If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
It would be THE EDUCATION OF LITTLE TREE by Forrest Carter. I hear this author’s voice almost daily. His dialogue and narrative are so realistic; one becomes completely lost within the pages of his stories. If one believed in a muse, I would hope he is mine.
How important is research to you when writing a book?
I am a bit crazed about accuracy in a historical fiction book. There are many who share valid-sounding reasons for me not to be crazed, but nothing less than absolute would be fair to the reader, in my personal opinion.
When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?
This may sound cliché, but I always knew I would be a writer. While in third grade, I entered a school-wide American Legion essay contest. Grades 1 through 8 participated, so chances of a third-grader winning were slim. However, I took the contest seriously and did the best I could at my first real writing effort. Imagine my surprise when I placed 2nd in the whole school! Oh, who took 1st place, you ask? Yes, that would be my older sister. We had some proud parents that day.
Writers are often associated with loner tendencies; is there any truth to that?
Yes, I think so. Many writers, myself included, hear their character’s voices and often talk to them. Not as in, ‘all writers are schizophrenics’ type voices, but voices nonetheless. It is harder to hear those voices when you’re surrounded by a lot of “real” people.
Do you think writers have a normal life like others?
I think a writer’s life is as normal to them as a carpenter’s life is to a carpenter. A writer has daydreams, and nightmares, and thoughts, and experiences just like everyone else. The difference is that a writer puts words down describing these things so everyone else will able to see it, too.
Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?
Experience has loosened my prose. For many years, my writing was stiff. I’ve relaxed, and so has my writing. I stopped trying to sound like a writer, and became one instead.
Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?
I would never let anyone, an editor, publisher, reader, critique partner, etc., read anything I’ve written until I’ve proofed, edited, revised, checked facts, first.
Have you ever left any of your books stewing for months on end or even a year?
Some of the best writing coaches, and best writers, advise us that once you’ve finished a manuscript, put it in a drawer, and walk away until you no longer remember it. When you pick it up again, it will be fresh and you’ll be able to properly edit and revise. I think that’s great advice, however, I do not follow it myself. The longest any manuscript sits in my office is a few weeks. I feel my characters pacing around me the whole time, even when I’m deeply involved in writing another novel. I will pick it up in a few weeks and start working on it again until I feel it is perfect.
How would you feel if no one showed up at your book signing?
The honest answer, of course, is terrible! But frankly, I wouldn’t feel lonely. I’ll pretty much talk to anyone, anytime, about anything. If you’re within twenty feet of me, we’re probably going to have a conversation. I might be the one who you go home after shopping and tell your family, “I met the weirdest person at the bookstore today.”
What did you want to become when you were a kid?
A writer … no, seriously, I really did! But, being five, I also wanted to be a teacher, a jockey, a veterinarian, and a doctor. Thankfully, I’ve achieved at least one of those, but I’d also like to think of myself as a teacher, too, through the avenue of writing. SHADOW OF THE HAWK is a true-to-life account of life during America’s Great Depression. Remember, not all folks abandoned their homes and farms and migrated to California or shipped their kids off to live with relatives. Some people stayed, and those families had challenges, too. I hope this book opens a window for people to learn about our past.
Do you recall the first ever book/novel you read?
I grew up on a farm in California. Our home had been an old 1890s schoolhouse and it had fourteen-foot ceilings. We had floor-to-ceiling bookcases on most walls containing about 5000 books. It’s hard to remember which one of those beauties was my first, but certainly, the most memorable at a young age was CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London. Now, there’s a writer! I loved all of his books.
Do your novels carry a message?
This question has come to mind a lot lately. SHADOW OF THE HAWK is my debut novel, so I do not have a lot of experience, but I am intrigued with the reader’s thoughts about this story. So many have said they’ve found hidden meanings or a message within the story, and each time I think, “Really? Well, that’s great!” The story truly was not written with a lesson in mind, but I love to hear what gems the readers have found within its pages.
Have any new writers grasped your interest recently?
