- Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? I’m a married mother of three, a born-again Christian since the age of 23, and I currently have an addiction to line dancing — there is no cure. I started writing in the eighth grade, and I’ve never stopped.
- What do you do when you are not writing? Since I’m a mother, I do a lot with my kids, I also like fitness training with my husband, worshiping at my church, and going out dancing.
- Do you have a day job as well? I work as a contractor for small companies that need marketing communications, web writing, technical writing, and so on. Contracting work is excellent because I can do three months on, three months off, and structure it so I still have time to work on novels.
- When did you first start writing, and when did you finish your first book? I’ve written in some way all my life. I started with poetry as a teenager, writing fiction stories for magazines in my early twenties, and then having a career as an information designer and technical writer. I finished my first novel (Living This Life) in 2001, but that book remains unpublished. I finished Broken Together in 2016.
- How did you choose the genre you write in? As a committed Christian, I’ve always wanted to write novels for women. All my main characters tend to be women, so I sailed right into writing Christian women’s fiction.
- Where do you get your ideas? From just about everywhere. I’ll be somewhere and see something and think, yeah, that needs to be in a scene. For example, my cousin used a drone to tape his marriage proposal to his girlfriend. I thought that’s so sweet that it needs to be in a book somewhere, so I included it in the first chapter to next year’s novel Engaged.
- Do you ever experience writer’s block? Only if I haven’t taken the time to flesh out the details of the story and the characters. If I write at least a paragraph of detail representing each chapter, including snippets of crucial dialogue, I don’t really get writer’s block.
- Do you work with an outline, or just write? I do something called ‘beats,’ which is like an expanded outline containing character motivations and key pivot points which have to occur at specific intervals in the plot. In 2008 I wrote a novel called Mrs. Jones, and I did it without writing beats or considering book structure. I ended up with a long boring book that will never be published.
- Is there any author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult? The Color Purple by Alice Walker mesmerized me. Every book by J. California Cooper and Gloria Naylor – I devoured those. I’d spend weekends reading their words over and over again and hoping I could eventually write like that.
- Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published? Rejection is a part of the story for every author, and it’s a part of mine too. After I submitted Broken Together to an agent and got rejected, a sage Christian author told me to spend a full year rewriting it. I took her advice and ended up publishing in 2017.
- Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? Kimberla Lawson Roby – because she can really make her plots move. Stephen King — because he’s so prolific. Walter Mosley – because his words are like good jazz music. Terry McMillan – because her characters are so fleshed out, you can practically reach out and touch them.
- What impact have they had on your writing? More than anything, those authors showed me that a well-written story can impact your life. And because those authors are so good at what they do, they showed me that you don’t always have to like the main characters – you just have to be willing to follow their story.
- What do you think is the future of reading/writing? As society becomes more digital, I think there will become a point when books aren’t printed first. Eventually, I think books will go straight to audio distribution, then video and print will come last. We’re a mobile society, and I meet people every day who ask if I have an audiobook so that they can listen on their way to work. Also, eBooks will dominate – they’re already easier to produce than print, don’t take up any space in your house, and they cost two-thirds less (on average) to buy. I also think authors who work in the same genre will band together and create apps designed to market and sell stories directly to their audiences. They’ll probably create a subscription model giving the subscribers access to new audio and eBooks before general availability through Amazon. Something like that would work really well for authors who write for niche audiences.
- Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? Summarize your writing process. I’ll take you through my process for a story I just started called Family Bonds. Intuition led me to an idea for a character named Ava Rae, who is a NONE — or someone who has no background in faith or Christianity at all. She doesn’t set foot in a church until she’s nearly thirty years old. Now that I know who she is, I start the process of why? I work backward from the premise, asking why and what for everything I think I know about the character. For example, why didn’t Ava know about God? Because her mother never taught her Why? Because the mother is kind of a grifter. What did she teach Ava? To get by using people and situations. Then I fast forward into where the character is when the story starts: Ava’s a Walmart cashier witnessing a fight in front of her register at the store. All she wants to do is go on break. Still, she can’t because she has to be there for a police report, and in the middle of all that, she gets back to back emergency phone calls from her daughter’s father and from the principal of the daughter’s school…and I go on with the story from there. What does Ava do, and why? And where does God come in? I’ll fill out the characters in Ava’s world, and then their motivations, and then I’ll start the beats. Logic comes in when I structure the story according to the beats. Beats involve one to two paragraphs for each chapter, and they include actions and character motivations and some dialogue. Beats are structured into acts and the number of chapters the book will have. When the beats are done, I write the first draft. The first draft is done — I print the whole thing out and rewrite it. The second draft is done — I send it through my critique partners. I cried for a few days because the book did NOT come out the way I wanted, then I got over it and rewrote. I sent the third draft through beta readers. I revise again. Sometime after that, I get the book ready for editing.
- What is your role in the writing community? In the writing community, I’m praying that God will allow me to mentor younger faith writers and serve as a supporter and prayer partner for all my Christian creatives.
- How does your book relate to your spiritual practice or other life paths? My faith influences every bit of writing I produce. My God provided my skills, and I choose to honor Him by writing to His glory every chance I have.
- What is your testimony? Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior, and I live to serve Him every day of my life. Sometime right before my twenty-third birthday, I felt God calling me during a lonely, dark time in my life. At the time, I’d been making money writing short stories, but they were all secular in nature. After I surrendered my life to Christ, I was sure God would lead me immediately to a successful career as an inspirational author. I was wrong. In reality, it took fifteen years before I was able to complete a novel, and even that got rejected. But through all this, I know He’s guiding me and teaching me, and my life is in his hands. He can do with my talents what He will, and I will praise Him.
- How has your environment & upbringing colored your writing? I was a quiet, introverted kid, and my mother moved around a lot. Libraries and books were my best friends, and so words became my whole world.
- What do you consider to be your best accomplishment? I don’t know that I’ve accomplished anything. I’m just grateful to be here and allow God to use me according to His will.
- What projects are you working on at present? My next book, Thick Chicks: A Novel, will be released on November 27th. After that, I’ll do a second rewrite on Engaged: A Novel and prayerfully that will be out next summer.
- What do your plans for future projects include? Next year I’ll be fully immersed in Family Bonds: A Novel. I’m also getting some great ideas for a story called Free: A Novel, which is all about five post-fifty Christians who, after the death of a treasured friend, are looking back and thinking, is this all there is? Also, I’m praying hard to start writing with a group to create a television show about born-again Christians. For years I’ve known I don’t want to do this by myself. I need to work with my brothers and sisters for it. I recently finished reading a novel by Maurice Gray, Jr., so I’m hoping he will be available because his writing is mad funny but still fully Christian. My church has a considerable amount of Christian creatives in it and so we’ll see how God leads.
Get my novel: Broken Together: A Novel
And the story continues with Holding On: A Novella
Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo/Walmart.com, INGRAM, and more.