Q: What is your writing day like?
A: It depends on the time of year, but I’m up at 6 am most days and either on my way to school or in the barn by 7 am. I envy people who are awake at that hour – for me I’m either grabbing a mocha at my favorite espresso stand or else finishing the last swallow of coffee on my way out the door. Unless the teacher leaves me classroom assignments to grade during my prep period, I often edit or revise what I wrote the night before during that hour. I get home from school about 4 pm, change my clothes and head for the barn. While I muck stalls, water and feed the horses, I run through plot problems in my mind. After dinner, I head for the computer and start writing from about 8 pm to midnight. Some nights, I have a tough time getting on task, so I check out the email from my writer friends and see what their days were like.
Q: What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve been given?
A: The best advice came from my grandmother. Like most writers, I draw on real-life experiences. Everything I see, taste, touch, smell, hear and feel ends up in a book or newspaper column or magazine article. My sisters complain bitterly since they have ended up in an article or two and one day, several years ago my grandmother overheard the youngest griping once again. Grandma looked up from the magazine article and asked, “Is this true? Did you really learn to coil up the garden hose because the pony stomped it into snake-size pieces?” My sister admitted the anecdote was factual, if embarrassing. Grandma turned to me and said, “Always write for yourself first. If it comes from your heart, somebody will pay you for it.”
Q: What is the worst piece of writing advice you’ve been given?
A: The worst piece of advice came from someone I considered a friend. Our friends always seem to know what buttons to push to break our hearts. At that point, I had written for years. I was originally published in young adult fiction 20+ years ago. My publisher folded shortly after my second book came out and even though I sold newspaper and magazine articles, nobody seemed interested in my books. I knew I needed to study my craft and improve my stories so they would entertain readers and be the best books possible. At one point, a close friend asked, “Why don’t you just quit? Nobody is beating down your door to buy your stuff.” I immediately answered, “Because it’d be easier to stop breathing than it would be to stop writing.”
Q: What is your workspace like?
A: My workspace can be as small as my office, a tiny room with bookshelves along one wall, bookcases and file cabinets and a desk for my computer. It can be as large as the 17 stall barn where I brainstorm most nights. One Saturday a month when I meet my friends at the Greater Seattle RWA chapter, it can be a table at a restaurant where we talk writing for hours. I work wherever I am, so the world becomes my workspace.
Q: Do you have a catch-phrase and what is it?
A: My catch-phrase for writing is “Get In Late, Get Out Early!” or “GIL, GOE.” Unfortunately, while this makes the story exciting, it doesn’t work for my “day-job.”
Q: How does a story first come to you?
A: The protagonist comes to me first and while she’s on stage, I begin to see the backdrop behind her. The story slowly evolves until I know enough to start the book. I’m a total “pantser” – I write by the seat of my pants and until the character shares her life, I have no idea where the story is going. Unfortunately, this means I usually have to write two or three drafts before I get to my final one and that’s the one the editor gets to see.
Q: Do you use any audio or visual aids when you write?
A: I use a poster board to create a collage of my protagonist’s life, what she likes, who is important to her and her motto for life. Then I hang that poster on the wall so I can see it from my computer. As for music, I love classic country and old time rock and roll. I often play records or CDs while I write.
Q: What’s your favorite book?
A: If it has words, I’ll read it, but I have to say that Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series is my all time favorite. Every summer I start with the first one and read my way through the last one. My hope is that by the time I finish, she’ll have a new one out.
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