When did the writing bug first bite?
Looking back, I remember making up stories in my head as a child, to help me fall asleep. I would recall television shows I’d watched and rewrite the story in my head, rearrange dialogue, change the ending. I first dabbled with writing in high school, and later in college, but it wasn’t until after my life was well underway that I seriously started pursuing writing as a possible career. That was in the mid-to-late 80s. I joined Romance Writers of America in 1990 and knew that writing romance was what I wanted to do. My first novel was published by Kensington in 1997.
How long have you been writing?
A long time. I wrote my first book in the late 1980s on an electric typewriter and mailed off the hard copy manuscript to Harlequin—I think it was 1988. Of course, it was returned in a couple of weeks with a very clear rejection. I persevered and finally landed that Kensington contract in 1996. After six books with them in the late 90s, I was on my way.
How do you manage to juggle everyday life while writing?
I’ve been writing since my children were babies, while holding down a full time teaching position, and managing a household. During those times I often wrote late at night after the kids were in bed. Later, when my children were older and I was a single parent, and my job put me on the road traveling, I wrote in airports and hotel rooms. There was a length of time when I didn’t manage it well at all and wrote NOTHING. Another author once said to me, “These are things we have to get through so that we can write on the other side.” I eventually picked up the keyboard again and did find my stories, but often, it is still an effort to find the time to write. What I have determined is that I have to make it, “the writing,” the priority, and what I have to do is set aside time specifically for writing, and only writing.
What or who inspired you to start writing?
There is no particular person or event who inspired me to start writing. Writing is something I came into gradually over the years, realizing I enjoyed it. For a long time, not many people knew that I loved to dabble in the written word, and for an even longer time, I never considered it something I would eventually make into a career. Writing, for me, was a life process. It takes time to be a writer, and to be a good storyteller. I believe that writing gets better with age and life experiences.
You write in many sub-genres of romance. How does that work for you?
I do write in many sub-genres of romance, generally contemporary, suspense, and paranormal romance. Moving from one to one is not difficult—it’s a matter of getting my head into the story. Once I’m there, I’m good to go. I prefer not to hop around from book to book when writing, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. The subgenre doesn’t matter—it’s the story and how it comes to me. My job is to simply deliver.
Which sub-genre do you prefer to write?
No preference! Each story is written when it’s time, generally after it has rolled around in my head for a while. (sometimes years!)
Have you written anything other than contemporary romance or paranormal?
Oh yes. I’ve written a lot of non-fiction, mostly in the academic world—journal articles, training manuals, teacher materials, book chapters, and so on. I started out writing freelance for local magazines and newspapers. I still have a hankering to write those "last word" essays on the last page in women’s magazines. I also write erotic fiction under another pen name. Doesn’t everyone these days?
Will you ever write fiction that is not romance?
Probably. There’s a cozy mystery in my future.
How do find names for your characters?
After nearly 40 novellas and novels, the characters are plentiful. I have picked names from baby books, popular name lists, phone books, and when I was teaching, my class roll lists. But there are characters whose names literally came to me, or presented themselves during the writing process. Those are usually those characters that shake you or say, “Write my story,” or the ones who simply walk into your story and say, “Hey, my name is XXX, and I’m here now and part of this story. Just wanted you to know.”
Do you have any special routine that you follow when you are writing?
I don’t. I generally have to schedule time in and I prefer long blocks of time where I won’t be distracted with other tasks. So, sometimes that can be early in the morning and other times, just when the house is quiet. I don’t like a lot going on around me when I am getting into the story and prefer silence or instrumental music—or the Food Network. It’s the only show I can have on the TV that doesn’t distract me. Not sure why.
What does writing bring to you? How does writing make you feel?
When a story is finished, it is the best thing ever. The satisfaction of getting the story told is a powerful feeling. Right now there are a number of stories running around in my head that are eager to be told! I feel a responsibility to the characters to share their story with the world. I think it’s a matter of timing. I’ve been told by a medium that I channel when I write, and I really do believe that at times, I do. I think stories pick you to be told, and I’m honored to tell them, and quite happy when I get them right. Weird?
What is your greatest achievement?
Raising independent, intelligent children who are self-sufficient and happy. That means the world.
What is a day in your writing life like? Do you have a set schedule?
I have the 15 second commute from coffee maker to my office. I love that more than you know. After 35 years of hectic morning commutes, some of them quite lengthy, and I am simply thrilled to travel no further each morning than to my sunroom office. After that, it’s all gravy. No particular schedule. I do what needs to be done every single day.
What is your favorite kind of cake?
Cake! I love cupcakes! Of all sorts, flavors and design. I used to be an Iron Cupcake baker/blogger!
Who would play your leading man if/when your next book gets picked up by Hollywood?
If it were Jack in Entranced, it would definitely be Johnny Depp. If it were one of my cowboy books, a younger, but still scruffy, Sam Elliot.
Where are you from and where is your favorite place…and why?
I hail from a cornfield in Ohio. Well, actually, the edge of a cornfield in Ohio. Small town, flat land, corn as far as you can see. My parents didn’t own a farm but my grandparents did. I had a pony, and played in the barns and in my Grandma’s attic. Growing up, if it wasn’t corn, soybeans, or cattle, it wasn’t much worth talking about, to most folks. I moved away from Ohio when I went off to college, not realizing that I would never go back there to live again. I now live in Kentucky.
