nevada's capital.
For fun, we hike, bike, ski, fish, camp, garden and raise German
|Early Childhood Memories:
* Palm Springs really is home to movie stars. I grew up
in an upscale neighborhood, with neighbors like Kirk
Douglas, Elvis Presley, Arnold Palmer and other film,
TV and sports stars.
* We once lived next door to Bob Hope and I used to
ride horses with Valentina Skelton, daughter of Red
Skelton (who was allergic to horses!).
* I not only rode horses, I showed them and also did
gymkhana. Loved running those barrels! My horse,
Tony, was my best friend. Danny ran a close second.
* I studied dance: ballet, tap, jazz, modern, and even
* Summer temps in Palm Springs can go over 120
degrees. We summered in Napa CA, and later Tahoe.