Why did you become an author?
To put it simply, I wanted to become a writer because I had stories to tell. And I was always interested in people—in what happens to them and what they choose to do or not do and why—which is the basis of story. I knew from the time I was in grade school that I wanted to write books, but it was a dream I kept close to my heart for fear someone would laugh or tell me I’d never be published. I started my first book at age 30, as a young mother of four, so I had some living under my belt.
When did you start writing? How did you get started?
A death in our family is what gave me the courage to pursue my dream of writing. At the time I didn’t know a single other writer and hadn’t even heard of writing groups. I knew I wanted to write romance, so I started by taking my four favorite romances and outlining them, scene by scene, chapter by chapter. I learned the basics of novel structure this way, how to open and close a chapter, plotting, pacing and how to convey characters.
What’s the hardest part & the best part of writing a novel?
The most difficult aspect of writing is putting my rear in the chair and writing! It takes determination and discipline. Truth be known, I love every aspect of storytelling and writing, from exploring that first idea to the final galley stage. The most challenging thing for me at this point is protecting my writing time. There are so many other demands on my time that I have to fiercely protect the hours I set aside to write.
How long is the synopsis you write for each book?
I generally write a paragraph for each scene in the book. Obviously that isn’t cut-and-dried, and the length of each paragraph is going to vary according to the length and complexity of the scene.
Do you ever work on more than one book at a time?
I never compose more than one book at a time but am often working on various stages of different books. For instance, if an edited manuscript arrives, I need to stop my current project and work on that.
Do you ever feel compelled to write to the point where you feel you have to or you’ll explode?
Oh, yes! Once I was so deep into a novel, so eager to write the next chapter, that I literally hit a wall. (I was swimming at the time and thought of a great plot twist and forgot the wall was directly in front of me. It really hurt, too.
What drew you to write Christmas-themed fiction?
I love Christmas-the songs, the food, the family gatherings, the decorations, the hope and goodwill we all want to share in during this special time. So many of us get caught up in the stress of the “doing,” so I wanted to give my readers a small breather- a short stress reliever and a reminder of what’s really important at this most wonderful time of year.
How do you get the ideas and characters for your books?
I am a natural born storyteller. I feel this is the gift I’ve been given and I feel blessed that the ideas of my novels come very naturally to me. Story ideas are all around us; life itself presents us with plenty of ideas every single day. It’s a matter of being open to them—and then fashioning them into a story with believable and compelling characters. And I think most writers find that the people around them provide the basis for the fictional characters they create; I certainly do. It can be a matter of taking a trait from one person, a physical characteristic from another, a way of speaking from a third and then combining them. Ultimately, believable characters come from the writer’s observations about the people and situations around him or her.
You have some great male characters in your books-is it harder to write from a male perspective?
I’ve raised two sons and been married more years than I want to count. Living with men gives one a certain insight into the way a man thinks . . . or doesn’t think. Seriously, it comes down to observation and honesty—which is true of all characters a writer creates.
What writer do you admire the most?
I have a wall in my office that displays authors’ portraits and autographs. I’m most proud of the ones from Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Pearl S. Buck and Willa Cather. These are my mentors, the writers I wish to emulate.
What’s your favorite way to relax (other than writing)?
This shouldn’t surprise you: knitting and cooking.
What’s the importance of a happy ending in your novels?
When I read, I make an emotional investment in a book and I want to come away with a feeling of satisfaction and hope. I believe my readers feel the same way; we all want reassurance that the couple are genuinely and deeply in love and committed to the relationship; that things will work out; that there is something to be hopeful for.
Do any of your characters resemble you?
Most of them do in one way or another (and not necessarily in a physical way). When I create a character, even if that character was inspired by real people or some combination of traits I observed in others, I still inhabit him or her during the writing.
Do you have any advice for an aspiring writer?
Don’t worry about finding an agent until you have a publisher interested in your work. The best way to get published is to read and to write. Write every single day. Find a writing group—I suggest your local chapter of Romance Writers of America (visit rwa.org to find a chapter close to you)—and learn your craft. Believe in yourself and the power of your dreams. You can do this, but you have to be persistent.