Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in the jungles of Irian Jaya, Indonesia--now West Papua. My father was a missionary airplane mechanic and pilot; the Operations Manager of the hanger for the base where we were stationed. Without television or movies, I survived on weekly trips to the tiny missionary school library and the crates of books sent to us by supporting churches. I lived vicariously through any stories I could get my hands on and wrote any I couldn't. Every experience in my life I thought even slightly interesting or that qualified by my standards as "a good story" was documented in my journals.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Elderberry Croft is a real place.Yes, at the back of a trailer park in a town nearby, there really IS a cottage built on a river rock patio by which a tiny stream flows. And although Willow Goodhope never lived there or named the little house Elderberry Croft, it’s where I found sanctuary for almost a year when I had nowhere else to go.
Several years ago now, my marriage imploded on itself, and I cut and run. It was a treacherous time, in so many ways. Our children suffered terribly because of our decisions, and by the time I walked out of the marriage, we both believed a future together was impossible. But while I was out there–running, hiding, drowning in a sea of things that could only bring destruction–the ONE WHO PURSUES caught up with me, and I have not been the same since.
During my frantic search to find a place where I could live, I stumbled upon a “For Rent” sign on a side road while out riding my motorcycle (yes, another indulgence I invested my time and money in – my little motorcycle was aptly called a “Rebel”), at the front of a trailer park. I figured beggars couldn’t be choosers, and if a rented trailer was all I could get at such short notice, then I’d make it work.
But God had other plans for me (and ultimately for my marriage), mainly because He wasn’t ready to let me ride off into the sunset without Him, or my husband, Kevin, for that matter. The park manager led me around to the back of the property, across a little bridge with a creek flowing beneath it, and pointed at a tiny cottage on a river rock patio. “That’s it,” he said, as though it was nothing special.
Maybe he saw nothing special about the place, considering the poor little house was all but naked, but, like Willow Goodhope when she first arrived here in Elderberry Croft: January Breeze, I envisioned vines and pots and pretty garden things, my herbs and twinkle lights and wind chimes everywhere.
It sounds lovely, and for all intents and purposes, it was, but I was there as a fugitive, and I was never more alone than during those months. But God wouldn't let me go and He knew exactly where I was at all times. He was just waiting for me to invite Him in. When I did, He met me with the open arms of grace and forgiveness.
I returned to my marriage, and my husband and I have just recently celebrated 25 years. It hasn't been easy - when you wander off the right path a thousand miles, you usually have to trek back a thousand more - but every step toward restoration has been worth it.
Writing Elderberry Croft has been cathartic - God has given me the opportunity to turn a very dark time and place in our lives into something beautiful in Willow Goodhope's story - and I hope you find elements of grace and hope in the pages of her story (and mine, vicariously), too.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I really like the term "indie author," because although I also have novels being shopped by my agent to traditional publishing houses, I feel like I am the one in control of my work. So choosing to independently publish certain novels was a natural move for me. When I signed with my agent, it was one of the predetermining factors in the contract - that I would have the freedom to self-publish. In this digital world in which we live, there doesn't seem to be a good reason to wait for traditional publishers' schedules anymore, especially when an author takes the time and makes the effort to produce a professional and competitive product. There is definitely great benefit to having traditionally published work, and it's my goal to keep publishing both traditionally AND independently.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords. Wow. Well, I think one of the best things that Smashwords has done for me is set a standard for me to meet. I determined ahead of time that I wanted to use SW as a distributor to all the major retailers, so I knew I'd have to have my work qualify for the Premium Distribution Catalog. That meant I had to not only write well, but I had to create quality covers and I had to learn to format professionally. And then, once my work met that criteria, SW took care of all the distribution avenues - something that would have taken me endless hours had I been resigned to uploading e-books to every retailer individually. And they're ALWAYS expanding their reach, too, to places I don't even know about! If an author is writing ebooks, SW is THE place to launch.
What are you working on next?
I'm writing, writing, writing!
