Q. Where do you get your ideas?
A. This is a great question, and I think the answer is different for every writer. I get my ideas from the million bits of information that travels through my brain every day. Sometimes the idea comes from a story on the news or funny tidbit from a coworker. The idea for my Orion series (my current work in progress) came from the shape of the freckles on my arm. I also tend to get a lot of my ideas at night when I’m trying to fall asleep.
Q. How do you fit writing into your busy life?
A. I fit writing into my life the same way you would pick up a porcupine – very carefully and with a lot of pre-planning. During the school year, I have to schedule my writing time mostly on the weekends. During the summer, I write at least a little every day and let the muse carry me. Ironically, I get more words written during the school year because I know how limited my time is. I am far more disciplined in the winter. The busier I am, the more productive I am.
Q. What is the first thing you remember writing?
A. I believe my earliest short story was from the sixth grade. I wrote a myth about Atlantis. I believe the encouragement I got from my teacher and my parents about that story is what made me want to be a writer. I caught the bug, and thirty years later, I haven’t found the cure.
Q. How have you changed as a writer over the years?
A. Since writing about Atlantis in the sixth grade I’ve been through a lot as a writer. Funny enough, at this stage in my life I think I’ve gotten closer to that twelve-year-old girl in the way that I approach writing. All I ever wanted to do was write. I never explored being a doctor or a lawyer. (Although I did briefly want to be an astrophysicist.) I got my master’s degree in creative writing with the intention of becoming a “serious writer.” I wrote a literary novel that I sweat blood for and now sits on my desk as a paperweight. I lost the sense of fun and childlike adventure involved in making up characters and letting them take over the story. Writing is work, but I learned that if it’s not fun as well, it’s not worth doing. Now I write what I want and don’t worry about becoming a great American novelist. Although my subject matter is adult, in terms of how I feel about writing I have rediscovered my inner twelve year old.
Q. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
A. You know how they say “dance like no one is watching”? My advice on a first draft is to write like no one is reading. Don’t get caught up in word count, what the market is doing, or if you think someone will buy it. Just let the characters run free. Even if your writing process involves extensive planning, don’t be afraid to let the characters guide you off the path. If you try to force your characters into a mold, the writing will be clunky and awkward and you won’t have fun. Sometimes, the characters take over the story. You may feel like the inmates are running the asylum, but you will find that sometimes produces the best work.
Q. What is the best advice you ever received (on writing or life in general)?
A. The best writing advice I ever received was never to throw away or delete an idea, story, or manuscript. I have a “crap” file on my computer that I put anything that I would be tempted to delete. The file is huge with many story ideas and first chapters. My second published novel, Tribes of Man: The Beginning, lived in that file for five years before I decided to work on it again. You never know what you may dig back out of there to work on later in life. That leads to my mother’s advice on life. “Never say never because you never know what life will bring.”
Q. Who are some of your favorite authors?
A. There are a few authors whose works I will buy without even reading the back of the book, the amazing J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts), Lynn Hagen, Joyee Flynn, J.L. Langley, Lora Leigh, and Kay Hooper among them.
Q. How much of your “real life” do you put in books?
A. Some writers will identify with the characters in their books, but I don’t really draw on my life for the characters. I do draw on my “real life” for settings and situations. I have lived in or near the main setting of every book I’ve ever written. When something funny or weird happens to me or someone in my life, it may end up in a book. When someone says something really ridiculous (like the time a guy I dated once told me that we had to keep seeing each other because we were “astrologically matched”) that might end up in a book. In my stories, I’ve included my experiences with home renovation, dating experiences (mine and others), cars I like, strange things teenagers tend to do, and moments like that.
Q. Would you want your daughter to grow up to be a writer?
A. I equate writing with golf. When you play golf you have to get a one inch ball into a three inch hole from 300+ yards away. It can be frustrating and demoralizing, and yet, if you are a golfer, it is obsessing. My daughter has yet to catch the bug (for writing or golf). If she does catch it, I’ll be very proud and very sad. For most of us, writing is a lifelong obsession.
Q. What’s the last book you read that you said to yourself “I wish I’d written that”?
A. I enjoy books and read voraciously, but when I read, I am very aware that I’m delving into someone else’s world. There are certain worlds that I get lost in, like Lynn Hagen’s Brac Pack, but I am always aware that it’s not my world. I would have to say that the last book I read that I wish I’d written was the young adult novel Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. Not only was the story enjoyable, but the writing was phenomenal. She brings new meaning to the concept of getting lost in a book.
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