"Death in the Desert" is about illegal immigration. Do you think that the controversy surrounding that subject will negatively affect your book?
I think there are enough people in this country who believe in a humanitarian ethic and will enjoy the book. While it's fiction, it's dealing with a very real social issue. And maybe those who don't feel that way will change their minds after reading my book. It was initially published by a small publisher as a trade paperback and many who read the book had exactly that reaction. It's also about dealing with fear which is something everyone faces. For the main character, Meagan Wagner, after being in Washington, D.C. on 9-11, fear began to rule her life.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords has given me the opportunity to distribute my eBook everywhere. And it was relatively easy. Every author should investigate the opportunities Smashwords offers.
How did you come to write Death in the Desert?
Back in 2003 I began reading about bodies found in the desert; many here in Cochise County. The more I read, the more concerned I became. People seemed to want to demonize the illegal entrants crossing the desert and their deaths didn't seem to bother too many folks, except humanitarian groups in Tucson, Arizona. I guess I wanted to put a face on those nameless people who, for the most part, only wanted to come to the United States and earn enough money to send to their destitute families in Mexico. They knew they risked death in the desert but, after all, they also knew they could find jobs that many people wouldn't take. And, on further research, I found out about the Braceros Program the U.S. established to allow Mexicans across the border to work mostly agricultural jobs during World War II when their labor was most needed. So, there's a history there. Even though the U.S. ended the program, the hungry and poor in Mexico and other Central American countries needed those jobs to survive. There was and still is a need for workers in agriculture, hospitality, and other industries. And so, because there was so much fear running through the deserts and canyons of Cochise County, I decided to show what fear can do through my main character, Meagan Wagner, and through the various issues of illegal immigrants.
When did you start writing?
I can't remember a time when I haven't been writing. I was first published at the grand old age of 10 when I had a Thanksgiving poem published in my hometown paper, The Laurel Leader. I was hooked. My first job was actually with that newspaper and while it was only taking classified ads, I tried to be as creative as possible. I eventually became a journalist and photojournalist working for the Army. I traveled all around the country but I think my most exciting journalistic experience was when I flew with the Army's Golden Knights parachute team. I was doing a feature story on the importance of training and figured what better way to show the importance of being well trained than to write about people who jump out of planes. Of course, to get the photos, I had to go up with them. I choose to come back down to earth on the plane. I eventually became editor of the paper and received both writing and editing awards. I truly had my dream job.
What's been your biggest challenge?
I had a stroke in 1993. As a result, I lost my career. For a while that was devastating. When you've worked all your life and suddenly you are no longer able to do so, you struggle with your identity. Fortunately for me, my faith gave me strength. My family was so supportive and understanding, especially the first six months when I struggled with memory problems. But God is good and I recovered physically. I still have memory problems, but who doesn't these days. As a result, I was around to see my two grandchildren born and enjoyed being able to spend so much time with them. Also, I was very blessed when my husband accepted a position in Germany and we spent three years in Europe. While traveling, I photographed just about everything and would always research every place we visited. That helped me do some freelance travel articles. It also gave me freedom to actually write Death in the Desert. So, while I initially thought I was losing everything, God planned it so that I was given the most important things.
Death in the Desert is your first novel. What's next?
Well, this is the first in the High Desert Series. There are at least two more books planned, both of which will address social issues. I just published "Christmas Chaos," on Amazon as a Kindle eBook. It's a little book that evokes memories of Christmas past, Christmas present, and Christmas future, giving readers a respite from the turmoil and disorder that can overwhelm everyone at Christmas. Readers can discover new ways to celebrate, unfamiliar facts about Christmas, and how to enjoy rather than detest the holidays.
I'm also planning on several books of short stories. One will include stories set here in Arizona. Another will be a book of stories set in Europe. And, I'm hoping to publish a book of short stories aimed at the baby boomer audience. Sometimes I think we get lost as far as authors are concerned. While I enjoy many books with characters in their twenties and thirties set in the present, I think I'd like to read more stories set in the late fifties and early sixties. There was a lot going on there and I think focusing on that period would prove challenging to write.
What has been the biggest influence in your writing?
My desire to show those things in our lives that are good and sweet and true. I'm deeply influenced by my faith and my relationship with Jesus Christ. "Death in the Desert" would not be considered a Christian book by most people. But, I believe that the only way to show others what faith is all about is in more realistic circumstances. There is a theme of love and forgiveness woven throughout the book that I hope conveys to readers the true meanings of those words. And, "Christmas Chaos," includes inspiration from the Bible.
What do you read for pleasure?
I love Maeve Binchy and was so saddened by her death. She had a way of creating characters you cared about. I also like reading contemporary suspense novels. Throw in some Stephen King and I can keep myself occupied for a long time. Oh, and I love Christmas stories, especially those written back in the 40s. Life was so different back then and people had such a different view of life and the holiday season.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Has to be my iPad. I love all it can do. I recently broke it and am having it replaced. It's hard to go back to reading a physical book, but there is something to the feel of one in your hands.
Describe your desk
My desk is a mess. LOL. Only I know where anything is and that's fine by me.
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