People always ask this and I have to admit it's a little embarrassing. I was a real late bloomer when it comes to writing. Though I've always been a lover of stories, I didn't start writing my own until after my sons were grown. What took me so long? I'm not sure. I always made up stories in my head, stories in which I played the starring role. I remember once when I was about eight overhearing my father, in complete exasperation, say to my mother: "I think she wakes up in a different world every day." He was right. But it never occurred to me write these stories down. I thought of writers as special - set apart - and it took me a long time to realize that I could join their rank.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book, LETHAL JOURNAL, is a traditional mystery. It's set in a retirement community where the residents are mobile, alert, and just bored enough to want to be a part of any trouble that may be brewing - and if no trouble is brewing, they're not adverse to starting some. The protagonist is Jennie Connors, a young mother who works there as activities director. One reviewer compared the residents as Jennie's Watsons. I love that and I think it fits. When one of the residents is murdered and his personal journal disappears, Jennie, along her Watsons, is determined to find the journal, restore order to the world she loves, and see that justice is done. The story behind the story is that I love to take characters it would be easy to dismiss as "average" and show them as complex and valuable human beings. Part of the fun of the book is the interaction among the different generations - 30 year-old Jennie, her 7 and 9-year-old sons, and the savvy seniors who make up the population of Riverview Manor.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
A love of stories. I come from a family of storytellers, mostly told with gusto and great attention to detail around the dining table or on the back porch. That's what inspired me to become an author. As for being an indie author, I love the freedom to write about what interests me, choose my own editor (everyone needs an editor), and set my own timeline. I don't have patience with the waiting and uncertainty involved in traditional publishing - although I do have four traditionally published books and can't complain of my treatment on that side of the table. When my publisher was bought out by another entity, I decided to test the indie waters and love the freedom it offers.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
In a publishing world that is changing so fast it's impossible to keep up and which makes it almost impossible for a newbie to break in, it's wonderful to have an outlet. I have to add that, as a reader, I love having access to books that don't quite fit the formula that most publishers are looking for. The brave new world of indie publishing is a great place to discover new and truly creative ideas.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Making stuff up! Love it! And connecting with readers - bliss.
What do your fans mean to you?
See the previous answer. There's nothing better that knowing others are reading something I've written. When one of them takes the time to let me know they've enjoyed one of my books, I'm thrilled.
What are you working on next?
I'm writing another book set in Doylestown, the small town where I live and the setting of LOVE AND NOT DESTROY. This book has taken on a life of its own. I wrote LOVE AND NOT DESTROY as a standalone, but I really needed to know what happened to the characters and, unless I wrote it, nothing could happen. So I started there and, to keep it interesting, added some new characters. One of these new kids on the block demanded that her story be told - and led me down an unexpected path. I'm having a grand time seeing where this will lead.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, it was a short story called Favorite Uncle (re-titled Generation Unto Generation) and is as close to autobiographical as anything I'll probably ever write. I understand that's pretty typical. Writers usually start with an experience that touched them deeply and which they feel the need to understand. Writing it down brings out details and nuances that help that process. I don't think that aspect of storytelling ever goes away, but, as we gain experience, we learn to to add other elements to our personal experiences and, thus, make them more universal.
What is your writing process?
Probably the toughest question to answer. I usually start with a vague idea, and ask myself why I find it interesting. Then: could it be interesting to other people? As for the whole outliner vs. pantser thing, I need a direction so I start with an outline. However, the finished story is usually very different from the outline because, as I write, I get to know the characters and understand them better and they begin to dictate the story to me. If I follow the characters where they want to go, I discover what the story is really about. As I get deeper into the story, I begin my writing day by listing what I hope to accomplish in the chapter I'm working on, how it will move the plot forward and provide surprises for the readers without violating the logical integrity of the story.
Describe your desk
OK, this should be fun. For starters, I'll tell you I have a framed sign on my desk that reads "Creative clutter is better than idle neatness." Maybe that's all you really need to know. However, I have a great affection for the things on my desk, so I'll share a few of them. My desk is part of a unit that includes bookshelves so I have a lot of "stuff". I'll start with some of the books I keep nearby: a dictionary (of course), thesaurus, Tales from Shakespeare for Children, a Reader's Encyclopedia, Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey. I think that's enough books; you get the picture. In addition, I have a picture of William Faulkner when he won the Nobel Prize, a certificate I got for teaching at the Pearl S. Buck Writers Center, picture of my family taken last Christmas, a tin cup filled with pens, cup of tea (usually growing cold) - again, enough.
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