Updated on 28th December 2012
What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life? I am most proud of the eleven books I have written and published. I think about the years I spent writing, the amount of time that went into each book, especially the novels, and the fact that I completed them, me, the great procrastinator. I completed eleven books. Even the picture books, for which I drew or painted the illustrations, took so much time. I did it, though! I completed them and I am still working on others. As an instructor, I’ve been told by a few students that my advice saved their lives. As a mother, I have a beautiful, talented, intelligent daughter. I am proud of both of these, also, but those had a choice and made the right one. Those decisions are their accomplishments. My daughter made the choice to give life all she has. That is her accomplishment. My accomplishments are those eleven books.
What’s your favorite place in the entire world? My favorite place in the world is my office. I love sitting at my computer and writing. I could write all day and forget about every other aspect of life. My office, in my room, in my large country home, is my very favorite place. I didn’t write my first book until we moved out to our seventeen acre ranch. It is so peaceful and quiet out here, especially when the neighbors are all at work. I can go for a walk, go to the barn, walk out to our back fence, or just look out the window on a cold day and find the peace I need to go on.
How has your upbringing influenced your writing? My upbringing wasn’t perfect, but then life isn’t perfect. I dealt with a great deal of 70s issues. My father is an alcoholic and spent my youth in and out of rehab centers, and on and off jobs. Once or twice, my mother had to go to work to provide for our family of five. We moved a few times to get away from what my parents thought to be the triggers for Dad’s alcoholism. There was some violence in our family life, and I learned to fear my dad, and his belt. Mother forced his hand when he came home from his out of town job one week and told her he had met somebody else and was in love with her. She packed his bags and gave him the ultimatum. He chose the other woman and left when I was seventeen. Mom couldn’t find a job or get assistance. It was a very trying time. My boss gave me a promotion just so I could provide for my family until my mother found a job. There are some parts of my upbringing that I could have done without, but most of them I wouldn’t trade because I do believe that all of the issues I dealt with as a youth made me who I am today. Those events recreate themselves in my books, and the main character overcomes whatever happens. The upbringing I had makes me a more disciplined person, which also transfers to my writing. Those issues provide the not-so-perfect world in my books that my characters face, and the feelings my characters have that reach out to the reader, and maybe give the reader some comfort knowing they are not alone.
What genre are you most comfortable writing? I am most comfortable writing in the Young Adult genre, though I am dabbling a bit with adult paranormal romance and suspense thrillers. I much prefer the more innocent nature of YA. Paranormal and fantasy are my favorites. I can work in real events to both types of stories without making the events too real for the reader. There have been times while I was engrossed in a book that a detailed event hit a little too close to home and I put the book away. I would go back to them later when I was ready to deal with that particular event. I don’t want my readers to feel that way. I want to approach events subtly, allow them to read about it without even realizing what they just read and when it’s over stop and say, “Wow, I’ve been in that situation!” Fantasy and Paranormal allow me to achieve this reaction.
What inspired you to write your first book? Believe it or not, a spider bite inspired me to write my first book. My husband complained about having been bitten on the bottom of the foot and we had had some spider issues, so he believed a spider bit him. Much of my inspiration comes from nature. The next book I wrote transpired from a true event in our yard between a visiting skunk and our cats. Life is full of inspiration for writers. I don’t usually look for it, but the events always find me and I think to myself, “That would make a good book!” I even have my husband saying that, now, though we disagree a bit on what a good book is.
Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it? Writing this book taught me that I could write a 50,000 + word novel in a month. I wrote Dead Perfect for NaNoWriMo in 2011. It was the most grueling month of my life, with my husband and daughter taking over many of my household and farm duties. I wrote for twelve hours or more a day on the weekends, every morning for a couple of hours before class, and every evening for about four hours, instead of relaxing with my family. It was frustrating, exhilarating, and extremely stressful, but I accomplished it! I was so thrilled to have written an entire rough draft for a novel in one month that it kept me on a high for two more months! In fact, that semester was the only semester that I received a negative student survey comment. The student commented that my “personal goals should not come before my professional work”.
