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  • Writer's pictureHeather Steadham

Numbers are Good: 17 Questions for 'List of Ten' Author--Halli Gomez in the KidLit Studio

Halli Gomez is an absolute dynamo. She worked as an intelligence analyst for police departments and federal agencies, teaches martial arts at night (as a fourth degree black belt herself), and enjoys breaking out of escape rooms with her family (which she describes as a husband, two boys, and two dogs--though I imagine she leaves the dogs at home for this!). If you think her outdoor lifestyle halfway between the mountains and the beach in North Carolina is active, wait until you see her genre-hopping in KidLit. From middle grade to Young Adult and from thrillers to contemporary, Halli's work is compelling and often features characters with a trait Halli and I share: neurodiversity.

And her latest work--out March 16!--is no exception. In List of Ten, sixteen-year-old main character Troy Hayes has Tourette Syndrome and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). For Troy, "the number ten dictates his life, forcing him to do everything by its exacting rhythm. Finally, fed up with the daily humiliation, loneliness, and physical pain he endures, Troy writes a list of ten things to do by the tenth anniversary of his diagnosis—culminating in suicide on the actual day. But the process of working his way through the list changes Troy’s life: he becomes friends with Khory, a smart, beautiful classmate who has her own troubled history." And if that description doesn't grab you, I don't know what will. Maybe Halli's answers in the hot seat?

1. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

These are hard questions, and this is just the first! I feel I have achieved a lot in my life.

Beautiful, wonderful kids, the book of my heart being published, helping to catch

dangerous criminals in my first career. So maybe I should say my greatest achievement

is being able to live a happy and fulfilled life.

2. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Perfect happiness for me would be everyone having a hard time answering the greatest

achievement question because they can’t choose. On a smaller, more intimate scale, it

would be sitting at an outside cafe in Paris with my husband sipping coffee, reading a

book, and watching people stroll by.

3. What is your most treasured possession?

I would have to say my collection of signed books. I am in awe of writers who can whisk

readers away to another world and take them on adventure after adventure. I hope to

be a writer like that one day.

4. When and where were you the happiest?

I have had a lot of happy times in my life and can pick out a few, like when my kids were

born (after the excruciating pain) and when I got married, but all the happiest

memories come when my family is together.

5. What is your greatest extravagance?

My greatest extravagance has to be Starbucks grande non-fat latte. It’s not that

extravagant, but my needs and tastes are pretty simple. I’m a jeans and t-shirt or

sweatshirt type of girl and the only other thing I spend money on is books. And those

are a necessity.

6. Which talent would you most like to have?

I’ve always wanted to be an illustrator. I am in awe of the beautiful artwork in books

and museums and even on social media. My grandmother was an artist and I still have

her sketch pads. I did try my hand at drawing in college. I got a good grade, but it was

clearly an A for effort, not talent.

7. Where would you like to live?

My husband and I have a dream to retire and move to Paris, France. We traveled to

Europe a lot before our kids were born and always seemed to put France on our

itinerary. We fell in love with the architecture, atmosphere, and the food, of course!

8. What do you most value in your friends?

Without a doubt--integrity. I have seen too many terrible things happen, both on a

personal level and nationally and globally because people didn’t have integrity. To me,

the best thing a person can do is stand up for what they believe in, no matter how hard

it is.

9. Who is your favorite hero/heroine of fiction?

My favorite heroine is Ms. Jane Marple from the Agatha Christie mystery novels. Not

only was she observant and brilliant, but she had a way of getting involved and having

people literally volunteer information. Even if they did not realize they were doing it!

So, add sneaky to her list of attributes.

10. Which living person do you most admire?

There are many, many good, decent, caring people in the world today. People who fight

for other’s rights, people who make it their life’s work to see that others have basic

rights. If I had to choose one, well, I will choose two. Michelle and Barack Obama. Are

they perfect? No. But they are wonderful examples of caring people who have shown

the world what can be accomplished with dedication and motivation.

11. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

My height. I’m four feet, eleven inches. I don’t mind being small most of the time, but

there are times people disregard me and my abilities. My two careers have been in

male dominated fields and it takes a lot for a woman, especially one the size of a middle

schooler, to be heard.

12. What is your favorite and least favorite word?

My favorite word has always been and will probably always be discombobulated. It just

rolls off the tongue, you know? And describes my state of mind most days! I don’t have

a least favorite word, at least not one I want to name.

13. What is your perfect environment for creative work?

My perfect creative environment starts with sunshine. Sunshine makes me very happy,

like anything is possible and all my dreams could come true. Lately I’ve been sitting on

my front porch step with music playing and paper and pen. The ideas just flow!

14. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I have always wanted to be a forensic scientist. I worked in law enforcement as an

intelligence analyst for seventeen years and worked closely with the crime laboratory. I

have always found it fascinating. I did go back to school for a degree in biology, but

then started a family and ended up stopping. My son has expressed an interest, so if he

pursues it, I will live vicariously through him. And write stories about the field!

15. What is the best book you’ve read in the past year? (Doesn’t have to be kidlit.)

One of the amazing perks of having a debut novel is the debut group. And the ARCs! I

have read many fabulous books from 2021 authors, but these two stand out: The Wide

Starlight by Nicole Lesperance and What Beauty There Is by Cory Anderson. They are

both young adult novels, beautifully and creatively written, and filled with such deep

emotion. Of course, asking me to choose just one book is cruel!

16. What is the favorite book of your childhood?

When I was a young kid, I remember loving Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice

Sendak, but the book I read as a kid (around age ten) that really changed my life was

The Mirror Crack’d by Agatha Christie. That is the book that made me into a life-long

reader and influenced my future career.

17. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God/Goddess say when you arrive?

Goddess! Yes! What I would really love to hear is that I was a good person.

More about Halli:

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