…but I’m a slow runner, so I’m used to it.

My friend Lisa Cullen, the brilliant author of the brilliant novel Pastors’ Wives, asked me to participate in this little exercise in navel gazing. Never one to turn down an opportunity to check out my distended-from-three-pregnancies, still-pierced-because-I-was-in-college-in-the-’90s belly button, I accepted.

Basically, at some time a few months ago some writers came up with these questions and then sent them out to some writer friends, who sent them out to writer friends, and everyone posted their responses on their blogs. It’s pretty much a chain letter, but one for people who type all day and have books to promote. It probably started with Gillian Flynn and Nicholas Sparks, but now they’re down to me.

I tagged Lori Volkman and Molly Blake, and they should have their posts up next week, so be sure to click over and check out their belly buttons, too. (I hear Lori has an outie. Just kidding. The only thing I know about her navel, is that it’s Naval. BTW, is “Naval Gazing” the name of a military blog yet? It should be…)

I attempted to tag Siobhan Fallon but someone had already beat me to it. Still, you can read her responses here.

Anyway, read on to learn more about what I do when I’m trying to ignore my kids:

What is your working title of your book? Do I really have to answer this? Okay, It’s “Afghan Y/A Novel”. Makes you wanna just run right out and buy it, doesn’t it? Honestly, I keep waiting for that one brilliant line of dialog that is both foreshadowing and clever. It will course from my brain, through my veins, into my fingertips and just click itself out on the keyboard with a certainty like an epiphany. So, uh, yeah, for now it’s “Afghan Y/A Novel” — I suspect that at one point in time, before he stumbled into lightness, Milan Kundera was probably working on a book called “Somewhat Depressing Czechs in the ’60s” and Gabriel Garcia Marquez spent many months writing “Overly-dramatic Colombians” before he struck cholera-gold … I have faith. Someday my title will come…

Where did the idea come from for the book? The Hunger Games. I LOVED reading The Hunger Games trilogy. Suzanne Collins brilliantly wove together a tragic and riveting tale that also serves as a criticism of how modern Americans are so far removed from the realities of our own long war. At least that’s how I read it… Anyway, after spending most of this past decade trying to get people to be more interested in Karzais than Kardashians, it occurred to me that I could take a note from Suzanne Collins and present that message as entertainment! For children!

In the words of Madeleine L’Engle: “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

What genre does your book fall under? I suppose the working title gives this one away, but it’s Young Adult. I think. Who knows? My early readers have told me that it’s too graphic and violent for kids. We shall see…

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Another horrible question! See, the thing is, I have three little kids. I NEVER go to the movies. The movies we watch at home are always on “Pizza Party Movie Night” (every Friday in the Sanderlin household, sometimes followed by dancing on the coffee table) and tend to feature cartoon characters in the starring roles. And I don’t really watch TV, but I don’t mean that in a “I’m-too-intellectual-to-watch-TV” way. Rather, I watch a crapload of “House Hunters International”, “American Pickers” and “Storage Wars” while I’m painting my toenails or watching the baby crawl. There are no teen stars on those shows. I even googled “teenage actors” to try to answer this question and pulled up an IMDb listing of 160 actors — NONE of whom I’d ever heard of. So I will pretend-answer this question using my only frames of reference:

Daniel Radcliffe, circa 2000.

Kirsten Dunst, circa 1998

Jerry O’Connell, circa 1986

Dev Patel, circa 2008

Jake Gyllenhaal, circa 2005

Russell Crowe, pretty much anytime

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? In the years following the war, the American ambassador to Afghanistan and his wife are kidnapped by the Taliban and their three children have to use wits and survival skills to get to safety and to help their parents.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? I’m working with an agent now, so here’s hoping this book finds a home with a publisher.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  Well, I’ve been working on it for nearly a year now and it’s still called “Afghan Y/A Novel”, so you do the math… But, during that year I gave birth, moved 800 miles alone with three kids, and saw my husband off on his ninth deployment. (Guess where? Afghanistan! It’s much easier to stomach another deployment when I can think of him as my one-man researching team.)

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? The Hunger Games and the Shipbreaker series by Paolo Bacigalupi.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? My husband, and all of the amazing troops and military families I’ve come to know since marrying into this parallel universe. Seriously. I know that’s a sappy answer, but it’s the truth. Scout’s honor.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? It is very, very accurate. If you read about a place in the book, that place is really there in Afghanistan. When the children use a survival tactic or martial arts technique, those are tactics that would actually work in that situation.  My dream (though I’m told that the book business doesn’t really think like this) would be to incorporate some interactivity in the e-book version so that when the kids in the story use a technique, young readers can click on a link that will take them to a video of a survival expert demonstrating and discussing the technique. And then children can overthrow their parents! No, no … I don’t really mean that. (But, kids, it would work. Nudge, nudge.)