What inspired you to write your books?
The inspiration was different for each book that I wrote. I was inspired to write my first book, “Ruthie: A Family’s Struggle with ALS,” by the long and heart-wrenching journey that my mom went through while suffering with ALS and by how it affected our whole family. That was such a powerful and difficult experience on many levels, and I felt compelled to share the story both to honor her memory and to help others dealing with similar issues. I was inspired to write the children’s books to help children grow up to believe in themselves, feel good about who they are, celebrate the differences between people, and help others wherever they can, while entertaining them with fun stories. I was inspired to write my fiction books to entertain, touch, move, reach others, open worlds, and add joy and kindness to this world.
Can you tell us about your books?
I have published 21 books with more on the way. I have written fiction in the genres of thriller, suspense, paranormal, murder mystery, and romance, with sci-fi soon to be published. I have also written non-fiction which include two memoirs of medical issues — ALS and open-heart surgery, and four self-help books of guided imagery to help with various life issues. I have also written ten children’s books which are fun, silly, entertaining animal stories about kindness, helping others, seeing the best in others, believing in yourself, overcoming fears, and becoming more than you ever thought possible.
What is your writing process like?
I usually know the story I want to tell, the general arc of what will happen, and who the characters are. But I don’t plan every detail, and often the details surprise me as I write — you never know what will come through. I generally write with pen and paper first, as that seems to allow the spark of creativity to flow best. Then I type it into the computer, where it goes through a first round of editing and re-writing, so that my first typed version is already improved and edited. After that, the stories go through many hours of additional editing and re-writing.
What did you learn when writing your books?
I always learn a lot when writing — about myself, the characters, and the writing process. I think I keep improving with each book that I write, and I really appreciate that. And I have learned that I still have a lot to learn, and I hope I continue to improve.
What surprised you the most?
How fun, thrilling, and rewarding it is to write, publish stories, and share them with the world. And that I could actually do this!
What do the titles mean?
My titles vary, but they all represent what is in each book so that the reader gets a feel for the tone of the story and what it is about.
Were the characters inspired by a real person? If so, who?
My memoirs are about real people — one is about my mom (who had ALS), and one is about myself (my journey through emergency open-heart surgery). The fiction books are all products of my imagination and not based on any real people. The children’s books have a lot of myself in them.
What do you think happened to the characters after the books ended?
In each of my books, the characters learn, grow, evolve, and become stronger, more empowered, and happier. There are always struggles, but in general, life improves for each of the characters, and my stories suggest that things will continue to improve for them. I tend to write stories with happy endings where the reader will feel good, positive, and satisfied at the end.
What advice do you have for writers?
My best advice for writers is really three parts. First, read and write as much as you can — reading helps you learn what you like and don’t like and how to word and phrase things. The more you read and write, the more you improve. Second, find your own voice. No one can write exactly like you — so don’t try to be someone else, find and develop your own voice and your own style, and be proud of who you are. And third, always use a professional editor so that your work will be professional quality. You do not want a book filled with errors that could turn readers away — professional editing can help your books be the best they can be.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Mostly energize, because I get so excited when I’m writing and so into what I am doing. When you do what you love, you get energized by it.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Trying to be someone else, comparing themselves to other successful writers, putting themselves down, giving up too soon, and not caring about proper English, including spelling, grammar, and word usage. Also, not developing their characters enough — the story falls flat if the characters don’t have enough depth and the reader doesn’t care about them. Another trap is thinking unedited work is good enough and not hiring a professional editor — professional editing is really important.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Writing too many stories at once, and getting distracted by the internet. I need to stay focused on my writing and finish one at a time. The most difficult thing for me is marketing and promotion — it can be hard to get the work out there and read.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
No — I want people to find me easily and know that I wrote the books. I am proud of every book I wrote, so I want my real name on them. I think the only time I would use a pen name would be if I wrote something where I wanted to remain anonymous, such as erotica, but I don’t intend to write that.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Some of each. I want my stories to be original, gripping, and powerful, but in the end, I want to give readers what they want so that they are happy and satisfied with the story. And I also include a little extra in each story to surprise, wow, and intrigue the reader so that the stories are not simple. I want my readers to grow and be excited with each story.
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?
Definitely stand on its own. I do not want readers to feel that they have to buy the next book to find out what happens or that they have to remember what happened in each previous book. Each book I write is a complete story that can stand on its own. Some of my children’s books, such as the Sammy-the-Dog series, have one character that is in each book of that series, and the feel and point of view in each book is the same. But even in those, each book can stand on its own.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have published 21 books so far, plus I have six stories in various anthologies, and I have roughly four more in the works to be published soon. It is very exciting — I also have more story ideas in my head and I can’t get to them fast enough!
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
It depends on the story. My children’s books needed no research, as that was all from my imagination. My murder mystery books and science fiction books needed research into police and criminal proceedings and space exploration. My paranormal and romance stories needed minor research for various aspects that came up, but overall they sprung from my imagination.
How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?
I wrote on and off my whole life, but I did not start publishing until I retired, and now that’s mostly what I do with my time.
How many hours a day do you write?
It varies. Some days none at all, and some days maybe up to six hours. It depends on my schedule, time demands, and how I feel — I don’t force it. If it flows, I write. And if it’s not there, I don’t.
What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)
Probably mostly young adult, as that seems to flow the best, and I believe that would have the greatest interest to readers.
What did you edit out of your books?
I only edit out things that do not move the story forward or that detract from the focus of the book. For my nonfiction books, I told the stories in full and did not hold back, so the stories are real and raw.
How do you select the names of your characters?
