When and why did you begin writing? I tried my hand at short stories during the upper elementary years, started writing poetry in junior high, and started a few books during junior high, high school, and college, but I lacked confidence, so I didn’t start seriously writing until my mid-thirties. Why did I start writing? The stories in my head just screamed to be let out! When I finally sat down and wrote my first book, I can honestly say that the story just wouldn’t go away until it was written. I had the idea long before I started writing it, but it just kept tugging on my heart almost demanding to be told. I finally had no choice but to give in to its demand.
How long have you been writing? Since I was in elementary school, but I didn’t start writing novels seriously until I was 35. Before that time, I was afraid of failure, so I would start writing but never finish anything.
When did you first know you could be a writer? When I first KNEW beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could actually be a writer was probably after I got the first few chapters of my first book back from my editor. Her positive comments helped me to realize that I truly had a gift. Before that I was constantly bombarded with doubts about my ability to write. Funny thing is when I was in the ninth- grade, I was approached by the journalism teacher and asked if I would be interested in her class. She needed one more student, so she went to the English teachers. They suggested me. I guess others saw my talent before I did.
What inspires you to write and why? Different things inspire me. Songs sometime inspire me. Flowers growing on the side of the road inspire me. My children inspire me. My husband inspires me. The answer to why lies in where the inspiration comes from and for what work. For instance, Pretty Boy, was inspired by my husband. It is the companion novel to Plain Jane. My husband insisted that I had to tell Ray’s story (the main character in Pretty Boy) after he read Plain Jane. Many of the endearing qualities you find in Ray are qualities I see in my husband. He was very much an inspiration for that work. With my most recent novel, Wildflowers, black-eyed susans blooming on the side of the road were a big inspiration.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general? The most challenging thing for me is making the time in my busy life. I work, I’m married, and I have 5 children, so time is something of a rarity. You might think that because my children are not babies that I have more time, but as they get older, they have more activities that require mom to be a chaperone.
Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it? I had to learn about some legal issues in order to make the story realistic, so I have a friend who works at the police department. She got multiple messages from me asking a bunch of questions about what kind of charges might be pressed in a certain situation. Who would make the phone calls that needed to be made? You know, the police work that would be done. I didn’t know all of that stuff before I wrote Wildflowers.
What is your greatest strength as a writer? My first published work was entered into a Writer’s Digest contest. According to the judges of that contest, they believe that my greatest strength is in dialogue. My editor agrees that it is a great strength, but she feels that my greatest strength is in character development.
Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it? Oh, yeah. Thus far, I’ve only hit a block when writing fantasy, so when that happens I switch over to writing contemporary fiction since I usually have two projects in the work at once.
Can you share a little of your current work with us? My most recent work, Wildflowers, was just released in February. It is a YA/NA contemporary romance. It is set in the fictional town of Bayville, Mississippi, which is very loosely based upon Bay St. Louis. It explores the challenges of a local bad boy falling in love with the new girl in town who happens to be a Christian. He has a natural tendency for violence, so readers have to wonder: will it work out for them? Will the good with in her be able to help him overcome the bad within him? Where can their love go? Will he be overcome by the darkness within him?
How did you come up with the title? The title came to me through the secondary character, Susan. As I thought about the storyline, I envisioned a blonde-haired, brown-eyed young girl referred to by the main character as his black-eyed Susan. Every time I drove down the road and saw the wildflowers in bloom, I was inspired to tell their love story.
Can you tell us about your main character? The main character in Wildflowers is Aster McGrath. He struggles with an inner demon of violence. His father is in prison for murder, and nearly everyone in town has labeled him a bad seed doomed to end up like his dad. When a person repeatedly hears that they have no hope for a better future, they often end up believing that themselves, and Aster is no different. He is bitter, cynical, full of rage, and rebellious.
How did you develop your plot and characters? In developing the plot for Wildflowers, I made a chapter outline giving a brief overview of what takes place in each chapter. From that, I made a separate timeline. I made a list of the characters and described their physical looks and personality traits. As I wrote the story, I paid careful attention to developing those traits by interweaving their attributes throughout the story. Character development is one of the most important things to me in a story.
Why did you choose to write this particular book? I wanted to tell a beautiful love story that touched on some very tough issues such as abuse, domestic violence, and the difficult choices we are faced with in life.
What are your goals as a writer? I want to tell stories that touch peoples’ hearts, draw out intense emotions, and help them to understand others.
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)? I haven’t traveled much thus far, but I hope to be able to travel for signings and speaking engagements. I’ve had signings and speaking engagements, but I hope to extend farther out.
Can we expect any more books from you in the future? Yes, I have multiple stories swarming through my head as we speak.
Have you started another book yet? I was actually working on the second book in The Called Ones series when I set it to the side to write Wildflowers, so I am hoping to get back to finishing that within the next few weeks.
Where do you see yourself in five years? Writing books with at least five more under my belt. Hopefully, I’ll have a bestseller by then. That would be awesome!
What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing? Just having a published book is the realization of one of my dreams, but being invited to speak to a group of high school students from 13 different high schools was the fulfillment of one of my dreams as well. My book, Plain Jane, deals with the downward spiral of depression in the protagonist’s life. I’ve battled depression since the age of 15, so to be able to go into high schools and colleges to speak about those issues is one of my dreams.
When you wish to end your career, stop writing, and look back on your life, what thoughts would you like to have? At this point, I can’t even imagine getting to that place in my life, but I hope when I do that my thoughts will be that I did it; I used my gift of writing and my experiences in life to bring stories to readers for many years.
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Genre - YA Contemporary Romance
Rating – PG13