My next indie-published book is scheduled to release January 30th, 2014. It's a novel about a marriage shattered by a wife's affair, and the treacherous road back home. I'm very excited about this book for several reasons, but one of the biggest things about this novel is that it's hard to find fiction about romance IN MARRIAGE - in fact, the romance genre EXCLUDES married characters, as though romance is not a part of marriage. But in Jake and Nora's story, there's a lot of romance. All the same elements in a romance novel are in this book, but in a vein of REALITY. There's a love triangle, there's the push and pull of commitment, there's the decision to do the right thing, even in the face of rampant emotions.
I'm also a professional narrator and among other projects, I'm currently in the middle of producing the audiobook versions of Elderberry Croft: The Complete Collection, Heather Day Gilbert's Viking novel, "God's Daughter," and Graeme Ing's YA sci-fi novel, "Ocean of Dust," all three of which are scheduled for release through Audible.com/Amazon this year.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Words. Stories. And the people that go along with them.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The Midnight Thief. We had our home broken into one night while we were out for dinner. The thought that someone would do something like that really blew my six-year-old mind, and I got so hung up on trying to understand it all, that I wrote a story about it just to get my head wrapped around it. I've been working things out on paper ever since.
What is your writing process?
Once I have an idea, I rarely map things out, but go straight to my computer and start writing. Then I write straight through. Sometimes I self-edit as I go, other times, I just write until I run out of words. Then the next time I sit down at my computer, I usually read what I've written so far, do some minor editing to get my rhythm, then pick up from where I left off. This process takes me through to the end of the book, then I go back and read the story as a whole, taking notes about story threads that may or may not have been tied up well, watching for discrepancies like eye color or personal habits, etc. I try to give each character some kind of identifying twitch or quirk, so those need to stay consistent, too.
Lately, however, as I've become more prolific, I find myself laying out the basic framework for a story, something I never used to do. It seems to help me stay focused more on different characters.
Describe your desk
My desk is an antique oak library table my husband got from his parents - it was in the front room of their home while he was growing up. I love it because it has a large surface area and I'm a piler. I have a pile of letters, a pile of bills, a pile of notes, a pile of pens (actually, a mug of pens), a pile of trinkets, a pile of coasters, a pile of photos, a pile of books, a pile... well, you get my drift. Right now, for whatever reason, there's also a salt-and-pepper set on my desk, a pair of fingerless mittens for when I first get in here in the chilly mornings, two coffee cups - last night's and today's - and a small sewing kit. A piece of curling ribbon - already curled - and an old school Denver Bronco badge that's waiting to be stitched on my son-in-law's Christmas gift. A camera, a bottle of lotion, a lamp, a paperclip and penny bowl, and a few other assorted things. My monitor, keyboard, and mouse, of course, too. I told you it was a large surface. But one of the things I love about my desk is that there's a crosspiece beneath it that's just the perfect height for me to rest my feet on comfortably. I'm short, and my legs fit ergonomically snug under the desk with my feet on that board.
The other thing I love about my desk is that my dog, Betsy, loves to flop down close by. She makes my writing space happy.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The greatest joy of writing - I'm not sure. I think I'd have to say that ONE of the reasons writing is such a joy to me is that I LOVE words and story, and the art of stringing words together into sentences, and sentences together into story... it always amazes me what authors can do with those 26 letters (give or take a few, depending on which language is being used!)
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I'm not writing, I'm probably reading. But it's amazing what you can do while reading. We have a busy household so I do a lot of cooking. I garden. My husband and I love to take road trips - often brainstorming book ideas/business stuff - and I home school our youngest daughter. I'm pretty domesticated these days - I think the beauty of being able to write full time, and read in the other times, is that I live vicariously through all those literary characters, making my life very very full. I do love a good foreign film or two as well.
What do you read for pleasure?
I'm an avid fiction reader (I rarely read nonfiction for a plethora of reasons...), and I'll read almost anything and almost any author at least once. I don't read erotica, and I don't like graphic and gratuitous violence, but I've chewed my nails through a couple of stellar Stephen King novels in my day. I'm not a huge fan of romance novels, but when I find an author who writes believable characters, then the romance becomes believable, too. My favorite genre is literary fiction - real life told in story form.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
My e-reading device of choice is my wee Kindle, mainly because it's the only one I've got, besides my laptop/desktop. I do love it, but not because I necessarily prefer it over another e-reader. In fact, I'd consider giving my left pinkie toe for an ipad.......
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.