This mystery/suspense author really knows the meaning of the word. So much that some of her books are written from her own experiences. Of this, two new mystery sleuth characters are born and an exciting new mystery series is waiting to be unleashed!
Reisterstown Author Pens Children's Books From Experiences Children's author TJ Perkins at home in Reisterstown. Susan C. Ingram/Staff photo SUSAN C. INGRAM 23.SEP.03TJ Perkins has already gotten two of her children's books published.One, a ghost story, draws on experiences she had growing up in an 1880s farmhouse. The other is an adventure about a group of friends on vacation in Maine who uncover a lost treasure and a pirate's curse.With two books under her belt, Perkins' story is familiar. Author gets ideas. Author writes books. Author gets them published. Nothing new there.But then her direction veered.She embarked on a mystery series about two black teens growing up in Colorado that's reminiscent of the Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys classics.Nothing unusual about that for an author - except that Perkins is white.The 41-year-old Reisterstown resident expects to encounter questions about what gives a white person sufficient insight to write about black girls.The answer, she said, lies in her interracial marriage, her two biracial children, and the ordeal she had in finding the right kind of books for them.After perusing book store after bookstore, Perkins said she found books where "nothing ever centered around a character that's not white."When she did find black books the main characters were usually slaves or poor children. So she began "The Kim & Kelly Mystery Series," which she said is reminiscent of the Nancy Drew series she grew up with.The series is aimed at children in their early teens. So far, she has written four in the series and is looking for a publisher.Taking the road less traveled is not new for Perkins.Born in Gettysburg, she moved back and forth across the Pennsylvania-Maryland line during childhood with her family, eventually settling in New Windsor.The 1880s farmhouse the family moved into became the fodder for Perkins' 2002 book, "Mystery of the Attic.""The whole time I was there all kinds of weird things happened," she said.Geared toward children from 8 to 13 years old, "Mystery of the Attic" tells the story of 13-year-old Melissa and her discovery of two ghosts in the family's old farmhouse."My cousins thought I was nuts," Perkins said about her active childhood imagination. It came in handy when she began writing children's stories."A big chunk of it is real," Perkins said about "Mystery of the Attic.""Of course, I built this fiction story around it," she added.Perkins' first book, "Wound Too Tight," is about lost treasure and a pirate's curse.Perkins began writing at age 14. "In ninth grade was when I discovered myself," she said.A gift of a typewriter started her on her writing life. It was a perfect outlet for her active imagination."I was always the kid that got to finish up the scary stories at all the sleepovers," she said. "I love keeping people on the edge of their seats."But writing was not Perkins' first love.She was an avid dancer and drama enthusiast, who dreamed of one day attending the New York School of Ballet. But her mother counseled pursuing a more practical career, and Perkins ended up joining the Navy at age 18.After finishing her Navy career at the ripe old age of 23, she returned "home to Mom," eventually married and settled down.This time it was a word processor that inspired her to get serious about writing, and she has been cranking out material ever since.After having no luck finding a publisher for two children's picture storybooks, Perkins began writing mystery and suspense stories.Besides the Kim and Kelly series, Perkins is working on a sequel to "Mystery of the Attic."For now, she makes the rounds at writers' conferences, book festivals and books signings and is making forays into the film world by sending samples to Disney and other children's film producers.Her 8-year-old son Nick is her first set of ears while writing drafts."My son loves my stuff. He tells me what he likes and what he doesn't like," she said.She, her husband and two children moved from Owings Mills to Reisterstown last year, where Perkins has an airy writing room with hardwood floors and French doors that open on to the backyard.She's looking forward to the day when her almost 30 years of scribbling pays off in more than personal enjoyment."I keep at it," she said. "I honestly feel deep inside this is what I should be doing."For more information on TJ Perkins' books, go to www.authorsden.com, or e-mail her at sunbed007.aol.com.- Community Times