Do you intend to make writing a career? I absolutely intend to make writing a career! I love teaching literature and writing, but I would much prefer dedicating all of my time to writing. At the moment, it appears that it will be my retirement career, but I would love to crank out six novels a year! I have so many ideas for books, so many characters in my head, so many books started, that with a full time job, I don’t know how I will ever get them all completed. I would have to live to be a hundred and twenty to get all of the books written that I have started now. If I could dedicate my entire day to working on them, then I might be able to complete them in six years and keep coming up with new ideas, characters and storylines. I love writing, and it would make me incredibly happy to have nothing else to do but write. I have always desired to become a well-known, popular author. Since the age of seven, that is the only career to which my aspirations always returned.
Have you developed a specific writing style? Yes, I have developed a specific style. When I read a book, I like it to read fast. When I write a book, I try to stay with that style. I prefer to write many short chapters that keep the reader moving forward, then to write less long chapters. I also try to maintain a straightforward approach. I appreciated that in Hemingway’s books, and found that it was much easier for me, the reader, to identify with the characters when the style is straightforward. I also prefer first person narrative because I can really get into the characters’ hearts and minds to develop them. I’ve had success with my series in third person, but my preference is first.
What is your greatest strength as a writer? I think my greatest strength as a writer is my ability to get into character. In the past, I aspired to become an actor, tried out for the one-act plays in high school, but always ended up backstage. I guess I was just too withdrawn to “perform”. With writing, I’m always more outgoing. I prefer email to in-person chats and texts to phone calls. I believe that’s because I can be who I want to be when I write. I can address the recipient with the candor and the confidence that speech does not allow me. The hermit side of me is cropping up here. I suppose it also has to do with lack of confidence in public speaking, always being afraid I’ll say the wrong thing. In writing, I don’t have to worry about that. I can revise it before it’s read. This allows me to be whomever I want, female, male, dog, cat, horse, and any age I want to be. It allows me to get on stage and become the character. Many reviewers comment on the strength of my characters. When a reader states, “I just wanted to wrap my arms around her…” to make the character’s life okay again, then I know I have done well with that character. She’s not just a part of my imagination, or part of some story; she has become real to the reader and made it into the outside world. How many times do we refer to actors by the names of their characters instead of their name? That character has become a part of our lives. That is the strength I have in writing, to make my characters a part of the reader’s life, to bring my characters to life.
Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it? Writer’s block? Absolutely! When I get writer’s block, it’s usually due to stress. I have so much going on in my life, so many aspects to keep up with, and so much work to do, that I sometimes become overwhelmed with it all. During these times, I find it difficult to focus on my work. The only way I can get back to work when writer’s block keeps me from it is to exercise. Exercise clears my mind, refocuses my breathing, relieves my stress, and allows me to think through problem areas. My favorite exercise is walking, because if have two big dogs, a Great Pyrenees named Reba who is a pound puppy, and a Heeler/ Mastif mix named Domino, who love to walk with me. They love walking so much, that on mornings when I walk back from the barn after feeding the cows and horses, Reba and Domino bounce up to me–even when it’s only 30 degrees like this morning– and expect to walk. Taking these mile and a half, brisk, nature walks help me the most. When it’s too cold, like this morning, then it’s Wii bowling, boxing or step aerobics. No matter the exercise, it always opens my mind back up and releases the characters within.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?Certainly, I will share a little of my current work. I love to give my readers a glimpse of what’s coming up. Here’s an excerpt, mind you this is a rough draft, of The Gifted Ones The Dream, which will be out in 2013. It’s the second book in my series, The Gifted Ones. I need to tell readers that this might be a bit graphic. It is a young adult series, though adults seem to appreciate it, also.
“Daddy! No!” the house glowed orange and yellow as the flames licked through the windows in an effort to reach the little girl on the lawn.
“No! Don’t think about it! That’s not your dad! Focus!” the voice of a girl filled Cheater’s mind, refocusing her eyes to the present.