My favorite place is home. In my professional life, I was a business traveler. Now that I am home, I often don’t want to go anywhere else. I feel safe and secure here, comfortable. My home is my castle. However, there is a favorite beach or two in the Carolinas that I love to escape to for a week or so each year, just to smell the ocean, feel the sand in my toes, and hear the waves lap the shore…
What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
Write, write, write, and read, read, read. Read in the genre you want to write. Become and expert at your craft, don’t put a book out there too soon, and enjoy the process. Then, write your next, best book. Repeat.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to research a story?
Me? Crazy? That’s an unbecoming rumor that I’ll deny every time….
What do you like to read?
I love, love, love magazines. I think because I’m making a huge time commitment to a novel. I love, love, love big juicy, sink-my-toes-into novels, but lately the problem with those are time, time, time…. Magazines are cool because I can read in short bits.
Who is your favorite author and why?
Favorite author. Margaret Mitchell. How can you not love a woman who wrote one incredible book and received both the National Book Award and a Pulitzer for that one effort? Plus, I’ve been fixated with that HEA issue with Gone With The Wind for a few decades now….
Do you have a day job alongside writing and will you tell us about it?
No. I mean, no, I don’t have a day job, so I can’t tell you about it! J Writing and publishing is my full-time job.
If you weren’t a writer, what career might you have chosen?
Once upon a time, I was a teacher. That seems like eons ago. And if I couldn’t be a writer, and if I were thin and tall, I would be a dancer. And if not that, a cowgirl. Or maybe Julia Roberts.
Who is your favorite superhero?
Patsy Cline. What? She’s not a superhero? Okay, well, Wonder Woman, of course! I like her belt.
Your favorite book heroine?
Favorite. Book. Heroine. *drums fingers, glances off…* Alice. In Wonderland. Because she looks good even when she’s big.
Heathcliff. He had me at twelve years old.
You finally have an evening free to spend any way you want. Money is no object. Where do you go? What would you do?
Well first, money being no object, I would buy that house on the east coast. Then, on my free evening, I would put on something comfy (but sexy), fix an adult beverage that might include rum or bourbon or tequila or maybe all three, grab a book, my dog, and that drink of course, and sit outside overlooking the sound and watch the sun set over the water. Yeah, that’s me, drinking alone… J But wait, there’s the dog.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I’ve learned that the stories are not mine. They belong to someone else. I’m gifted the opportunity to tell this story. These characters, these people in my head, who are urging me to tell their stories, are real. I’m not entirely convinced that they don’t live in a parallel universe somewhere and are channeling their stories to me. I’m just the deliverer. The conduit. And it’s why I take it seriously to make sure that I am telling their story in the best way possible.
Do you believe in love at first site?
I do. I do not believe that I have experienced it, and I probably won’t in this lifetime, but I do believe it is possible. I also believe that “love at first sight” is a magical thing that perhaps happens only when lost soul mates collide for the first time in this lifetime. Hm. Yes. I am actually writing a series with this premise.
Movies or TV?
Depends. My television is off more than it is on, but I do have a few TV shows I like to catch. I have not been to a movie theater in years. I do occasionally watch a movie on TV and will treat myself to an “on demand” recent release. I love stories, and I do like movies a lot, but finding the couple of hours of time away to watch is generally a treat. (p.s. I am also trying to read more lately, so these days I’d rather read than watch.)
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Yes. And No.
Yes, when I am extremely busy and I can’t focus on the writing, but I need to write, and I force myself to block off some time. I might as well be searching for a needle in a haystack. No, in that when I’m not stressed, and when I’m focused, the writing bubbles forth.
Is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
Druids. I’ve been thinking about this recently. I want to do a book with Druids and a henge. I haven’t quite put my finger on the story yet but it will come to me. Eventually.
What’s the best thing about being an author?
Seriously, the best thing is being able to get these danged people’s stories out of my head. I swear, I think some of them have been there since I was in the cradle. But other than that, the best thing is no longer waking to an alarm clock. That is heavenly.
Pepsi or Coke?
What do you do when you are not writing?
I actually work in the book world pretty much 24/7, so if I am not writing, I am probably working on some aspect of someone else’s book. I do cover art, formatting, and all of the administrative tasks of the business. (I own a small press.) Now, when I’m not doing all of that? I have a few TV shows I like to catch now and again (The Black List, The Voice, Law & Order: SVU, and yes, I’m a Food Network junkie!) I force myself to go outside and do lawn work, but once I’m out there, I love it. Occasionally, I like to take an impromptu trip somewhere.
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
I read Gone With The Wind at a young age. I believe I never got over the fact that Rhett kicked Scarlet out of his life at the end. I cried for hours after saying, “But they were supposed to be together!” Perhaps that’s why I love writing happily ever after endings. I’ve been trying to fix Rhett for several decades…. (when will I learn than men can’t be fixed?)
If you could have any superpower what would you choose?
I’d like to be able to communicate with animals. I’d love to know what my dog is thinking. And my cats. No, scratch that one. I don’t want to know what they are thinking….
What was your first job?
Waitress. I waited tables in high school and college. Interesting things learned while waiting on families, dodging old men, and eavesdropping on couples. Hm. Story fodder?
Out of all of your characters, which is your favorite? Why?
I love Suzie Schul from The Matchmaking Chef series. Now, probably some authors would name a hero, but I just resonate with Suzie. She’s a character who has been in many of my books and probably will be in the future. I mean, how can you resist a Suzie Homemaker type who has her own food show, runs a B&B, and matchmakes the local townspeople? I think she’d be a perfect Hallmark movie character. What do you think?
What does your writing schedule look like today?
Haphazard. I need to fix that. Seriously. Right now there is no schedule!
Do you use your OWN experiences in your writing?
Is it easy to pick titles for your books?
Titles come easy or not at all. If they come to me quickly, I generally love them. If I have to seek them out, it takes a while.