Reading is one of my passions. If I’m not writing, you’ll find me with a book, or gardening, or playing with my dogs. This past year, I discovered four authors, new to me, who will be on my shelves forever more: Katy Huth Jones, Linda Rettstatt, Hebby Roman, and Helen Pollard. All very different, but all very talented.
Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?
Yes! Mirror World Publishing will release my next book in May 2016. It’s titled BLACK LIGHTNING and it is a middle-grade fantasy.
Was it all too easy for you – the writing, the publication, and the sales?
No. Many years ago, when I first started writing with a goal of publication in mind, I wrote a children’s article, submitted it to a magazine (via US Postal Service in those days) and within a few weeks, I received a contract! I pitched them a second one, they accepted. I thought, “Wow! This is going to easier than I thought!” So I dropped everything and started writing a novel. I had a few more children’s stories and articles published during the next fifteen-plus years, but no novel. It wasn’t until I won the 2014 Short Story Contest in Southern Writers magazine that wondrous things happened. The same day I received notification about winning, I received my first book contract. Within a few days, two more publishing offers on the same novel arrived. So, mine was an overnight success that only took fifteen years.
Do you pen down revelations and ideas as you get them, right then and there?
Yes, I find that the first words that come to me are the best words, so I must write it down right then—the main character in SHADOW OF THE HAWK is one such example. The research and writing of this novel spanned fifteen years, but I always knew that the main character’s name was wrong, and it made it difficult to get a handle on her personality knowing I was calling her by the wrong name. Finally, in sheer frustration, I shouted to no one, although she was my intended aim, “Tell me your name!” Clear as could be, my imaginary character stepped up and said, “My name is Sooze.” I was caught off guard a bit, so I said, “Sue’s? As in S-u-e-apostrophe-s?” She said, “No, Mama taught me that nothing ever really belongs to us except our beliefs and she didn’t want me misled by a possessive spelling, so instead of S-u-e, Mama taught me to spell my name S-o-o-z-e.” Of course, that revelation sent me running to my keyboard.
Have you received any awards for your literary works?
SHADOW OF THE HAWK received a gold medal in the 2015 Literary Classics Book Awards!
Did you ever change sentences more than five times just because it didn’t hit the right notes?
All the time. I’m sorry, let me be more specific … ALL THE TIME. Every single word of every single sentence must be as perfect as I can possibly make it. Even the cadence of the words feels like an art to me.
Do you need to be in a specific place or room to write, or can you just sit in the middle of a café full of people and write?
I admire writers who can go to coffeehouses or sit on park benches and whip out masterpieces. I can’t do it. I have tried. I need solitude. Sometimes, absolute silence. My home office is my sanctuary.
If you were to change your genre, which one would you choose?
Actually, I have changed genres, and I can’t explain why really. I love writing historical fiction, although it might be the most difficult one of all because of the lengthy research required. SHADOW OF THE HAWK is Young Adult Historical Fiction, my next book is a Middle-Grade Fantasy Adventure, one currently in polishing stages is also a Middle-Grade Fantasy Adventure, and the book I am writing now is Historical Romance for the over-20s.
How do you think concepts such as Kindle, and e-books have changed the present or future of reading?
This is a great question. Fifteen years ago, I was one of the people who were totally against e-books. Who would choose to read a book on a computer rather than turning paper pages? My best argument was, I can’t take my computer and go sit under a tree to read. Oops, shortsighted of me, right? Now, I can’t live without my ebooks, and I think the people who say, “I hate e-books” do not have a Reader, such as a Kindle or Nook. If I can only carry one thing with me, it will be my Kindle loaded with books and music.
And who is that one author you would love to write the biography of?
I had an opportunity to write about authors W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear in an article published by Southern Writers magazine (Mar/Apr 2012 issue). It would be an honor to write their full biography. It takes extraordinary talent to write sixty or so novels as a husband-wife team, while operating an awarding-winning bison ranch, and still have a successful marriage filled with the love and respect they have for one another.