WHY DID YOU BECOME AN AUTHOR?
I have always been a writer. As a child, I wrote picture books and poetry. My third grade teacher, Mrs. Bizup, submitted some of my poetry to a local literary magazine, and they were published. What a thrill that was! For many years, writing poetry was a means of escape and a way to deal with my emotions. I often told stories to my daughters and our Girl Scout Troop, and at some point, my mother encouraged me to start writing them down. In 2005, I left my job as a librarian, vowing to stop shelving book and begin writing them!
IS IT HARD TO WRITE A NOVEL?
I wouldn’t say it’s hard, but you have to stick to it. So many other things in life can sneak in and steal that time, and even that drive, so you have to constantly remind yourself to make writing a priority. As my children grew older, I found that it was much easier to focus almost all of my time on my writing. Once I sit down and begin thinking about the setting and the characters, the story just flows.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR YOU TO WRITE A BOOK?
Writing a book and completing a book are two very different things. I can typically write a book in a couple months. One book, I wrote in just two weeks! However, that’s just the first draft. From putting down the initial paragraph to sending the book to print can take as long as nine months.
DO YOU EVER WORK ON MORE THAN ONE BOOK AT A TIME?
I’m never actually writing more than one book at a time, but I’m often working on more than one. When I’m writing a book, I focus the writing 100% on that book; however there are always things that need to be done for the previous book such as working with the cover designer, editor, and proofreaders, identifying marketing outlets, and working on ads, distribution, etc.
DO YOU EVER FEEL WAKE UP DURING THE NIGHT WITH A STORY IN MIND?
All the time! Sometimes I wake up having dreamt an entire plot or envisioning a setting. Other times, often when I’m knee-deep into writing a book, I wake up with a scene vividly ensconced in my mind. My husband will sometimes find me at my desk at 4am jotting down what I can remember from the dream. Other times, I awake in the morning and dictate a scene into my phone while I’m making the bed or getting ready to shower.
HOW DO YOU GET THE IDEAS AND CHARACTERS FOR YOUR BOOKS?
I believe I have been divinely blessed with the gift of storytelling and bringing characters to life. Often, I’m inspired by a place or a true story or even by people I know. Background stories of secondary characters are often based on real-life stories told to me by family members, friends, or readers. Towns are inspired by places I visit. The idea for Whispering Vines–the book, characters, story, and setting–came to me while visiting a vineyard outside of Verona. At one point during the tour, my husband leaned down and whispered, “You’re writing a book right now, aren’t you?”
WHAT WRITER DO YOU ADMIRE THE MOST?
I’d have to say Mary Higgins Clark. I can still remember my mother handing me a copy of Where are the Children. It was the summer before 9th grade, and I spent hours, lying on a blanket in the back yard, devouring the book. I love everything she wrote and cried when we lost her. The world of mystery and suspense will never be the same. The most wonderful thing a reader ever said to me was, “Your writing reminds me so much of Mary Higgins Clark.” That is the highest compliment I think I will ever receive.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, I adore the writing of Diana Gabaldon. Her use of the English language leaves me hanging on every word, keeps me rooted in every scene, and makes me want to be a better writer.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE WAY TO RELAX (OTHER THAN WRITING)?
Reading, of course! I also love to travel and take pictures. In fact, most of the photos you see on my website and blog are ones that I took.
HOW MUCH OF YOU IS IN THE CHARACTERS THAT YOU CREATE?
Many of the characters in my books have quite a lot in common with me, but none of them is a true of composite of me or anyone else. The character that I think most resembles me is Susan in my first novel, A Place to Call Home. The character that is least like me is Summer in Summer’s Squall. Some characters are based on my daughters, and some are based on nobody at all. Nick, in my Chincoteague books, is 100% based on a real life person, a young man who is like a son to me. I promised him that I would write a book about him someday, but Nick’s fictional past is much sadder and checkered than his real one.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR AN ASPIRING WRITER?
Read, read, read. The more you read, the more you will understand how to write. Practice your craft every single day. Before I felt comfortable with novel writing, I began a blog as a means of forcing myself to write. Even keeping a daily journal will help. And don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. No great writer ever became a known writer without putting words to paper.