Have you always wanted to be a writer?
When I was young, I used to daydream about being a writer and read everything I could get my hands on, but I planned on going to school for a Fine Arts degree, and started college right after graduation. I wasn’t enjoying my classes, though, and left school and ended up working instead. I spent most of my twenties and early thirties in various sales positions before I got the idea for STILL MISSING. Six months later I sold my house and lived on savings to pursue my dream.
Where do you get your ideas?
I always have ideas bouncing around in my head. The premise for STILL MISSING came to me while I was working at an open house, and then the rest happened organically while I was writing the book. NEVER KNOWING was the result of a conversation I had with my editor, a “what if” premise, which grew into a story. In ALWAYS WATCHING I wanted to write about Nadine, the therapist in my first two novels, and I was intrigued with the debate about repressed memories and also the subject of cults. The cult in that book is inspired by a hippie commune who lived in Shawnigan Lake in the seventies.
THAT NIGHT grew from an idea I had while watching a true story on television about a man who served years for his girlfriend’s sister’s murder. I also “saw” Toni in my mind and wanted to write about her.
After I have the initial premise for a novel, the rest comes as I get to know the characters and see their world unfold in my mind. I often go for drives or long walks and ideas will come to me. Sometimes there are things I have read about, or experienced in my own life, that I want to explore through my writing. I also like to lie still, close my eyes, and let the story play through my mind like a movie. I see things in flashes of images and scenes.
How long does it take you to write a book?
STILL MISSING took over four years because I was working and also learning how to write. NEVER KNOWING and ALWAYS WATCHING each took about a year and a half. THAT NIGHT took less than a year–most of it was written while I was fueled on pregnancy hormones, and the final revisions were completed after my daughter was born.
Do you plot out your books or write organically?
STILL MISSING was written organically but I now submit an outline to my editor and try to work out as much as possible beforehand. There are still surprises that pop up when I start writing.
What is your writing schedule?
I get up early, work out, walk my dog, then turn off my Internet (I use a program called Freedom) and work in two hour blocks. I try to get most of my writing done in the morning hours. If I have marketing or other business tasks, I save those for the afternoon. Late afternoon I like to go for another walk and spend some time with my daughter before dinner and her bedtime. At night, I catch up on emails or any other work, or I chill out in front of the TV with my husband.
How do you do your research?
When I’m outlining I will often do some initial research, just so I can make sure the story holds together, then I dig deeper into the subject as I go along. I have some great sources, but I also do a lot of research online.
Occasionally it can be frustrating when I need to move forward with a section in a book and I can’t get hold of a source. I try to just work around it until I can get the information that I need.
What is your advice for newbie writers?
Be open to learning, be patient. Go to conferences, read lots of books on writing, join critique groups and online forums to get feedback. Learning how to evaluate feedback is one of the greatest challenges. The mistake I see the most with new writers is that they often want to be published so badly, they rush the process. Don’t be so in love with your own words that you can’t see how your work can be improved. Step back, get others to read it (people you trust), and keep an open mind.
The Internet is an amazing source of information. Do your homework, put in the time. And write about something you truly care about, a story that you feel passionate about. You are going to be working on it for a long time. Make sure that your premise holds up and excites you.
I also believe where there’s a will there’s a will. Yes, it can be challenging if you’re working or trying to raise a family, but if you can find a little piece of time each day, you can make it happen. When I was finishing STILL MISSING, I was working full time and trying to plan my wedding and traveling for my work, but I still found time each and every day. Everything is possible if you want it bad enough.
What are some other jobs you’ve had in the past?
When I was a teenager I worked in a restaurant as a dishwasher and a prep cook. Then I was a cashier, and eventually a store manager at a drug store. After that, I was a sales rep, traveling on the road up and down the island for eight years. In my late twenties, I got my real estate license and worked as an agent for three years before getting the idea for STILL MISSING at an open house. I quit real estate to finish the book, but I had to go back to work for a while as a real estate assistant, and again as a sales rep year during the last year I was revising STILL MISSING. Six months after the book sold to Saint Martin’s Press, and to some foreign countries, I was finally able to work full time as a writer.
Do you read all your emails?
Yes, I do! Sometimes it takes me awhile to respond, but I try to answer everyone personally. Occasionally I may lose an email in my inbox— I’m sorry if I missed yours! I love hearing from readers, but please check my FAQ pages before emailing.
What are your favorite books/authors?
I read all sorts of genres. When I was younger, I loved Stephen King, Piers Anthony, Lawrence Sanders, Sidney Sheldon, V.C. Andrews, and I read a lot of fantasy and romance. When I got older, I enjoyed Ed McBain and true crime novels, like the ones by Anne Rule. Bryce Courtney’s POWER OF ONE is probably my all-time favorite book, but I also like Pat Conroy, and many, many others. Now I enjoy reading authors like Megan Abbot and Gillian Flynn, but I’ve also been reading some young adult.
Stephen King is the author I would most like to meet and my biggest inspiration.
What are your favorite TV shows?
I love “The Voice,” “New Girl, “and the “Big Bang Theory.” I recently discovered “Weeds” and watched the whole series over a couple of weeks. In the evenings, I like to watch movies more than TV.
Can I send you my manuscript or chapters to read?
Due tomy own writing schedule I don’t have time to read anyone else’s work. My publisher and agent have also asked me not to read anything that’s not under contract for legal reasons.
I signed up to your newsletter but I haven’t got one yet?
I’ve recently switched over to a new contact management system and hopefully I will have a better bounce rate. I usually only send one or two leading up to publication of my latest book so I don’t annoy people.