Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in the city of Peoria, Illinois in a blue collar family. My father was the last of a dying breed...surviving both the depression and WWII, he became an apprentice running a printing press and built himself up in the company. He taught me a good work ethic and the importance of the little man in the every day world, and his love of history and wonderful stories gave me inspiration to write historical romances that were centered around the dynamics of socioeconomic status, race, and culture.
When did you first start writing?
The first story I ever wrote was in fourth grade...I won a Young Author's competition with my story about the Underground Railroad called: The Big Train. I dabbled in poetry and short stories when I was in high school, some of it pretty dark (reflecting common teenage angst). My first year of college, however, I found a love of creative writing when I had to write a J.R.R Tolkien-esque story for a class. My English professor submitted one of my descriptive essays for publication in our school newspaper. With a degree in Political Science, I wrote multiple papers a semester, although more research oriented in nature. Ten years ago, I started writing my first historical romance, and I've been writing in some form or another ever since.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Talon Barberry, a secondary character from my first book, Pure of Heart, needed his own HEA. I fell in love with his whole history...a Romani man jilted by his betrothed, he has a strong sense of honor. Talon didn't want to go against his family traditions, but he feels lost in the world. He's rough around the edges and puts up a good front--usually by drinking as much whiskey as he can. He needed a strong woman, and Talia Montrose, a creole spy employed by the Cabildo government from New Orleans, was the perfect fit. She's alpha female and not afraid to stand up for herself. She's also adventurous, and she and Talon embark on a fantastic journey across land and sea. Talon and Talia are by far my favorite characters.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I had my first book published by a traditional house, but I found that I have a difficult time waiting on someone else to do something I can do myself. I'm pretty tech savvy, and I love formatting...I know, sounds strange, yes? So, I decided to end my contracts with my traditional publisher and embark on my own journey.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords' platform and guidelines are so easy to understand! With the help of their online guide, it took my three hours at most to format Pure Temptation.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Escaping to another time and place. I love history, and I do a tremendous amount of research for each book (all 6 of the Pure Escapades novels are finished, and I plan on releasing two a year). From there, I create a story with an accurate history worthy of the time period. There are days I wish I could stay there! Pure Temptation is set in Martinique and Guadeloupe, and I felt like I lived there for months while I wrote and edited. I become very attached to my characters and the story--that's probably why I ended up with six in the series! Not all of my novels are historical. I live in a snowy, dreary place, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, so I write all winter and get my muse in the beautiful springs and summers. However, I am branching out. My current work in progress is called Silence the Northwoods--a romantic suspense set at the ski chalets where I live.
What are you working on next?
2016 is a big year for me. I have three books that I hope to get marketed. My Young Adult suspense novel that I wrote for my autistic son during NaNoWriMo last year is currently with my editor. I plan on releasing it April 1, and all proceeds of that novel will go to the Autism Society of America. I will get my rights back to my first novel, Pure of Heart, on April 8, so I plan on re-releasing it. The third book in the Pure Escapades series, Pure Enchantment, will be released sometime this fall. It follows the story of the secondary character in Pure Temptation, Alex Lafitte, cousin (literary license taken here) to the infamous Jean and Pierre Lafitte. He's the captain of a brig-sloop called the Enchanted Lady, and he's in for quite a ride when he discovers a beautiful quadroon from New Orleans stows away on his ship during a trip to the West Indies. Her mother is a Haitian voudou priestess, so you can imagine what fun I had researching this novel. I actually traveled to New Orleans for research last year, and it was a trip I'll never forget. I'm currently almost finished with my first contemporary romantic-suspense, Silence the Northwoods, set in my own hometown. I'm not sure about the release date, but I plan on two more in this series: Silence the Waters, and Silence the Birchwoods--all set in the Upper Peninsula.
Who are your favorite authors?
