1. Tell us about your latest book.
My pleasure. The Amazing Wolf Boy is a paranormal romance about a bumbling teenager who inexplicably turns into a werewolf while at Christmas dinner. When his parents banish him to live in Loxahatchee, Florida, with an uncle he barely knows, his troubles really start. The kids at his new school hate him, and the teachers suspect him of being a troublemaker because he’s transferring in from an exclusive prep school. Even the dogs in town shun him. Then he meets the most beautiful girl in the world, a brilliant outcast who changes her hair color with her mood. When she discovers his shape-changing secret, she tries to cure him using candles, crystals, and magic potions. All is well until a pack of “real” werewolves howl into town and disrupt his life once again.
I’ve been reading Asimov and Heinlein since I was a tadpole. I grew up watching TV shows such as the Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. So writing Science Fiction came natural to me. To a writer, Science Fiction is exciting because it is limited only by imagination. To a reader, Science Fiction embodies hope, because there is always someone left to tell the story. If we go to the stars and meet an alien culture, we will be strong enough to withstand their aggressions or brave enough to become their friends. If we cause our own destruction, we will rebuild after the apocalypse. Science Fiction is hope, and I love that aspect of it.
3. Why did you turn to Romance?
Most books have elements of romance in them, but not all books can be considered a Romance. In a Romance, love drives the story. Everything the protagonist does is for the love of his or her intended. Love is an emotion all readers can identify with, and it makes a character more believable if they love deeply. Werewolves are made-up creatures, of course, but in The Amazing Wolf Boy I wanted my readers to believe my werewolf could be real. So I set him in a Romance and let him struggle with the joy and insecurity of young love.
There are many levels in Horror. In some stories, the focus is on scaring the reader even to the detriment of character or plot development. Others deal with traditionally horrific beings but get into their heads in a way that humanizes them. My brand of Horror is one step outside of Science Fiction. In my book, Satan’s Mirror, the heroine goes to hell, but does so by following a wormhole into another dimension. In The Amazing Wolf Boy, my werewolf is as cute and cuddly as a sparkling vampire.
5. Which of your characters is your favorite and why?
I have never been a sixteen year old boy, not even in a previous life, but I had to imagine myself as one while writing Cody, my werewolf from The Amazing Wolf Boy. It was difficult at first, but I drew from all the boys I’ve known, past and present, and threw in a bit of how I wished they would act. After a while, Cody became more real to me than any of my other characters. He is funny, vulnerable, and fiercely devoted, and I truly enjoy working with him.
6. Since you are almost blind, describe your writing process.
I have two phobias: I hate spiders and I’m afraid of the dark. When I first started losing my eyesight, I was terrified. I thought it was the worst thing that could happen to me. I imagined myself alone in the dark, hearing little spider feet creeping up on me. And while that is still an issue, I now realize that had I not gone blind, I would still be working at my 8-5 job and coming home exhausted. I’d be writing mostly in my head, jotting it down on weekends, and probably never finish that first novel. A friend once told me that, for him, going blind was a blessing because it changed his life. It took me a while to understand what he meant.
I used to write my first drafts in longhand. But I can’t see the paper anymore, and I doubt that anyone could read my handwriting, so now I write exclusively on the computer. I use a computer program that echoes what I type. There are many programs that will do that for you. Windows has a narrator built right in—just type screen reader into the search box under all programs. The program I use is called JAWS, and I couldn’t write without it. I like to split my screen and put my chapter on one side and my outline on the other. That way I can switch back and forth to be sure I’m on track. I’m a big believer in outlines. My current outline is fifty pages long and growing. I’m always tweaking it.
7. Who influenced you the most in your writing career?
Some writers might credit their careers to other writers, and indeed the works of notables such as Stephen King and J. K. Rowling have influenced my writing style. But I have to thank my daughter for my career. My daughter has cerebral palsy. When she was young, I was told she would never walk and never talk. The predictions were wrong, largely due to her determination. When I become despondent and want to give up, I think of her little face as she forced her legs to respond. If she can overcome something like that, I can face a little darkness.
8. Where do your ideas come from?
Reading! Both fiction and nonfiction. Sometimes a book will blow me away, and the themes and characters will inspire me. Sometimes a book will be so poorly written, I think I could write a better book than that. And that inspires me, too. I don’t read like a reader anymore, for pleasure or escape. I read like a writer, always asking what if. My first series of books was inspired by a magazine article about a Middle Eastern woman in a cage, and I thought, “What if the richest woman in the galaxy were in that cage?” Thus, the Anneliese Thielman Trilogy was born. My Colonial Scouts Adventures came about after I read an article on collapsed black holes and I wondered, “What if we could use black holes to transport ourselves to other worlds?” The idea for The Amazing Wolf Boy came after I read Twilight and I thought, “What if the main character was a werewolf instead of a vampire?”
I met my husband in high school. He was the most annoying, obnoxious person I ever met. He sat behind me in study hall and used to balance pencils on my shoulders, trying to get them to slide into the front of my blouse. I couldn’t stand him. Then one day, the second most annoying and obnoxious person was harassing me after school, and my husband came to my rescue. I literally saw him in a different light. It was like a ray of sunshine lit his head. After that, we had conversations instead of confrontations. The rest is history—which was fortunate because history was my worst class and he was really good at it.
10. What’s your favorite southern food?
Here in South Florida, we love our gator. Here’s my recipe for Alligator Fingers.
- 2 pounds alligator meat, cut into bite-size strips
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
- oil for frying
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- Place alligator meat in a medium bowl, and mix with vinegar, salt, and pepper. Cover, and refrigerate about 10 minutes.
- Pour oil into a large skillet to a depth of 1 inch, and heat over a medium-high flame.
- In a large resealable bag, mix the flour, cornmeal, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and black pepper. Squeeze off excess liquid from the meat, and add one handful of meat to the resealable bag. Shake to coat. Remove meat, tap off excess flour, and set on a plate. Repeat with remaining meat.
- When oil is hot, place meat pieces into oil, being careful not to overcrowd. Fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes. (If you’re blind, be sure to use a timer.) Remove to paper towels, and serve hot with ranch dressing for dipping.
11. We love animals. Tell us about your pet.
Have you ever seen the Peanuts cartoon with the little dog, Snoopy, who gets up on his hind legs and dances? My dog used to do that exact thing. She’d even smile as she spun around. She was a collie/beagle mix, a beautiful dog. Perhaps it was the beagle in her that made her dance. Sadly, she was struck by a car. I think of her often.
12. What’s next in your writing life?
I’m currently writing the second book of The Amazing Wolf Boy. It picks up right where the first book ends. I love these characters and hope to write a dozen books with them. There is certainly room for mischief in Loxahatchee, Florida, where the story takes place.
Thanks for having me on Dames of Dialogue. It was a pleasure.