What inspired you to write this book? Hmm, the same thing that inspires me to write anything. There is a seed of an idea, a feeling… something that inspires me and brings out an emotion that won’t just go away. My husband and I go fishing a lot. I love it because he is so attentive and carries everything and always makes sure I’m having fun. He never gets jealous when I catch the bigger fish. It is his version of being romantic. That started the seed of this story.
Can you tell me about the book? This book touches on three generations of hurt and heartache. The story has Ella in the center of it. She is middle-aged and going through a divorce with a man she thought was her forever, but she realizes she was merely going through the motions. And when she meets Dennis while fishing, She has to decide whether to hide in her comfort zone or take a chance, face her past, conquer demons and let herself be vulnerable.
What is your writing process like? I don’t know if I really have a process. I write whenever I can grab a few minutes. Usually in the evening, I write out in the living room, the heart of our home as the television is on and my daughter is talking about her day, and my hubby is telling me about the latest show he is watching. Nothing fancy. Nothing really structured.
Was the character inspired by a real person? If so, who? Ella has a lot of my faults. I can be insecure. I can be afraid to move on. But ultimately, she is a unique character not really based on anyone.
What do you think happened to the characters after the book ended?
Well. That is the question, isn’t it? So I’m excited to announce that I am going to be working on a sequel to Beyond the Surface.
Does writing energize or exhaust you? Oh, it energizes me. When I’m beaten down by the outside world and stressed, my writing is waiting to calm me and let me take over control of something.
What are common traps for aspiring writers? Being too afraid. Not believing in oneself. You are going to have people tell you writing isn’t worth it, that it is too hard. And while there will be rejections, oh, so many rejections, you can’t let that deter you.
What is your writing Kryptonite? Oh, wow, this is a hard one…. I’d have to say non-fiction. When I write fishing articles… I procrastinate.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want? Oh, I am of the belief that write what you want and what you know. You will find the following with that. If you try to write what others want, your heart won’t be in it, and that will come through in the writing.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book? I definitely want each book to stand on its own. I have a few that will be connected though.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? About a dozen unpublished. Dozens of unfinished.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? It depends on the subject matter. Sometimes I do very little research. Other times, research takes up weeks before the writing process.
How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one? I don’t consider it part-time or full-time. I have a full-time job at Penn State that I absolutely love. But in my spare time, it’s all about writing. I was 43 years old when I finally started to send my writing out.
How many hours a day do you write? About two hours a day.
What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult) I probably write the most now. I wrote so much as a child for the escape, a comfort. When I was in college and a new mother and wife, I wrote a bit less as I adjusted to new roles and a different type of life.
What did you edit out of this book? There is a scene when Owen goes to visit Dennis to confront him about Ella when she cries and claims she is upset about a work matter. I didn’t want to edit it out as the tension is amazing, but the word count of the book was getting out of control.
How do you select the names of your characters? I don’t have a set process for selecting names. And there are times I agonize over it. I try to not repeat names for different stories or use names of people I know or are close with.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work? I have a full time job at Penn State. I love it. I’m an Instructional Production Specialist. I work with an amazing, talented group of people.
What was your hardest scene to write? In this book… it would have to be the scenes with Owen. I struggled with him and keeping a balance and not making him a villain….or a victim.
How long on average does it take you to write a book? About two months.
Do you believe in writer’s block? I mean… sure. There are times the words are more difficult. But I don’t believe in wallowing and giving up. You just write through it. Some of my favorite work has come from “writer’s block”.
What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand? For years and years, it was longhand. I never believed I could write any other way. But now… I can’t imagine not using the laptop.
When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer? Before I could even write. I would create stories, and I knew it was what gave me the greatest happiness. I’ve just … always wanted to be a writer.
How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something? Not hard at all. When starting a story, sometimes I sit and feel it out first, try to get that great first sentence, but it never has me stuck.
Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day? I read somewhere that you should always write two pages at least. I stick with that and aim for higher.
Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you? I sometimes know what is going to happen with a story from the beginning, but I don’t map it out. I might make a list of scenes that stick out to me. But usually, I let the story guide me.
Do you read much and, if so, who are your favorite authors? I read all the time. Favorite authors… there are many. I love reading different things, different genres. Sooo… Stephen King, Anne Tyler, S.E. Hinton, Elin Hilderbrand
What is the most important thing about a book, in your opinion? That it catches my attention and makes me forget that I’m reading. That I am actually in the world the author created.
How much of yourself do you put into your books? Honestly, a lot. I pour myself into it, whether it is through a character or the history, or the emotions.
Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family? My daughter is my cheerleader. She was my inspiration because I wanted to show her that following dreams with a passion and hard work can make things happen. She is an immensely talented artist, and I’m thrilled to see where her talent and ambition take her.
Writers are often believed to have a Muse, your thoughts on that? Yes, definitely. Certain personalities, sometimes even the look of someone. Beautiful eyes can inspire me, or a totally awesome quote. Muses are everywhere in every form.
Did any of your books get rejected by publishers? This is the first of my books I tried to get published. It was accepted by the first publisher I sent it to. Rare, I know, and I’m prepared for the next book knowing it might not work that way. I’ve had enough short stories rejected to know I’m not immune to it.
What is your view on co-authoring books; have you done any? I guess for the write project with the right person. But … not sure it is for me.
Is writing book series more challenging? No. I love it. When I write a book, I’m immersed in that world and sometimes I get carried away and keep writing. And it ends up being three books.
Does it get frustrating if you are unable to recall an idea you had in your mind some time earlier? YES! I was once told to stop writing in the middle of a sentence so to pick up right where I left off. But when I do this, I go back to it and totally forget. So I don’t practice that tip anymore.
Have you ever destroyed any of your drafts? Nope. I have some drafts from when I was fourteen years old. I’m polishing them up.
Can you tell us about your current projects? I have a few in the works. One is about Brittany, a fourteen year old rescued from a childhood of terror. Relatives take her in, but they are young and inexperienced, so they all learn together. And when her cousin’s ex-wife cannot handle her rebellious son anymore, they take him in also. And Brittany has to learn to navigate her heart while trying to overcome her past.
Had any of your literary teachers ever tell you growing up that you were going to become a published writer one day? Yes. I was fortunate enough to have some great teachers that encouraged me. Their words stuck. Their encouragement pushed me.
Were your parents reading enthusiasts who gave you a push to be a reader as a kid? My dad wasn’t. My mom would read every now and then. Whenever V.C. Andrews released a new book, we would fight over who would read it first. I was a faster reader, so I usually won.
Do you enjoy discussing upcoming ideas with your partner? If yes, how much do you value their inputs? Answer: He isn’t much of a reader, but I’ll run ideas past him sometimes. I don’t really have anyone to do this with though. It can be frustrating.
Have you ever turned a dream or a nightmare into a written piece? All the time. All the time. I once had a dream I was traveling and stopped at one house for rest. They had a string of paper bunnies hanging around the room. Their eyes were drawn shut, and the owner told me they were sleeping. He left the room, I was talking to a friend, and I glanced up to see one bunny with his eyes open, watching me. I used this in a scene for my short story Love and Migraines, which is coming out in June in 4 Star Stories.
How can readers find out more info about you and your books?