I was born in one of Omaha's worst blizzards; I think it influenced the rest of my life! I had a happy childhood for many years, and then, when I was about 8 years old, my world began to crumble. We moved. My parents divorced. My grandfather fell ill with Alzheimer's disease and my grandmother had to sell the family farm. Soon after, when both my grandfather and great-aunt died months after one another, my grandmother fell off the proverbial wagon. I couldn't have had a more idyllic childhood, and then the Universe saw fit to bring me some challenges.
You refer to the "Universe" rather than God. What are your spiritual beliefs?
My grandmother was a strong influence in my early life. She embodied true Christianity: living a moral life to the best of her abilities and being kind to others. She was active in her local church. When she was a young mother, she was a foster parent for a while, but her alcoholism put a stop to that. She went through horrific "treatments" in the 1960s, and I think that as a result of the things the doctors put her through, she was always forgiving of others.
In the early 1950s, she began work on a life-sized wax nativity scene. By the 1970s, it was a popular local attraction that drew tens of thousands of people to the farm every Christmas. Cars would line up all the way back in to town. Many people would kneel and pray in front of the Scene. I remember seeing the profound effect it had on some people, effects similar to those at Lourdes or other holy sites. So, I would say my grandmother and grandfather influenced me with the Nativity Scene. The received almost no money for it and no help, and yet they maintained it for almost 30 years.
When I was little, though, the church didn't have any meaning for me - aside from the positive energy I felt at special services, like Christmas - and I often found myself drawn to alternative religions and mysticism. I believe in Christianity, but I do not believe that Jesus Christ is my Savior. I have always been interested in witchcraft, but the books I found on the occult emphasized dark magic too much. I don't like dark magic. I am not a part of any organized religion, and yet follow the tenets of many organized religions on a daily basis.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in the country. I noticed the contrast between the natural world, harsh and honest, and the human world, where everyone told lies, especially to themselves. It has left me with an abiding interest in the truths that everyone knows, but no one is allowed to say.
I first started writing when I was about 12 years old as a way to cope with a dysfunctional family situation. I started with fiction, but as an adult, my writing evolved into a platform for sharing my inner struggles and personal triumphs. Writing became a means of advocacy for the issues and concerns in society for which I strongly believe. It also gives me a creative outlet for describing the world as I see and experience it, giving others the ability to share it with me.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Writing is my means of communicating my thoughts, feelings and desires in a clear and decisive manner, something my spoken words could never portray as eloquently or meaningfully. Writing gives me the ability to reach within and draw out my joys, my pain, my fascinations and fears so others can understand they are not alone.
I wanted to write something lighthearted and fun. I'd just finished my four-part fantasy series (By Eyes Unseen) which required seven years to write. BEU was fulfilling but also grueling at times, and I wanted to change gears completely. The Never List allowed me to loosen up with language and let the story flow on its own. From one day to the next, I didn't know what would happen until Charles or Tori (the protagonists) revealed it on the page. It was great fun from start to finish.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Lots of research and rumination. I did not rush into the process. The publishing market is rapidly evolving, and that change has opened doors for indie authors like me who couldn't get a foot in before. In the 1990s I did all the "right things" trying to sell a fantasy-adventure series, and after years of effort, I gave up. But I didn't stop writing. Last year I realized the game had changed, and while traditional publishers won't disappear, opportunities are more accessible for writers like myself. I don't see indie publishing as an end but as a different sort of beginning.
I didn't actually set out to write a book at all. The idea came to me when I was writing lesson plans for my training courses. I have never had a terribly structured approach to writing, although I have always loved to write, essays were my thing at school, telling stories. One thing led to another and I began to write verbatim what I would be saying in front of my clients. And then "POW2 it hit me, I might have a book here, and that was really exciting.
How do you approach cover design?
Ha ha!! Against ALL of Mark's advice which was don't do it yourself, and I did agonise over it, but decided in the end after canvassing opinion from friends, family as well as impartial parties too to use my own design. I am what you'd probably describe as a lapsed Designer, I was never a Graphic Designer but I was an Illustrator for a number of years and still draw occasionally. When people talk about artistic licence I fear mine has expired and I am too busy to renew it, but I think the image on the cover is pretty good, I believe it would tell a story if you stripped away the words etc.. But we'll see eh? At least the Meat Grinder hasn't come back and said "Erm...About that cover picture my friend???" Although I did only upload the book 40 minutes ago so we'll see.
Yes! I must have been about 6 or 7 years old, and we were given a school assignment to write a short story. My story involved a child (me) who slept nervously in a dark bedroom, keeping all arms and legs fully encased in tightly drawn covers. The door cracked open, light spilled into the room, and a MONSTER appeared! Turns out it was only my dad. It was that story which started my writing career. At least in the opinion of my earliest fan... my mother.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I was actually writing a different book, had just finished the rough draft of it. The story was wonderful, the plot very intricate, but something wasn't right. I didn't love the voice or tone of the book. It was then that I decided it might be fun to try my hand at a first-person approach. I had a vision of a girl dodging a city guard who had caught her stealing an apple. The girl was a sharp wit and had an attitude that was a little edgy. Once I got going, I fell in love and had to find out what happened next. Eventually her story emerged, growing ever-more complicated as time went on.