What and who influenced you to become a writer?
I was raised by a mother who was a TV writer and was always surrounded by TV scripts and tons of novels. So, I was mostly influenced by all the great authors I had the joy to read while growing up. During my teen years I read a lot of Ray Bradbury and I fell (and hope) his writing helped shape mine to come. I didn’t think of becoming “a writer” until I was about thirty and had an idea for a novel. Once I wrote that first novel I realized I really loved that form over the poetry and short stories I’d written and so just kept going.
Tell us about your very first novel and the process you used to write it.
Interesting—I’ve never been asked that question. I didn’t have a lot of “formal” training—meaning I hadn’t gone to writers’ conferences or read books on the writing craft so I winged it and relied on the models I found through my own reading experience. I wrote a lot of notes and ideas, and really, my methods going into novel #13 are not all that different. I brainstorm a lot to develop plot and characters and once I have the story down, I start writing. I did that with my first novel as well, although it’s structured so badly and has so much narrative and a lot of personal exposition that I will never publish it!
Has your process changed or evolved over the years?
On that same note, now that I know so much more about structuring a novel, I take the next step after brainstorming ideas in a much more structured manner. I usually create charts, timelines, and index cards for all my scenes and put the whole (or a god part) of the novel down in a way that I can just pick up an index card and write my scene for the day, knowing the book has been well plotted out.
I’ve been browsing your website and you are a very busy woman. Writing, editing, mentoring, guest speaking! How do you find the time for everything?
I don’t. And I often feel like I get little done! I don’t have any kids at home, only a pesky dog, so I do have more time, and I’m disciplined—get up at 6, run two miles, do an hour of email and marketing, then dig in to my editing jobs. I edit mostly full-time, and I try to teach workshops and help other writers as much as I can. I believe in giving and helping and doing what I can to see other writers succeed. It’s very satisfying. But I have no time to write!
I see that you’re also a writing coach. What does a writing coach do? What are the benefits of working with a writing coach?
I wish I’d had one 25 years ago when I started my first novel. A writing coach teaches you lots of tips and technique to save you years of making stupid mistakes. One client told me he learned more from my four-page sample edit than he learned in four years of college English and writing classes. I am very encouraging to my clients but I’m honest and make them work hard to make their book the best it can be. Many of my clients have gone on to get agents, publishing contracts, awards, and movie deals. I highly encourage new writers to have a writing coach or editor to help them—preferably a published novelist, if they are working on a novel. Many editors and coaches don’t write fiction or don’t really know much about structuring a novel.
When you’re not working on your own projects, what genre do you read?
I love fantasy and sci-fi. I love good contemporary fiction of all kinds. I try to read a lot of highly touted best sellers to see why they are so successful. I like mysteries and crime/thrillers. I will even read an occasional Western. I do not, however, read romance or chick lit or anything overly fluffy. I like to be affected, changed, moved, inspired by what I read. I mostly read what friends recommend to me. I’m very picky and a snob, I’ll admit, for there are not a whole lot of authors or books I like, and I often can’t get past the first chapter, or even the first page sometimes. I also hate seeing tons of copy errors!
What are you looking forward to in the next year? (New projects? Speaking engagements? Conferences?)
List of Books/Genre:
Someone to Blame: contemporary/general fiction/inspirational
Intended for Harm: contemporary/general fiction/inspirational
Conundrum: contemporary/general fiction/women’s fiction
Innocent Little Crimes: psychological mystery
A Thin Film of Lies: suspense/crime fiction
Time Sniffers: YA fantasy/sci-fi/romance
The Gates of Heaven fantasy series (for adults):
The Wolf of Tebron
The Map across Time
The Land of Darkness
The Unraveling of Wentwater