Not her dad, but the faceless man stood before her, his iniquitous laugh filling her ears.
Flames danced and swayed inside the circle of the Gifted Ones, forcing each to tighten the grip they had on each other’s hands.
“It’s no, the present, that we need to focus on,” Jaz yelled over the billowing flames.
“Yes, if we don’t stop him, the world will suffer as we did!” Rebecca concentrated solely on the missing face.
“But we don’t know who he is! Look at his face!” Thad pointed out.
The whirlwind pulled at them, attempting to lift them from the ground and they fought to hold each other down.
“Wait! I know this place,” Nathan dared a glance over his shoulder,” I know where we are!”
“Remember it!” Cai ordered over the roar. “Try to see the others, too! We need to know who they are.”
Jas turned his head right, his eyes following the path from the hand he held, upward to the shoulder, and to the light hair of a girl. Squinting through the flames, he barely glimpsed her cheek before her face glowed orange with the hunting fire.
At the center of the circle, Mr. Johnston’s imposter stood with the man who tormented their dreams. Flames clawed at the imposter’s body, licking his face, singeing away his beard, tiny trails of orange traveling toward his chin. His screams overtook the roar of the fire as each of the Gifted Ones turned away opting to tighten heir handhold instead of cover their ears.
The gruesome screams grew to an unbearable level, and suddenly stopped. All eyes turned to the circle, the large man a crumple of smoldering flesh at its center.
“Defy me?” the evil voice roared into Cheater’s face, the breath of the dragon touching the tip of her nose. “And you also will burn, just like your family!”
“Leave her alone!” Jaz kicked at the tormentor without success.
“Keep your head! Stay focused! Don’t let him anger you; he will win!” Cai’s limbs trembled with control as her words reached Jaz’s ears.
Cheater’s feet lifted from the ground as the whirlwind wrapped its heated tentacles about her. Her hair rose and twisted with the wind. Jaz and Thad tightened the hold on her hands tugging her downward.
She had to let go of the past, of her family. She had to focus on the mission, the story, the ending. This was it. It was time to let go.
“Sarah! Sarah!” Outside the flames, as she spun to one side, Cheater’s mother called to her. “I’m here baby; I’m here and I will never leave you again. Come with me,” she held her hand out to Cheater.
“Mom!” Cheater struggled to let go of Thad’s hand, but he grasped hers tighter. “Let go! My mom’s here, right there.”
“Yes, Sarah, I’m here. Come home with me. Stevey’s waiting, so is Daddy. Come on,” the reaching arm closed the distance between Cheater’s body and her mother’s waiting hand.
“Mom,” Cheater smiled at the image over her shoulder, pulled her left hand free from Thad’s grip and reached behind her.
“No!” Thad yelled as her body rose further with the gusts twirling about her.
He jumped, catching a gust of hot hair to rise on, and grasped at her forearm, but his fingers barely grazed her skin.
How do you promote this book? Unfortunately, due to my busy schedule, I cannot promote my books the way I would like. Dead Perfect has been on blog tours; this tour is its second. I also advertise my website through Google and promote on Facebook and Twitter. I prefer not to spam people. I don’t pay any attention to spam, so I doubt they do, either. I like to talk to people through my blogs, too. I like to meet people, and my books give me the opportunity to do so. I also take my books to festivals. Dead Perfect has been to six festivals so far.
Will you write others in this same genre? I will absolutely write more books in the paranormal romance genre. I love that genre. In fact, I have an adult paranormal romance started. The title is Hog Island Love. I can’t wait to get back to work on it. Once I complete the rough draft of The Gifted Ones, The Dream, I will pick up where I left off with Hog Island. I also have another young adult paranormal romance in the works that has a unique plot and unusual characters. I want to get back to work on that one, too.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? I think the message I tried to convey in Dead Perfect is that love can happen to anyone, anywhere, and anytime. Love can span time and find a lost soul in any dimension, and that our only deterrents to finding true love are ourselves. What keeps us from having our dream love is what we hold within our hearts. In order to accept love, we must first let go and love ourselves.