Wow! Well, I have so many and in so many different genres. As far as historical romance writers go, my favorites are Grace Callaway and Pamela Clare. Their attention to historical detail and character development drew me in, and I read every one of their books when the are released. However, I was inspired to write historical romance by reading Constance O'Banyon and Jo Goodman when I was in my early 20's. I can re-read their books over and over. As far as romantic suspense, I've had the absolute privilege of working with my favorite author, Dixie Lee Brown. I hadn't read this genre before her books, and I had to read all of her releases in one weekend because I couldn't put them down. The last year, she's taken me under her wing, and I'm humbled that she volunteered to be my CP (critique partner) for my romantic suspense. Contemporary romance...I love Kelly Moran's books. She has several in different sub-genres including paranormal romance and erotic romance. I love her writing style. And, I also love AJ Nuest's fantasy romance series The Golden Key Chronicles and the Golden Key Legacy. Both of these ladies are extremely talented. But, I love a good suspense/mystery/CIA/FBI story. My favorites in those genres are Nelson DeMille, Michael Crichton, Meg Gardiner, and Dan Brown. And, I can't forget George R.R. Martin--his world and character building is so elaborate and amazing...I can't get enough of the Starks, Lanisters, and Targareans.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
It depends on the season! In the winter, I write for 8 hours a day or so. But, I love to snowshoe with my husband when I can. I'm an amateur photographer, so we take treks in the woods often so I can get the perfect shot. I'm also a member of a group of aurora hunters--we go looking for the Northern Lights whenever we get a storm warning. I live for those moments. In the summer, we're very busy. We live 15 miles from Lake Superior, so our family is always hiking, kayaking, canoeing, camping--anything in the great outdoors.
What is your writing process?
Hmmm...tough one. For my historical romances, I usually get an idea in my head for a new novel based on the secondary characters. I usually want to give them their HEA, and since I've already got a good idea of who they are in my head because I'm writing about them, the story really comes alive on its own. It takes me a few months to thoroughly research an area--New Orleans for example. From there, I write. And I do more research...and sometimes the story takes me in directions I never thought possible. The romantic suspense was harder for me, but I got the idea from watching my son ski at our local hill. It's a college training facility for Ski Management students (running ski lifts, making snow, grooming hills), and watching the dynamics and hearing the stories prompted me to begin writing a winter-time romance. That led to two more ideas of seasonal stories set in the Upper Peninsula. I wrote an outline for this one to help me along. I usually start a novel by designing a cover. Sometimes I use my own landscapes, but I go to the stock photos and get an idea of what my hero/heroine looks like. This really motivates me. I do character profiles on every single character in my book from date of birth to family history, likes/dislikes, all of it. However, my husband tells me my real talent is something rather unique--as I'm writing, I usually have the entire story in my head from start to finish. As I'm typing, I zone out...and I actually place myself in the story and see it in my head as a movie. I don't really know I'm typing, to tell you the truth. Sometimes I even hear certain songs or music in my head, pieces that I think might go well. If I didn't have a computer, I probably wouldn't be able to write like this...thank goodness for technology!
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Beverly Cleary's "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret". I read all of her stories when I was a child, but I wanted to read that one over and over as a child. I think I read a quote from Beverly Cleary recently that said, "If you don't find the book you want to read on the shelf, write it!"--and that's exactly what I did. I was tired of Regency romance focused on royal bloodlines and rich families. I wanted to write about the underdogs overcoming their own problems--like Margaret--they deserve an HEA too.
How do you approach cover design?
Actually, I do my own. I love it. Doing photography, I've really learned a lot about graphic manipulation, and designing a cover is almost as exciting as writing the book. I've branched out and done some freelance work for other authors' street teams and some web design as well.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
1. A Song of Fire and Ice--George R.R. Martin--epic world building and characters...this man is my inspiration. 2. Timeline--Michael Crichton--I love his fast-paced writing style, and of course, this one is set back in medieval times. Gotta love it. 3. The Mayfair Series--Grace Callaway--Her knowledge of London history is amazing! It's also spicy for a historical, and I like spice. 4. When I Find You--Dixie Lee Brown--Dixie does character development better than most. Her alpha males are special ops, and her stories are all action-packed from beginning to end. 5. Deception Point--Dan Brown--I love his writing style. I always learn something from reading his books.
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