What are your five favorite books, and why?
Wow, that’s tough! Here’s my off-the-cuff answer:
- Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier. I love the tone of it, tense with suspense, dripping with omens and tantalizing foreshadowing.
- Odds Against, by Dick Francis. Delicious suspense, stoic yet lovable protagonist, convincing villain, and a couple of staunch allies.
- The Stand, by Stephen King. It’s hard to choose just one from the great storyteller, but this is one of the first I read from him. Chilling scenario, and an epic story full of compelling characters.
- The Chronicles of Narnia. Reading them, magic becomes possible and you’re in another world.
- Pride and Prejudice. Full of humor and longing, regret, and love hanging on the edge of unfulfilled.
Who are your favorite authors?
So many writers have made a huge impact on me. For sheer enjoyment, I really love Dick Francis. He always features strong female characters and his heroes are people I’d like to spend time with. I’ve learned a lot from the old-school romantic suspense of Mary Stewart, Charlotte Armstrong, Elizabeth Peters, etc. My favorites on the field right now are Jeffery Deaver, David Baldacci, John Grisham, Ruth Ware, Gillian Flynn, and I take my hat off a thousand times to brilliant story weaver Stephen King.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I have a hard time winding down enough at night to fall asleep. I keep thinking about what I’ll get to work on the next day. There are always stories bubbling around in my head and as soon as the first ray of consciousness penetrates the barrier of my sleep, I hit the ten second commute from bed to writing table. Sometimes I stop to brush my teeth.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
I play the piano and read whenever I get the chance. I also enjoy cooking and especially baking. Spending time with family is important to me. And I love walking, hiking, and traveling.
How do you choose your reading material?
Many of the books I read come by way of the other books I read. In particular, books about the craft of writing often use existing works as examples of what to do or what not to do. This invariably instills a driving desire in me to read the story in question and I scour book stores and libraries until I track it down and devour it.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I do. I was a young mother living in an isolated, rural area while my Navy husband was out to sea. The story I wrote creeped me out so bad I couldn’t sleep well for days. I never published that story. Perhaps I should dig it out, do a rewrite, and see where it takes me. It really packed some powerful punches, if I remember.
What is your writing process?
I always have hundreds of ideas floating around in my head. I grab onto one and let it simmer for a time on the back burners of my mind. When the time is right, I sit down and write an outline, making sure I’ve covered all the essential elements that make a story work. Then, I tackle any necessary research to fill in the holes of my knowledge. When I’m ready to write, I look at the goal of each scene and get into character, like an actor filling the role. I sort of improv it, maybe try playing the scene a couple of different ways until it feels natural for the viewpoint character. Then I write it as I see it happening, and try to get from point A to point B, as outlined. If I can’t make that happen in an organic way, I know it’s time to adjust my outline.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I’ve been reading since I was three, according to my mom, but I don’t have a clear memory of any stories from that time. Some of my favorite books from childhood include: From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The Silver Crown, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Phantom Tollbooth, Harriet The Spy, My Side of The Mountain, Calico Captive, and The Night They Stole The Alphabet.
What do you read for pleasure?
Suspense, suspense, a little mystery, and more suspense. Love the stuff. I do enjoy humor and adventure, the occasional heart-warming story or heroic venture tale. There’s a world full of wonderful books, but I do favor suspense fiction.
You’re celebrating the first anniversary of your thriller novel, Nocturne In Ashes, released last year on July 21st. Can you tell us something about the book?
I’d love to! It’s a suspense thriller, set in the area around Mt. Rainier. My protagonist, Riley Forte, is a concert pianist whose career crashed after the death of her husband and son. She suffers the weekend from hell when her comeback performance bombs on Friday, Mt. Rainier erupts on Saturday, and the massive runoff from the volcano causes water to rise everywhere, isolating Riley in a small community of neighbors, one of whom is a serial killer.
She faces a crisis over who to trust, and when she realizes she can’t trust anyone, breaks away in an attempt to hike over the ridge and bring in outside help. She is pursued by two men—one who will help her and one who will kill her. The trick is, she doesn’t know which is which.
It’s a tense story, packed with twists and surprises. I had a lot of fun writing it and hope my readers have a superbly suspenseful experience reading it.