I have lists of names from various websites that list popular names, and I always use names I like and relate to in some way. I look over all the names to see what best fits the characters for each particular story, and I generally try not to use the same names in different books.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
Something to help others. My working career was varied — administrative work, word processing, hospital lab assistant, management, billing, collections, accounts receivable, therapist, energy healer, and musician. If I could do it over, I would add speech pathologist, occupational therapist, and lawyer to the list. But now I am retired, so I don’t worry about it.
What was your hardest scene to write?
The ones in my Ruthie book about my mom having ALS and the deterioration in her condition, including all the difficulties and pain. It was hard to write about that, as I relived every painful moment, but it was important to write all of it. If the story didn’t move me and make me cry, how could it move my readers? So I kept it honest and real, no matter how difficult it was to write.
What is your favorite childhood book?
There were many. My favorite stories were animal stories, and I always loved happy stories that made me feel good.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
It depends on the book, the genre, and the length of the book. My first book took roughly one year. My shorter books and children’s books took a few months each. My fiction books range from about three months to ten months.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
I believe we get stuck at times, but not a block per se. And there are ways around it without forcing it. So not really — we are either motivated or we aren’t. If it’s not flowing, do something else such as read or go for a walk. When I read, it always stimulates me to write, so I am never at a loss.
What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?
I always start my writing longhand, with pen and paper. That seems to help the flow and spark of creativity the most. Then I type it into a computer, and it goes through a first round of editing as I do that.
When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?
I have always written, but I never took it seriously. I wrote stories and poems my whole life, and in every job I had I wrote a procedure manual. However, it wasn’t until I retired that I started writing and publishing books or even realized that I could. Now I can’t get enough of that.
Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?
No, I write as it flows and as it moves me. Some days I write a lot, and some days I write nothing. No pressure.
Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?
I usually set a plot and the arc of the story, and then the details fill in as I write, and those details sometimes surprise me.
Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?
For overcoming any blocks, I suggest reading — when I read I always get inspired to write, and I also see what I like and don’t like, and that also spurs me on to write more.
Do you read much and, if so, who are your favorite authors?
I love reading, and my all-time favorite author is Dean Koontz. I love his style, passion, creativity, subject matter, and the sensitivity, compassion, and humor with which he portrays people and animals. I also like James Patterson, Robin Cook, John Grisham, and many others, and I read new authors, too, including indie authors.
What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?
Answer: Believable characters who have depth, flaws, struggles, fears, and who I care about. And a plot that is exciting, gripping, thrilling, and that keeps me wanting more. A book really needs both — good characters and a good story line.
How would you feel if no one showed up at your book signing?
Disappointed, but I would evaluate what was wrong, such as the wrong venue, inconvenient date or time, or not advertised properly.
How much of yourself do you put into your books?
A lot. Besides putting my heart and soul into my books, I also include many of my fears, insecurities, and struggles. If I can’t relate to the characters, my readers won’t either, and I find the best way to relate to the characters is to put a lot of myself into them so that they are real and tangible and grip my heart.
Who are your books mostly dedicated to?
It varies by genre. For my book dedications, the two memoirs are dedicated to my mom and my husband. The children’s books are dedicated to all children who love having fun and being kind to others. My fiction books are not dedicated to anyone in particular.
Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?
My husband. I’m sure if my mother were still alive, she would be as well, as she loved reading and has always been supportive of me.
Writers are often believed to have a Muse, your thoughts on that?
I think it would be unique for each writer. I think the spark for my writing and creativity is simply from a part of me that was suppressed for too many years and has finally come out to play and express itself, and I am having a blast allowing that to happen.
Another misconception is that all writers are independently wealthy, how true is that?
Not a chance. Most writers are actually poor and struggling. In general, most writers do not make enough money to live on from their writing, and they need to keep a “real” job to pay the bills while they write to pursue their passion.
Is it true that authors write word-perfect first drafts?
Most first drafts are crap, and that’s how they should be. The first draft is getting down the story as fast as possible. They are far from perfect, and they will always need many hours of editing and re-writing. And that’s how it should be — we should not judge our first draft but use that as a starting point.
Did any of your books get rejected by publishers?
No, because I self-published all my books. I am not into waiting, delays, and rejections. So I chose to self-publish.
What is your view on co-authoring books; have you done any?
No, I have not been interested in doing that. I think it would be difficult to agree on each aspect of the writing process, including wording, story lines, characters, editing, covers, whose name is first, how to divide the royalties, marketing and promotion, and other things that would come up. Not only could there be difficulties or conflicts in all of that, but I want complete control over anything I write, so I would not co-author any books.
Is writing book series more challenging?
Yes, for several reasons. The reader has expectations of the story and the characters, and the writer must meet that. Also, the writer must be consistent in many ways throughout each book in the series — in tone, characters, point of view, and style as the story develops and continues across multiple books.
Does it get frustrating if you are unable to recall an idea you had in your mind some time earlier?
I tend to write everything down. I have notebooks and scribbled notes in every room in my house. So I never worry about not recalling something, but I might struggle to find where I left a note about it.
Can you tell us about your current projects?
I am now writing a contemporary romance story, two science fiction stories, and a child-abduction thriller story. I can’t wait to get them finished and published.
Were your parents reading enthusiasts who gave you a push to be a reader as a kid?
Yes — my mother was an avid reader, and we liked many of the same books, such as suspense thrillers, medical thrillers, and courtroom dramas.
Do you enjoy discussing upcoming ideas with your partner? If yes, how much do you value their input?
Yes — I always discuss new ideas with my husband, and he is very supportive. He often gives me a new angle or insight to a story, which is immensely helpful.
Have you ever turned a dream or a nightmare into a written piece?
No, but I have turned fears into a written piece. I have a few fears that I have turned into stories as the fears create an intensity that really brings the stories to life.