• Describe your latest book "The Jade Notebook" is the third novel in a travel-adventure trilogy for young adults. This one involves a mystery in a coastal village in Oaxaca, Mexico, where rare sea turtles nest. The first two -- "The Indigo Notebook" and "The Ruby Notebook" -- are set in the Ecuadorean Andes and southern France. My background in anthropology and my love of living and traveling abroad influenced the cultural settings of all seven of my novels for young people. • Why write? What makes writing a book worthwhile? I first started writing because the act of creating stories made me feel excited about being alive. It still does, but now that I've had seven books published, I've discovered another joy: getting emails from readers of all ages who tell me my books have moved them or changed their lives in some way. I feel incredibly grateful that my job involves this kind of deep human connection. • How has growing up and/or living in the Baltimore area influenced your writing? In my writing, it's important to me to create a strong sense of place in a very multi-sensory way. My earliest stories (never published) were set in places like Lexington Market and the old McCormick Spice factory in Baltimore -- places that intrigued me as a kid, sparked my senses and my imagination. • Is the written word in trouble? Are authors an endangered breed? On my school visits, I've met thousands of kids and teens who consider books an essential and exciting part of their lives. I believe that we humans have a deep need for stories. Books, especially, provide a kind of magical intimacy, in which readers are co-creating the story with the author. I don't think people will easily give that up. • What's your next project? I'm in the early stages of a young adult novel that opens in Maryland, and ends in the Lacandon Jungle in Mexico. Interestingly, it involves a mysterious chocolate shop, which was featured in one of the first "books" I wrote as a kid. I remember being fascinated by certain little shops in Baltimore, sure that something magical and wonderful was going on inside.