How did your family and friends feel when they heard you were writing?
I got very little response when I first started writing. My husband and kids were jealous of the time I spent writing. My older sister said, “You can’t even be a stay-at-home mom, right?” I’ve been known to be a little quirky so most of those who know me assumed that I would get bored before ever finishing the book. When they found out that I had finished it, there was some hesitancy to embrace the idea. I was not a published author and they just didn’t expect it to be any good. I had to beg people to read it.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing just short of two years ago.
Has writing always been something you wanted to do?
No. We had just moved to Washington State, and I wasn’t licensed to work there as a counselor. I went on a few job interviews, but the jobs I was interested in didn’t want to hire me once they found out my husband was in the military. For the first time in my life, I had nothing to do but take care of little kids, the dog and clean the house.
What books or stories have you written? Published?
My debut novel, Black Roses, has a planned publication date of May 1, 2013. The sequel, Cerulean Seas, is almost finished and will be published by Aug. 1, 2013. I am also working on the third book in the series, Silver Bells, with a planned publication date of Nov. 1, 2013. In addition to The Jessica Hart Series, I am working on a YA/paranormal book with the help of my teen, Nail Polish, Push Up Bras & Pirate Ships, which will be published in the spring of 2014.
Can you tell us a little about your books? What are they about?
Black Roses is a comedic mystery about a woman who seems to have the perfect life until her fiancé goes missing and she acquires a deadly stalker. She starts to question the life she’s chosen when she learns that those around her aren’t who she’s always thought they were. Those who’ve read it have compared it to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series.
How did you get inspiration for the characters/books?
I’ve loved mysteries since I was a little girl. I can remember taking my mother’s Agatha Christie and other mystery novels she brought home from the library because they wouldn’t let me check out of the Adult section. Add to that a professional life working within the mental health world, too much late night drama TV, and some time on my hands. Honestly, the stories just come to me. The characters, they are a mixture of different people that I’ve known and my overactive imagination made real by my understanding of human nature, sociology and psychology.
Are the books based on personal experiences?
No, but I do base them on places that I know and real-life possibles.
Is there any advice you have been given that you could give to a young up-and-coming writer?
Write the book you want to read, something you won’t be embarrassed to have your grandmother or your children read. Take the time to do it well.
Can you talk a little about the benefits of getting your work professionally edited?
Editing is a big deal. First, grammar, language, spelling, etc. is more difficult than you think, even if you’re good at it. Second, you’re going to miss things in your own work. I can’t say how many books that I’ve stopped reading or not recommended because of annoying editing errors.
What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, in order to be published?
Pride. It’s difficult to have people tell you that what you think is good, isn’t good enough. It’s even harder to take that criticism, even when it’s not constructive, and make it work for you.
How did you find time to write your books?
That’s the hardest part. My husband is active-duty Army, so he’s gone a lot. And, we have a teenager, two preschoolers and a puppy at home. Something always needs doing. I make time to write, and when I can’t, I take the precious minutes when everyone else is busy doing something else.
I think the benefit is different for everyone. It keeps me sane and gives me a place in life other than somebody’s wife or mother.
Several of my guests have often said writing is therapeutic and relaxes them. Can you talk a little about how writing relaxes you? Any specific examples you can share?
Yes, it can be relaxing, when you’re not stressing about an ending or trying to word a paragraph just so. When I’m “in the zone,” it’s like reading a “choose your own adventure” for big people. Remember those? I loved those! You trade your life and reality for a glimpse of something else for a while. Then, you can come back to the real world refreshed and ready to be a part of it.
Can you also talk a little about how writing your book was therapeutic? What do you mean?
Those who know me will tell you that overall I’m a nice, happy, cheerful person. Writing is where I let out the “dark side,” those areas of the mind that know about the world that I choose not to be a part of. I spent ten years as a counselor working with everyone from the chronic/severely mentally ill to the abused, abusers, addicts, adults, men, women and children. I’ve been privy to happenings that no one should ever know about, let alone experience. This gives me a compartment to put it in.
Has writing made you a better person?
Yes, it balances me.
Do you like to read? If so, what are your favorite genres and why?
I love to read and at this stage in my life I read everything, when I have the time. I still love a good mystery, but they’re harder to find than I’d like to admit. I love comedy like Job, A Comedy of Errors, not so much into romances. I’m just not into the happily-ever-after ending, never have been. Even as a kid I wondered if Cinderella was really happily-ever-after or if the castle got a little claustrophobic. I like a well-written thriller like The Lincoln Lawyer, but they tend to get caught up in boring details. I’m a fan of Stephen King, but his books give me nightmares, still can’t look at clowns the same after reading It. I like chic-lit because it’s fun and a relaxing read. I love the classics like Bram Stokers Dracula. Young adult (YA), like Gallagher Girls is fun and so much better written than when I was in high school. I also enjoy some middle grades (MG) and children’s and the occasional nonfiction book. I think my favorite book is still Where the Wild Things Are. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read that book.
Can you talk about how important reviews are to writers?
Reviews are a big deal. Other people read or don’t read your book based on them. But, even popular books like 50 Shades of Gray get bad reviews. That woman has made millions off a book that reviewed poorly. I think the most important and hardest thing is to get someone to review your book, positive or negative.
Was there ever a point in your life where you felt like giving up because nobody understood you? How did you overcome this time in your life?
No. Sometimes, I barely understand me. It doesn’t bother me. I am predispositioned to proving others wrong. I’m more likely to try harder just so that, years later, I can say, “See, I did it and better than most people.” Everything I’ve ever achieved was in opposition to someone telling me that I couldn’t. Yeah, I know it’s annoying but that’s me.
Could you talk a little more about your time as a counselor and dealing with different sorts of people. How did your time working with them change you or your perceptions of others?
That is a loaded question and so difficult to put into words. I was young and not sure who I was when I followed that path, so it molded me.
I tell people there’s a reason I am the way I am. Working with the people that I’ve worked with has given me a unique perspective. I have learned not to judge others by my own standards. That each of us has difficulties and strengths, sometimes unknown. Even the most passive can be violent and even the most violent can be passive. We all have a breaking point, some of us are mentally stronger than others. We all have good days and bad days, play on the good days. We all have something good about us. Some of us just hide it better than others. We all have choices who and what to allow into our lives, regardless of anything else. And, not to expect more of others than they are willing or able to expect of themselves.
Although simple, those are some of the most difficult concepts for us as people to understand. Knowing my clients has made me an accepting and nonjudgemental person. I have been privy to other’s deepest, darkest selves and secrets. They have given me an understanding of why they do the things they do, the way that they do them. I am also adept at recognizing mental illness and dependency issues. Most times, I keep my thoughts to myself. I tell people that I try to only use my powers for good. When I am goaded into discussing those delicate internal issues, I tell people “You asked for this.” I was good at what I did. I know for a fact that there are large numbers of people out there that I was able to help. But, taking other’s secrets into your mind takes its toll on you. It changes you, forever. Now, my burden is finding a way to keep the demons at bay while simultaneously keeping that faith of confidentiality that was promised.