Have you always wanted to be an author?
I had no idea stories were in me at all. The start of my journey starts with depression, flunking out of school, specifically community college math for liberal arts and an awful English teacher I did not like at all. In my college days, I just wasn't convinced I was going to make it and I remember one late night surfing on the computer, feeling down and I asked God for "something else". I wasn’t very specific but I was crying and just calling out to him to help me improve my grades or give me a good job without a degree. He delivered as He always does. I saw a contest hosted by a large publishing house and my dramatic crying and tears actually dried up as I tried to read the details about entering it. I would enter and later win the grand prize and that launched my writing career and changed my life. Everything in life improved, my grades, my outlook and I had a true passion and calling and I wrote that story (Family Affairs) faster than I wrote anything so I could meet the deadline and submit it. It was an awesome time. Before that, writing NEVER really occurred to me as something I would do. I had wonderful High School English teachers that said I wrote good essays but publication and multiple stories, no idea.
Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?
I think the biggest influences on my writing are my parents, in a very (later discovered) kind of way. My Mom left Georgia recruited by the government when she was 17, and moved to Virginia. My dad left college and came up here to be with her and while I didn't realize the love story I had right here, I now am in awe of the love they shared. My father died in 2011 but they had forty long years together and were high school sweethearts. As a child, you see your parents show affection and all you think is “Ewe, gross. Don't embarrass me.” But till this day, my BFF still gushes and reminds me about my parents kissing and showing affection in front of us and mentions how this impacted her because she didn’t have it in her own home life. I recall how I used to feel about those PDA's prior to growing up. With actual writing and reading, Debbie Macomber was the first to really turn me on to romance. I LOVED her stories and later of course, popular authors like Sandra Brown, Barbara Delinsky and Brenda Jackson. Currently some of my favorites include Irene Hannon, Julie Lessman and Donna Hill but I read MANY new authors all the time some I've never heard about or read before.
Can you tell us what a typical writing day for you is like.
I actually work in health and human service full time - so my writing life really only happens on the evenings and weekends. Writing my stories is almost a part of my mental health regimen and escape. As a Peer Counselor in my day job, the tragedies and atrocities people I see face are so real and even hurtful. I need escape. But I do try to get some writing in on my lunch break and sneak in a little time here and there. I do just about everything myself including arranging my own interviews and doing my own PR. I thank goodness for e-mail because it lets me get a lot done including when it's time to upload my book and get all the production stuff done. I try to write as much as I can because time is so short, and I have my own self-imposed deadlines that I try to meet and I try to arrange an event, signing, book event, or attend/teach at a writing conference workshop about 3 Saturdays out of the month so I have at least one Saturday to rest/write/plan and sleep in. But I go to a lot of conferences. I also teach at the community college 3 times a year - each time is an 8- week Write the Novel class and 3 times a year, on one Saturday, from 9 - 1:00 I do a Self Publishing Boot Camp, also at the community college. My writing has launched my platform for speaking and teaching and I wouldn't have those other outlets or streams of income if not for the books.
Let’s talk about your new book. Can you tell us a little about it?
Deadly Affections as the second book in the Parker Family Trilogy - a story about five adopted brothers and I’m only exploring three of those five. The trilogy began with Cole and Allontis’s story in (2015) Anchored Hearts. Deadly Affections visits Dexter Parker, a single father and a doctor. Years prior in his initial foster care family, he was a part of a family that was everything except good, respectable people. Dexter was also in love with another young person there in the foster home, Leedra Henderson. Leedra is all grown up, returns to Virginia and rekindles her romance with Dexter. Leedra is searching for her missing sister and that is her singular goal. Some of the themes throughout the story include forgiveness and a theme I didn’t realize was there that became clearer toward the end, is how we as human beings often lump people together thinking they are one way and they turn out not to be that way. Dexter often thought his father was one way, and such thinking caused him to miss out on the time he could have spent getting to know his biological father and permitting his father to know him and his family. By the time we realize the truth, it’s often too late. It’s easier to reach for negativity and falsehoods, than it is to ask and seek the truth and forgive. That is a painful lesson to learn and even harder when you’re running out of time. Dexter and Leedra learn many painful lessons and we get to watch and see if they can overcome their past or will their own internal struggles and outside threats keep them apart?
What is the best piece of advice you would give to a budding writer?
The best piece of advice is two fold - If you write a book -really take time to sit down and plan (and I'm not talking about planning or plotting the book (because I'm a “Pantser”), but I'm talking about planning your writer life). Those that write one book never think that they have books 2 nor 5 more books in them. Believe me when I say you will have another book in you. So with that said, you should WAIT until 2 and 3 are done before you release number one.
This is advice I wish I would have gotten and the advice to gain clarity, let go of things and to write faster, AND to wait to release - I couldn't wait with the contest, obviously but I could have really focused and done more to keep the books coming. You'll fizzle out, life will happen, family will throw a monkey wrench, but sitting down and planning things out will first give you peace of mind and free your brain of clutter but also help you gain clarity sooner. I didn’t plan anything when I started and I didn’t seek any real counsel. Now I’m a planning fool. My plans have plans. So at the end of each year, I either revamp my plan, tweak it and I note what did and did not work or what excites me so I can keep doing something or cut something out and it simply makes me feel so good and at peace. Stopping for a minute and just breathing to really think out what it all means is key. I will also say that I give myself a pass. I’ve been in publishing a VERY LONG time and I won the contest at 23 and the book came out when I was 24. I’m now 40 so I realize that some of the planning I’ve learned has come with age.
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