How much of the book is realistic? Dead Perfect doesn’t have much realism in it. There are situations that could really happen, but as far as my life as it is in the book, there is very little realism. The mall trip, the first love, the first kiss, I suppose are events all people encounter. None of the events in the book actually happened to me, or anyone I know personally. The characters in Dead Perfect came to life while I wrote it, and have their own life, their own situations and experiences, although bits and pieces form from realistic situations and people, for instance, a phrase a character uses or reaction they have to certain people. The car accident at the beginning of the book did not happen to me; although, I have had two car accidents and know the reactions that take place as a person spins around within a car. Losing a loved one has happened to me. The conflict Mel feels about the loss of her mother stems from the conflict I felt when my father left us. So none of the book is realistic, but there are elements of realism within its pages. I think realism is important in order for all stories to reach the readers.
Have you included a lot of your life experiences, even friends, in the plot? Each of my books contains some of my life experiences. My book Moon Thief contains some family violence. Dead Perfect makes use of an alcoholic parent. The Gifted Ones series encompasses death of loved ones. Even the Bobby Jay series contain experiences stemming from my school life or teaching life. My characters are not based on any one friend or person, but a multitude of people. One of my characters may have one of my qualities, but look like two or three of my friends and my sister combined. All of the people I meet, the conversations I have, find their way into my memory, my creativity and extend themselves into my books in some way.
How important do you think villains are in a story? Villains are important for stories where they are necessary. Some stories don’t require a villain because the character deals with inner conflict. There may be a secondary character in the story who sways the main character one way or the other, but there isn’t a villain. In stories where the conflict is external, a villain is definitely necessary. Readers love to hate the bad person. They need someone to blame for the challenges that come upon the main character, and someone to be angry at when events don’t go the way they expect. Villains are great! My favorite approach to a villain is one that is not visible until the conflict climaxes. In the adult suspense novel I’ve been working on for about twelve years now, the villain has still not materialized, though her presence has definitely been established. It’s so much fun to write the part of a villain! I think that’s because of the balance of good and evil in every person.
What are your goals as a writer? My goals as a writer are many. First, I want to complete all of the books I have started. Second, I want to reach as many people as I can with my stories. I want to tell good stories, too. My main goal is to make writing my only career. I love to write more than life and nothing would make me happier than to channel all of my creativity and ideas into my books. I have shared knowledge, character and life with many students. I’ve affected them, and they have affected me. I’ve never wanted to win an award for teaching, but writing, I feel so differently about writing. Awards don’t really matter to me, but reaching my reader and maybe helping them in some way through the story I tell, that is what is important to me.
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)? I don’t have to travel much with my books, I get to travel! I love taking my books to book festivals, arts and crafts festivals, and to schools to visit teachers and students. I don’t have much time to travel, as a full time instructor, but I love to travel. My dream is to travel on book tours. That’s how I plan to spend my retirement days. I love meeting new people, seeing new places, and becoming the author in me. Most of the time, I prefer to be a hermit, but when it comes to my books, I love to get out in the world with them. I’m still waiting for the one book that will get me to that place of travel, and it will come. The more I write, the better the ideas get, and the better chance I have of achieving that dream.
Can we expect any more books from you in the future? Can you expect any more books from me? If I had to say no to that question, I would just give up now. I don’t write books just because I have always wanted to write ‘a book’. I have so many books in the making, so many ideas every day, that my books will not stop coming until I cease to exist. The next book on the list is the second book in The Gifted Ones series. After that, you should see a couple of paranormal romances, and then my suspense thriller. If I had all day to write, I could realize all four of these books this year, actually publishing the first one before the middle of the year, and another by the end of the year. I am a storyteller, and I don’t plan to stop telling stories any time soon. I didn’t start writing to become a one book, overnight success. I write for endurance and time. I want readers to read my books hundreds of years from now. Yes, you will be seeing many more books from me.
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Genre – Paranormal Romance