Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born and raised in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Though my husband and I have moved all over the country during our time together, I've always been a Midwestern girl at heart. Being from the center of the country has definitely colored my writing. There's a whole different pace in the middle of the country than you'll find on either the East or West coasts...a completely different set of values. My values are represented in my writing. I believe in neighbor helping neighbor and in doing the right thing, even when it's hard to do. I like strong men and competent women. I believe men should act like men and women can be strong and soft at the same time. I believe in hard work and creating my own success, and I take pride in each small victory. I like to think each of my characters reflects those qualities too. Another thing readers might not know about my writing, I base most of my stories in Indiana, just because I can!
When did you first start writing?
I can remember writing my first poetry in high school and having the teacher read it to the class because he thought it was really good. Looking back on it now I realize how dark and filled with teenage angst those first writing attempts were. I shudder at all that angst now. I’ve graduated to more physical writing since then. I’m really more of a blow ‘em up and smack ‘em around type of writer. It’s so much more satisfying than just sitting around fretting about something.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
First let me say that I deeply appreciate what my publishers have given me. Ellora's Cave gave my first book, 'Tween Heaven and Hell a chance to take wing and I haven't looked back since that book hit cyber shelves. I will always be grateful that they believed in me enough to give me a chance. But having said that, I've been frustrated by the "my way or the highway" mentality of some of the publishers I've worked with. I've also suffered under the writing "rules" that many of them operate under. I think I really turned the corner when one of my editors told me my story had too much plot and not enough sex. Huh? Blink... I thought the whole idea of a book was creating a plot readers could enjoy. At that point I realized I wanted to write and publish my own stories, written the way I think they should be written. I really haven't turned back since I made that decision, in fact, I just got the rights back on one of my most popular series and I will be publishing all 9+ books under my own imprint shortly!
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords rocks! I'm a self-motivated, take charge kind of person. A real "A" personality. So Smashwords was great for me. I can publish my own books, maximize the way they are marketed, priced, and distributed, and control my own writing destiny for the first time ever. But the best part about Smashwords is that even if I weren't a take-charge kind of gal, Smashwords would make it easy for me to succeed. It's a great tool for writers at all experience levels.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
As a writer, it's when someone tells me they loved my book and can't stop thinking about it. That is the best thing a reader can say to me because I've been there myself as a reader and it's an incredible feeling.
On the business side of the writing, it gives me joy to take a story I've written and turn it into a successful property. Even though the business side of writing isn't considered creative, in many ways it is. Those of us who just plod along in the footsteps of other publishers/writers, doing the same things to market our books that those who came before us did, might not achieve success in any measurable form. But if you can walk outside that pathway just a bit, you might find a way to create success for a book or series. That's my daily challenge and I'm really enjoying it.
What do your fans mean to you?
The easy answer would be that they mean everything to me. Any author will tell you that, with varying degrees of sincerity. It's both technically and spiritually true, after all. Without readers/fans there would be nobody to read and enjoy an author's books. But it's too easy to look at fans as targets for our marketing efforts. Fans are much more than that. They're vindication of sorts, proving (at least until the next wave of self-doubt rolls in) that I really do have the skill to be an author. I mean, if someone else enjoyed my work then I must be doing something right, yeah? Fans are also very handy sounding boards. They'll quickly tell you if you're sliding off target with your writing. You might choose to ignore them if you're moving in the direction your passion takes you, or you might allow them to swing you back if you didn't mean to veer off course. But most of all, I think, fans are partners in an author's journey. They're like good friends you don't know. As long as they're happy with what you're doing, your life is good. But when you disappoint them--at least for me--it ruins your day. I guess it all boils down to this, my fans are my friends and they're sometimes hard on me...but isn't that a good friend's job?
How would you describe your books?
I think of my books as mind candy. I know many writers want to believe their writing is epic and life changing. Not me. I’m looking for my readers to release a few endorphins through excitement and laughter. Real life is complex and difficult. Endorphins make us feel good. Most of us, when we pick up a book, just want to be entertained. My books will never lecture or solve real problems. But they will make you smile, gasp, feel really good, and yes…occasionally…even yell at the characters. Because the stories are built around a subliminal message that I don’t think most people can resist. The message? It’s this: Isn’t this a lot of fun? Let’s do it again sometime. #:0) But having said that, I don’t want you to think I view my books as unimportant. I don’t think there’s anything more important than making someone feel good. I view that as one of my most important missions in life. And I’d like to think I have a gift for it.
What kind of reactions do you hope for from your readers?
I once received a very satisfying review from Enchanting Reviews that pretty much encapsulated it. The reviewer got so caught up in the story she didn’t want to stop and take care of her kids and her husband. (Folks, I don’t recommend you try this at home. #:0) She found herself feeling my characters’ pain, laughing with them and at them, and even yelling at them when they did something stupid. That’s the kind of reaction I want my writing to engender. In my humble opinion, good fiction should require you to climb into a roller coaster car and strap yourself in. It should draw you happily into its pages and not release you until you read the last powerful word. And when you move on with your life afterwards, you should still think about the story and the characters and wish you could jump into another story with them sooner rather than later.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Opportunity. I approach each day with twin goals. 1. To write the best stuff I can write; and 2. To make money writing the best stuff I can write. It may sound simple, but there are so many routes to be explored on my journey. Some days I'm more successful than others. Some days I feel like I'm slogging upriver with the salmon in my efforts to spawn great fiction. But every day is a gift because I'm doing what I love to do. I also like to think I'm doing what I'm good at. But my readers will have to be the judge of that. #:0)
Describe your writing process, what works for you and what are the challenges?
I write visually. This means, as I’m creating a scene it’s actually rolling across a tiny little movie screen in my head. I write as if I’m writing for the big screen. If a scene isn’t large enough for the big screen it needs some work. When I write this way it’s easy for me to see when something doesn’t quite add up, and when the movie starts to get too slow I add depth and movement. The advantages to writing this way are obvious. If you do it well you get a visually beautiful story with intensity and color. The challenge is that movies don’t have the depth of detail a good written story does. So if you concentrate only on how the story plays out visually, you might miss some of the detail you need to satisfy the story and the reader. It’s a real tightrope. A balancing act between the art of writing and the practice of it.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I'm online all day long, so I might discover a book any one of several ways. I might just happen across it in my cyber-travels, I might see a review I like, or I might find it in the "also bought" lists on a eSeller site. Mostly I guess I find books through recommendation of some sort.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.