The Idea for “Stolen Children”

Many years ago I was a struggling writer, selling a few magazine articles and short stories, and writing plays. I decided I wanted to write a novel, and I had what I thought was a good idea for a mystery. A young woman, a college student, is hired to baby-sit for a wealthy family, and while she is there the baby gets kidnapped. The plot consisted of the woman’s efforts to track down the kidnappers, and the danger that she got into as a result.

It took me nearly a year to write the book. I sent it to an agent, who agreed to try to sell if for me – but she was not able to do that. Eventually she returned the manuscript, with a long list of all the publishers who had turned it down. I wept as I read that list. The agent also sent a letter in which she said, “Your protagonist seems awfully young. Have you thought of writing for children?”

I had not. I tried to rework the novel and make it into a YA but it was not a successful effort, mainly because I didn’t know a thing about children’s literature. I finally put the book aside, and went on to other projects.

The idea, however, stayed in my head. About ten years ago I dragged out that old manuscript to see if I could salvage it but there was a lot wrong with it and I wasn’t enthusiastic about reworking old material. I moved not long after that, and the manuscript got tossed out.

However, I still liked the basic idea and I finally decided to start fresh with a new protagonist, new plot, new everything except the initial premise. In Stolen Children a young teen is hired to baby-sit for a wealthy family, and while she is there two thugs show up to kidnap the baby. They take Amy, too. Hidden away in a remote cabin, she needs to save not only herself but the toddler. 

If I had sold that novel when I first wrote it, I would have been thrilled. Stolen Children is my fiftieth book – and I’m still thrilled to have it published.

Kids often ask me how long it took me to write a particular book. If they want to know how long Stolen Children took, I’ll say, “Thirty-five years!”