Could you tell us about yourself?
I was born and raised in California, mostly in the Sierra foothills in a small town called Twain Harte. I loved creative writing but went a different direction when I entered college. At Cal Poly State University, in San Luis Obispo, I took a logic track and graduated with a B.S. in Computer Science. I traveled the summer after graduating, spending five weeks in the Philippines with my Dad, then I met a friend in Australia and we traveled throughout the country for 8 weeks.
When I returned home, I found it difficult to find a job right away because all of the summer graduates had taken most of the jobs while I was having fun overseas. Not finding the long-term job I wanted, I joined the Navy after a few years. I worked all four of my active duty years at a small senior-level military school called the Inter-American Defense College (IADC), at Ft. Lesley J. McNair in Washington D.C. I loved that job and I enjoyed my time as a Naval officer, but I met my husband at the IADC (he was in the Army) and we were married in 1993. We spent many years traveling before he retired and we settled down in the Texas Hill Country, near my stepkids and our grandkids.
I was a Senior Business Analyst/Quality Assurance expert for financial, and other, websites the bulk of my career. The job involved meeting with clients and documenting the requirements for functionality they wanted on their websites then testing the programs once developers finished coding them, ensuring that all requirements were met. I was well suited to the job because of my computer background, attention to detail, and thoroughness.
What made you write your first book?
I still ‘wrote’ throughout my career but the writing was all technical in nature. And I wrote little treasure-hunting clues for my grandkids over the years, but the itch to get back to creative writing was always there. After retiring, my husband told me I needed to write a novel and suggested that I take a ‘How to Write a Great Novel’ online class to remind myself of the things I already knew and to learn what I didn’t know. The class was great and covered everything from theme and character development through publishing and copyrighting. It was during the class that I started writing my first novel.
What is the first book you remember reading?
I’m sure there were many before this, but I remember pouring over the Nancy Drew books. I loved the character and the mysteries she solved.
What’s your favorite book?
Hands down, Illusions, by Richard Bach. It’s short but it’s a thinking book. The idea behind the book, what would happen if a modern-day Messiah came to earth?, was amazing. I find myself returning to it frequently for its words of wisdom.
Who is your favorite author and why?
Two of my current favorite authors are Janet Evanovich and Erin Hunter. But I also enjoy J.D. Robb, John Grisham, and David Archer.
I first started reading Evanovich’s Fox and O’Hare series. They are clever, laugh-out-loud funny, action-packed, with danger and mystery. I’ve moved on to the Stephanie Plum series and they are as delightful and fun to read.
Erin Hunter is the author of The Warrior series. The series is about four clans of wild cats living in the forest. My eleven-year old grandson asked me to read them because he devoured all of them and wants to be able to talk to me about them. How could I turn that down!?! I’m glad I didn’t. The descriptions are detailed, the terms used are very clever (humans are called two-legs, for ex), and the books are full of action, discovery, hardships, and survival.
How many hours a day do you write?
Not nearly enough. I would like to put in at least two hours a day but there are some days when I don’t write at all, unfortunately. When I’m really rolling along I can write for five or six hours before realizing how much time has passed.
What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
I wouldn’t give up anything. My life is balanced and full, and very busy. To become a better writer, I listen to experts in the field of writing and I read as much as I can.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Managing my time is the most difficult part. When writing #HuntedLives (my first book), there were no issues and I could easily manage the time between writing and family. But once it published and I started writing #JusticePrevails then #DanceFever, time became a valued commodity. I now had to add in marketing, getting my name out there, attending various events, posting on social media regularly, and the list goes on. I have not mastered this yet.
If you could spend a day with a popular author, whom would you choose and why?
Janet Evanovich. I’d love to hear how she comes up with her new storylines for Stephanie Plum now that she’s written so many (I think there are around thirty Plum books, maybe more).
What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?
I can write anywhere as long as I have privacy and a quiet mind.
What’s your favorite writing snack or drink?
I tend to drink Diet Coke, mostly, and I try not to snack. If I’ve been writing for a long period of time, I’ll get a cookie or a piece of chocolate to tide me over until mealtime.
How do you celebrate when you finish your book?
With #HuntedLives, my husband and I went out to dinner. With each subsequent book, it’s been a high-five with my husband, a satisfied smile, and a big sigh of relief. 🙂
Do you listen to music when you write?
No, it’s too distracting.
Where do you get your ideas for your books?
I create my stories from the news and/or issues that concern me.
For example, for #HuntedLives, the idea came from watching my two oldest grandsons playing app games. They were nine and twelve years old at the time. I would watch them and ask all sorts of questions, like ‘How can you tell the good guys from the bad guys?’
All three books in the series deal with the negative aspects of social media, and each book has their own plot/storyline. #HuntedLives deals with app games, #JusticePrevails with pedophiles and human trafficking, and #DanceFever delves into the fentanyl crisis.
What is your writing process like?
