You currently have ten published novels and with almost six thousand reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, not one of your books is rated less than 4 stars – that’s a pretty astounding average, to what do you attribute it?
Definitely the characters. Readers fall in love with my characters; not because they are perfect, but because they are believable. I spend far more time on Character development than I do storyline. Before I start a book, I take a month or more to get to know the characters. I fatten them up with attitudes, idiosyncrasies, superstitions, hopes and dreams. I try to create characters readers can identify with. Few people relate to a flawless character, but given faults, a wart on their nose, or a sense of stubbornness, characters become as real as your favorite aunt or the next-door neighbor. When I finally start to write, I know these characters well enough to understand how they will react in any given situation. I think the way they’d think. In doing this, I am able to keep the character real.
Can you see yourself in any of these characters?
Absolutely. I not only see myself in my characters, I see bits and pieces of all the people who have passed through my life, especially my mom. I’ve never created a character that is an exact duplicate of a single person, most are a combination of characteristics of many people and that’s what makes them both quirky and complex.
How would you describe your style of writing? What can readers expect?
I’d like to believe my books are a lot like life itself. Although there are many challenges the protagonist has to overcome, there is always the hope of a brighter future. Overall I’d say my books are heartwarming with touches of mystery thrown in and some ironic twists you never expected. I especially love writing about older people and children because they are so open and forthright, which makes for very interesting characters.
I note that you have two different series and are now working on a third; do you plan the whole series before you start the first book?
Not at all; I sort of stumbled into doing series stories. Actually almost every one of my books can be read as a stand-alone novel. Spare Change was written as a standalone novel, but the readers became so attached to the characters that they started asking for a sequel and I enjoyed the characters so much I was happy to revisit them. In the Wyattsville Series, the thread that ties the books together is the town; and although favorite characters do show up in the subsequent stories, it is in supporting roles. The protagonist in each book is a different person.
Can you tell the Free Kindle Books & Tips followers a little bit about yourself and your background?
My mother, born and raised in the mountains of West Virginia, was not a writer, but she was a wonderful storyteller. Without considering I was truly my mother’s daughter, I studied art and was going to be a graphic designer. My first job was a packaging designer, but it was a short-lived career. Faced with an immediate deadline and a blank space where the copy should have been, I began to write. I never looked back, and it didn’t take long for me to realize my love for words far outweighed any design skills I had.
In the early years of my career I wrote for business and when I switched to fiction I realized I am more than a writer, I’m a storyteller. Just as brushes are the tools an artist uses to create a picture, words are the tools I use to create a story. I visualize every scene before I write and then search for the right combination of words to make emotions explode and characters come to life.
What lasting impression do you want people to take away after reading one of your novels?
My goal with every book I write is to leave the reader feeling better when they finished the book than before they read it. There is so much generosity and goodness in life, but sometimes today’s media only focuses on the bad. I want my books to acknowledge the bad but show the underlying good that is there.
Do you ever have writer’s block?
I doubt there is a writer in the world who hasn’t at one time or another dealt with writer’s block. In often happens when you have headed down the wrong street and need to turn back and find the right direction. What works for me is to turn the computer off and go for a walk. If you sit there staring at the words you’ve already written, you won’t see what’s wrong with them. To get back onto the right path, you need to give your imagination permission to roam free.
How do you deal with the distractions of social media?
Social media can be very time-consuming. I absolutely love connecting with readers and am addicted to sites such as Facebook and Goodreads, but I force myself to wait until the end of the day when I’ve finished writing, then my reward is to go on online and chat with friends and fans. I have an awesome group on Facebook (BFF Clubhouse) and hanging out there is definitely my guilty pleasure.
Lastly, is there any advice you can give to aspiring writers?
Be yourself. Discover what’s in your heart and create characters you love or love to hate. Never allow yourself to follow in the tracks of another author simply because he or she sold a million copies of their book. If you stumble onto that pathway, your readers will know; your characters will sound shallow and superficial. But if you’re true to yourself and work to develop your own voice it will ring loud and true with believability. It isn’t something that happens overnight. I wrote four novels before the fifth was published, but the truth is that the first four didn’t deserve to be published, they were all part of my learning curve. So, stay with it and learn from the writers who inspire you, from the books you love, and from the books you hate. You learn something from every book you read, and sometimes that something is what not to do. Most of all enjoy every minute you spend writing—because if you’re not writing for fun, you shouldn’t be writing.