1. Tell us about your latest book.
My latest book is an anthology called, SPECULATIVE JOURNEYS: An Anthology of Scifi, Fantasy and Other Strange Tales. It is a culmination of my previously published short stories. Thing about a short story is that it’s published for a short period of time and then the rights are given back. I had nearly a dozen short stories that might never be read unless I published them myself, so that’s what I did. This way, they’re available again and I can increase my readership. The stories consist of straight scifi, some fantasy, and many near future scenarios. Many are meant to be fun, and some have a much more serious theme.
2. What drew you to the science fiction genre?
I’ve always read the genre, even in grade school. I sought out Hienlin or Clarke in my school library, and remember writing little stories on scrap paper and burying them in my backyard, thinking that one day, when humans no longer existed, an alien from another planet would unearth them and find them. Reading Author C. Clark’s “Childhoods End” in middle school was the clincher. There was no turning back. I couldn’t wait until the next DUNE book came out. During those early school years, I read so much science fiction and Fantasy that I became picky. Sometimes I thought, “I could write a better story than this.” Now, all I had to do was to learn how to write. Writing scifi/fantasy seemed like a no brainer to me.
3. Why do you write short stories?
While I was a substitute teacher, I would write short stories if the students were busy doing class work. Then I submitted one. Oh, boy. What a disaster. I didn’t submit another story for anther ten years at least. I started writing a novel, and everything I read about breaking into the genre said to get a few short stories published first, so that’s what I set out to do, keeping my novel on the back burner.
4. Which of your characters haunts you the most? Why?
That’s a good question. In my short stories, it would have to be Baxter, one of my characters in “Gator Meat.” Baxter is a cancer victim deprived of medicine for monetary reasons. He takes control of his death, but I don’t want to give away the ending. You’ll have to read the story. Most of the characters who haunt me are in my novels where there is more pages to develop them. There are quite a few in GENE LINKED, my dystopian science fantasy novel for which I am currently seeking publication. All stories need a pathetic character who you should love, and most of my stories contain many. It sometimes scares me how I unintentionally put part of myself into these pathetic characters, but I guess that’s what all writers do.
5. Where do your ideas come from?
My ideas come from many places. Places I’ve traveled to, injustices I’ve witnessed, people I’ve met. I have an overactive imagination at times, and often look at the world in a “what if …” point of view. For instance, while visiting Yellowstone National Park, I asked myself, “what would happen to people if Yellowstone erupted?” Yellowstone is a supervolcano, and my research into it revealed that it is past due for an eruption. Hense, the writing of “The Yellow Stone” commenced. My husband’s belief in Big Foot led to the writing of “Global Warning.” A visit to the Florida swamp lands led to the writing of “Gator Meat.” Anyone from my immediate family will often find a story with similarities to them. For instance, my great-great uncle was in the mafia and was killed by them in the early 1930s. The story, “Domenico’s Release” is a story about a different fate for him.
6. Describe your writing process.
My writing process is evolving. I used to write by the seat of my pants, having first developed a character but not knowing exactly to what end. That proved to be a long process. I now have a more clearer vision of what needs to be written down. I am currently writing a science fiction novel and before I started I wrote simple sentences outlining the story, sort of like a rough-cut synopsis. The writing came much quicker having done this, and I’m a quarter of the way through the first draft. I write in the same place each day. I love my writing room. It has a fire place and green walls, and I’m surrounded by books. Science texts, writing books and a shelf for all my favorite authors. Among them you will find books by China Mieville, Karen Miller, Brent Weeks, Neil Gaiman, Mark Twain, James Joyce, Author C. Clark, Ernest Hemingway … and Maggie Bishop. I simply can not write without being surrounded by books.
7. How do you use your science/medical background in your writing?
I have a PhD in Molecular Biology, and a BS in Horticulture. I’ve come up with many ideas through my knowledge, but most importantly, it is my inquisative nature to ask questions and seek answers that allows me to explore various possibilities on paper. A scientist is who she is because she always looks for answers or reasons, so this “what if…” question I often ask myself stems from that. I don’t like to read scifi bogged down with tons of science, so I don’t write that way. I simply bores me. However, there will ALWAYS be a sprinkling of science, nature and plant dogma in my stories.
Also, science fiction is fiction, but the science must be real. When I write scifi, I try to be careful about my facts. That’s why very little I write is straight science fiction. I hate labels. There are so many sub-genres and most of the Science Fiction I write contains elements of the fantasy world.
8. Who influenced you the most in your writing?
Nobody ever encouraged me to be a writer. They didn’t have to, because that’s all I did since I could remember. I do remember that pivotal moment when I told myself, “I am going to be a writer some day.” English class, my first year of college. We were to write an essay about something that happened in our life that caused us to see things differently. I wrote an essay about the flood my family and I had been through. The essay was read to the class as an example of how writing could stir emotions. My teacher later commended me for the piece. I still have that essay.
I’ve been influenced by quite a few writers. Much of the early SciFi was written by men who depicted their female characters as subservient, catering to a man’s every need, wimpy … the list goes on. I got so tired of reading about sex slaves. I think most men do a really bad job at depicting female characters, regardless the genre. They just don’t “get” what women are really about, and when they write scifi/fantasy their fantasies go wild. However, these writers influenced me because I realized the need for more realistic, strong female protagonists in the genre, and only a woman could do that.
It wasn’t until I read Octavia Butler that I saw the tide turning. I loved her stories. A more recent author, Karen Miller, is another with strong, fearless, and at times heartless female protagonists you can’t get enough of. And of course you have Rachel Caine. Many current male scifi writers have come to write their female protagonists very well. Jack McDevitt is one, and I loved his Priscilla “Hutch” Hutchins series. It’s about time, since most of the readers are women.
9. How did you meet your husband? We love a romance.
I met my husband in graduate school. When he pulled the chunky monkey ice cream out of the freezer I knew then that we would marry some day. Most of our early days together were spent discussing science. Not exactly romantic, but you throw in the ice cream and a sky full of stars, things can get pretty hot. That’s all I’m saying.
10. Tell us about where you live — we love to travel.
I live in central Pennsylvania with my husband and two children. We have twenty acres of woods we share with turkeys, deer and the occasional fox.
11. What’s a favorite food from your part of Pennsylvania?
Growing up, I was surrounded by great food. My favorite is spaghetti, hands down. My mother is Italian, so I grew up on homemade sauces and pastas. There was once a very cohesive Italian community in this part of Pennsylvania, and I was fortunate growing up with grandparents, aunts and uncles within it. Sadly, I also witnessed its demise, but that Italian flavor will always be in my kitchen. My father was Pennsylvania Dutch/Swedish, and his mother was an excellent cook. My mother adopted many of her recipes, my favorite being homemade strawberry shortcake, everything from scratch, and Chicken Pot Pie, my kids’ favorite. It is my great grandmother’s recipe, and requires 1/2 egg shell of water. Don’t confuse it with an ordinary table spoon, because that throws off everything.
I am a stickler for homemade, natural food, and if I don’t have time to bake a pie, I simply don’t eat it.
12. What’s next in your writing life?
I am currently seeking publication for a dystopian science fantasy (I hate labels) novel, I have an urban fantasy novel on its last round of polishing, and a science fiction novel I started a month or so ago that I’m a quarter way through the first draft. I hope to pitch my urban fantasy novel at the Pennwriters Conference in May if the final revisions go well , and IF my synopsis is completed. What’s the old saying? You never quite finish revising a story, you just get tired of looking at it.