The Exceptionals author Erin Cashman talks about her love of animals, writing and Almond Joyô ice cream.
Q. The teen-agers in your book use their minds to do all sorts of extraordinary things: move boulders, talk to ghosts, crack codes. How did you come up with idea of these kids having special powers of the mind?
A. Growing up, my father used to always tell me we only use ten percent of our brain. Iíve often thought about that, and wondered what if some people can use more than ten percent of their brain. What could these people do? Would they be brilliant scientists like Albert Einstein? My mother believed in ghosts, and she used to go to a medium. Maybe the medium could use a different part of her brain. Iíve always believed in things we canít see, things that donít always make sense.
Q. Did you ever try to use the other 90 percent of your brain?
A. Not in many years! But I did when I was in elementary school. I was sure I was one of those special people. I tried to bend and move spoons.
Q. Any luck?
Q. Your main character, Claire, has the special ability to communicate with animals. She develops an important relationship with a red-tailed hawk. Why a hawk?
A. I was out one day walking my dog, Riley, and two hawks were flying above me the entire time. They were breathtaking; sweeping across the sky as if they flew for the sheer pleasure of it. I couldnít stop watching them, there was such grace and beauty. I decided right then it was going to be a hawk that Claire communicates with.
Q. Even though Claire has special powers, she feels she doesnít measure up to other kids. Is she in some ways a typical teen-ager?
A. Very much so. Like most teen-agers she is grappling to fit in. As she learns to believe in her powers, she learns to believe in herself. Claire is a strong character. I donít think there are enough strong female characters, especially in romance books.
Q. Claire is also a writer. She likes to write in the woods. Where do you like to write?
A. When the house is quiet, I like to write at my kitchen island with a big cup of tea. When I was a girl I used to climb the tree in my front yard as high as the power lines and write stories and poems. My mother had a fit!
Q. Any other similarities between you and Claire?
A. Almond Joyô ice cream is my favorite dinner as well, but I prefer a sundae.
Q. Ever wish you could talk to animals?
A. Absolutely! Iím an animal lover. Iíd love to be able to communicate with my dog Riley. Heís good-natured, very much like Darwin. I try to imagine what he would say. I imagine he wouldnít be brilliant if he could talk.
Q. Is Riley there when you write?
A. Yes. Riley follows me around the house when Iím home. Wherever I am, Riley is by my feet.
Q. In addition to Riley, you have three human children, a husband and a career as an attorney. When do you find time to write?
A. For as long as I can remember, Iíve always written stories. When the kids were little, my husband would take them out on Sunday mornings for bagels and that would be my time. As they got older, I always looked for stolen moments when they were in bed or at school or at camp. My husband once joked if I had a hobby like gardening we would have beautiful flowers. But I spent a lot of time writing and you donít see the results.
Q. Until now. Describe what itís like to have your book published.
A. Itís surreal. It was always my goal, but I never thought I would accomplish it. I sent out the manuscript for The Exceptionals and one day I got my agent. The very next day, I got an offer. It was unbelievable. Definitely, itís a dream come true.