1.Tell us about your writing. I started with romance and have turned to murder in my Appalachian Adventure series. Shortly after moving to the North Carolina mountains, I realized that simply living with this topography was like getting to know a challenging character so I write cozies in which the setting is almost a character. In Murder at Blue Falls, a CSI wannabe leads trail rides. When her horse finds a body, Jemma starts to investigate, Detective Tucker enters and the mystery twists and turns from there. In the sequel, Perfect for Framing, there’s trouble a-brewing at a Property Owners Association and Jemma is once again involved with a mystery. Emeralds in the Snow involves downhill skiing, a treasure hunt and a cold case mystery. Appalachian Paradise is pure romance on a five-day backpacking trek. And there’s my cat book, Meow Means Me! Now!, dictated by my feline in rhyme which takes him from being a kitten to an old guy.
2.Are you a member of any writers’ critique groups? If so, do you think it has benefitted you? I’m a member of High Country Writers, a group in Boone, NC, that I founded in 1995. We have a critique session on the second meeting of the month. By critiquing other manuscripts, I pass forward the help I received when I started out. At this point, I rely on my Editor to critique my work.
3. Tell us about the workshops you’ve put together.
Currently I have designed four workshops to help other writers. On Stage! Book Signings gives the steps needed to set up, attend and follow up book signings. Five Keys to Writing a Mystery, Internet Connections and Begin to Write that Novel/Memoir are designed for a one-hour format. They are all interactive and have handouts.
4. You have written five books. What have you learned about writing that you wish you had known when you started? Has it gotten any easier? Study the craft and try the tips to improve your writing. I just returned from a Break Into Fiction retreat, a workshop on character driven plotting, given by Mary Buckham and Dianna Love and now know that plotting can be easier. Also, don’t talk about your story before and during the first draft. Parts of the soul of the tale leak out when you do that. Your energy for the discovery dissipates. Hold onto that precious part of creating.
5. You write mystery and romance. What do you think the two genres have in common? Both plot lines evolve out of the character’s growth. We feel better when someone becomes a better human being and we, as readers, can feel the change in the character as they learn something about themselves. I write commercial fiction and expect a positive outcome at the end of the story.
6. How did you come up with your Appalachian Adventure series? Experiencing the outdoors by hiking, skiing and horse back riding takes me back to an appreciation of nature and I want to pass on that feeling to readers. I decided to have four male cousins run into adventure, romance and mystery in the mountains. Since I was a ski patroller, I was able to use first-hand background information in Emeralds in the Snow to give authenticity to the novel.
7. What do you think sets this series apart from other mystery series? The setting, the characters and the mysteries are unique to the mountains. I’ve put a fictional dude ranch near Boone, NC, because I think we need one. Jemma Chase’s love of CSI doesn’t interfere with her three jobs – trail-ride leader, carpenter and photographer. In today’s economy and in the service orientated jobs in a tourist area, she resembles the local people. However, she is from off the mountain originally and continues to learn the ways of the proud and crafty Appalachian people.
8. Are you a pantser or outliner? Until recently, I claimed to be a panster, wanting to discover the story as I wrote. The one time I plotted ahead, the story lay on the page. I ended up destroying all evidence of that story. However, now I view the panster-outliner as a continuum and I’m a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10 (panster being number one, of course).
9. Do you have any particular writing rituals? The house has to be quiet and I sit on the couch and write the first draft longhand in ink on a tablet. I stop by four and have a glass of champagne.
10. What advice would you offer other writers? Read and write. Ask yourself, if your writing world were perfect, when would you write? How many days a week? Then arrange your schedule to be as close to that as possible and write. Log the hours written onto a calendar in a prominent place. After two months of writing those four or five days a week, give yourself an award. A massage would be good. When writing the first draft, turn off the internal editor. Give yourself permission not to judge.
11. Why did you start writing? One year when my husband and I headed off to a vacation on a dude ranch, someone in the office gave me a contemporary romance to read. That year, I read four hundred books and held down a demanding full time job. I read at traffic lights, during lunch, first thing in the morning and last moments at night. One morning I said “I can do this” and joined Romance Writers of America, took their craft courses and have written ever since.
12. What’s your favorite Southern phrase? Ball hootin’ – that’s when you’re driving down a mountain road with black ice, the back end of the truck starts weaving and you go ball hootin’ down, almost out of control.