Morning has always been my favorite time of day. Early morning when the world is still quiet. This didn’t work for my parents or siblings; therefore, I learned to lie awake in bed entertaining myself with stories I made up in my head. Sometimes I conveyed these stories to my family, so no one was surprised when I studied English, History, and French in college and then got my master’s degree in creative writing, then settled down to some serious writing. As my elder sister puts it when people ask her about me, “She’s had a lot of jobs, but she considers herself a writer.” That was even before I had sold anything other than some short pieces.
Those other jobs included teaching high school, being a social worker, (for lack of a better description for what I did), and managing the office of a chiropractor. Writing, however, has always been my passion and in 2005, I sold my first book, Family Guardian, which won the National Readers Choice Award in 2007. Since then, I have sold 20 more novels and novellas and garnered some other writing award honors.
So far, I have been an historical writer. Now I am leaping into the realm of contemporary women’s fiction. Scary. It was a long jump over a chasm. Mountain Midwife will be out in December.
How long have you been writing?
I don’t know when I wasn’t writing something—poetry, creative nonfiction essays, novels. Seriously, though, about twelve years.
How did you end up with your first publication (if published)?
Irritation. Well, you see, I wrote this book of my heart. The editor wanted the whole thing and then gave me the most insulting, obnoxious rejection of my career. Well, maybe not the most, that came later, but it was pretty awful, enraging rather than hurtful, for she told me I didn’t know what I was talking about because she had seen differently on TV. I had personal and professional experience to draw upon, but she believed the media, which is (insert sarcastic tone here) always so right. Write something else or quit was where I stood. So I wrote a proposal and my agent sent it to an editor. We thought we’d hear from her in weeks. Nope. She called in two days and wanted a full manuscript. I was working full-time with an awful commute, so wrote on the train (I was living outside Washington, DC at the time) and my lunch hour, turned it in and sold it.
How much, and what, do you read?
I read a lot. Audio books. I read when cooking dinner, cleaning the house, folding laundry, etc. So probably three fiction books a week and probably one nonfiction. What? In nonfiction, mostly research stuff. With fiction, I read a lot of mysteries/romantic-suspense. I read other things as well, and these are my go-to first.
What is one piece of advise you'd give to someone just starting out?
Don’t worry about the right software to help you organize; just write, then find people who know what they’re doing to help you figure out if what you are doing is right. Read a lot of good books on writing and work out the exercises. I love some old books like Dwight Swain’s book Techniques of the Selling Writer. Donald Maass’s book Writing the Break-out Novel helped me turn my writing around. I hear good things about James Scott Bell’s book. But stop after about five and get back to applying what you’ve learned. Join a writer group, one that works with your genre. If you are writing romance, do not join a group of literary snobs…er…writers. I made this mistake, not knowing any better, and ended up not writing for years because they told me my writing was terrible and I didn’t know enough to not believe them. It needed improvement, and it was not trash.
What is your favorite book on the writing craft?
See above. I have a list of more, but would have to find them in storage to look.
What is one thing about you that few people know? Or, if you prefer, what is a hobby you enjoy aside from reading/writing?
As I ponder this, I figure if it’s something about me people don’t know, they probably shouldn’t know it. ☺ I like to knit and crochet. I’m really terrible at it, and I still like doing it. It’s called I can’t keep my hands still for long and this helps me sit still and watch a movie or TV with my honey.
Below, I have included the covers to several books that are connected. The Mountain Midwife, my first contemporary novel and releasing in December, has a heroine who is a descendant of the characters in the historical series about midwives. One character in Mountain Midwife is descended from the people in my Cornwall books. Yes, I truly live in my own world filled with lovable but flawed people I can fix—unlike the lovable and flawed people I can’t fix real world.