Once I have the general idea, I create an outline. For #HuntedLives, I did a tremendous amount of research upfront then additional research as I wrote. With the other two books, I researched as I needed to. Once I start writing, the characters lead me where they need to go so the outline changes over time. I tend to edit as I go along. What I mean is that if I step away from writing for a few days, when I go back to the book, I’ll review and edit before moving on with new writing.
Do you try more to be original or rather give readers what they want?
Hmmmm, I guess I am more original in my writing. I write about topics important to me in an entertaining way. Hopefully, the stories are also what readers would be interested in.
How did you publish your first book?
The entire process for the first book, to include publishing, took the longest (naturally). It took me five years, from idea to publishing. Originally, I thought I might like to go traditional publishing and started down that road, sending numerous queries to agents, etc. As I learned more about traditional publishing, I decided to self-publish. I wanted the control – from book
cover and formatting to WHEN my book would publish. With traditional publishing, you give up that control. Once I decided to self-publish, there was an entire new learning curve.
The second book took only one year, from idea to publish. And the third book, just ten months.
What’s your favorite, and least favorite, part of publishing your books?
My favorite part is seeing it listed on Amazon and feeling the paperback in my hands. The least favorite part of publishing, for me, is marketing.
How did you come up with the title for your book(s)?
I found it very easy to decide on the titles for my thriller trilogy.
#HuntedLives – The name comes from the name of the app game in the book and the lives impacted.
#JusticePrevails – In the story, someone is kidnapping pedophiles and human traffickers and livestreaming their murders. Where is the justice in trying to catch the person behind the murders when those being killed are the worst of the worst in society? Will justice prevail?
#DanceFever – DanceFever is one of the street names for fentanyl. This story deals with candy that is laced with fentanyl and people dying when they eat the candy.
Would you and your main character get along?
Yes. Mali Hooper is tougher than she thinks, a bit of a rebel, a hard worker, and wants to do what’s right. We’d definitely get along.
If you could meet your characters, what would you say to them?
If I met Mali and Jake at the end of the trilogy, I’d thank them for what they’re doing to help those in need.
How would you describe your book’s ideal reader?
The ideal reader is an adult (any age) who is aware of social media (and uses it occasionally or a lot), and likes edge-of-your-seat excitement with romance thrown in. While some men have read the trilogy, the readers are mostly women.
What was your hardest scene to write?
Interestingly enough, the hardest part to write were NOT the gruesome murders. There was a funeral scene in #DanceFever that was hard to write because I wanted to capture the emotion and also do justice to the person who died.
Did you get some negative feedback on your book? If so, how do you deal with that?
With #HuntedLives, there was some minor negative feedback but that’s ok. I appreciate honesty, and when criticism is constructive, all the better. I can learn from it. I haven’t had negative criticism that is mean in nature. If so, I’d ignore it.
How did you feel when you first published you book? Scared? Excited? Nervous?
Way back when my husband told me that I should write a novel, my goal became to publish a book. So when my first book published, it was pure excitement! I had achieved my goal! And to see my name in print on the front cover…wow! Totally awesome. With the subsequent books, the excitement is still there. I love the entire process and am so glad I started writing creatively again.
Where can people who are interested in you books, buy your books?
My books are available on amazon.com, in digital and paperback format. They’ll be available in audio format in 2023.
They are also being sold at the Boerne Bookshop, in Boerne, Texas, if you’re ever in the neighborhood.
Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers?
As mentioned above, I’m going to put the Mali Hooper Thriller trilogy on audio. They should be available sometime in 2023. As I get further along in the process, I’ll have a better idea of the publish date.
Writing has begun on a new series that is set in the Texas Hill Country.
What are common traps for aspiring writers and have you faced any of them?
I think the biggest traps are in the mind – my story isn’t good enough, the writing isn’t good enough, I don’t know how to self-publish, I can’t find any time to write, etc.
We can all make excuses or find reasons why NOT to write. To those I’ve met who want to write but can’t seem to get it done, I tell them to just start writing and don’t listen to any naysayers. Take things a day at a time and when you’re at a point that you need to know how to do something, stop writing and learn what you need to learn. Then continue on.
It can be overwhelming at times. I felt overwhelmed with #HunteLives when I decided to self-publish because there’s so much to know. But I took baby steps and learned the essentials, then moved forward. It’s fun to learn new things and step out of your comfort zone. That’s how we grow as individuals. The learning never ends, btw.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I read all my reviews. I want to know what people are thinking? I smile at the good reviews and I hopefully learn from any bad ones.
Anything else to say?
Writing is a very personal journey, made alone for the most part. It can be all-consuming, which is fine if that’s what you want. For me, I have had to learn how to balance my writing with the other aspects of my life – doing things with my husband, exercising, playing with our grandkids, laundry and cleaning – all those things that make up our day and our life. But writing can be very rewarding, exciting and fun. Keep the fun in whatever you do, and keep writing.
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