Author of Babes in Spyland, New Sight-YA fantasy out April 2014, wearer of a black belt in Kempo and always in search of the next cool place to visit!
1- What does your writing process look like?
Imagine a desk, and at one end is a neat, little pile of papers. Next to that is another pile, this one not quite so tidy. Maybe one paper is slipping off the stack, which leads the eye to an array of notes that may have been, at one time, in a pleasing fan shape, but now looks like someone gave it a noogie. This is usually where you will discover the discarded wrappers of whatever snacks I could find. A glass with the glazed on remains of a Diet Coke will be sitting on a Dr. Who coaster, and the little cup for pens will be empty, because the pens are now hiding under the papers. When your eyes reach the keyboard, you'll see that everything has been pushed aside to make room for me playing of Facebook.
2-What book do you wish you could have written?
Ender's Game. That book has captured so many people's imaginations, I would love to have been the person to have written it. Plus, Ender's Game sits somewhere in the middle of commercial fiction and literary fiction, a place I hope to venture someday.
3-How important are names in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any other name choosing resources you recommend?
Names are very important, and I'm sometimes horrible at finding just the right one. Ages ago, I bought a baby name book--a book that my fiance packed up when we got married and moved in together and was a little concerned about--and I often use that to find names. Sometimes I look at meanings. Often I will end up with names that all sound the same (one syllable for instance) or all start with the same letter. When that starts to happen, I find a letter I haven't used and I flip open the book. Sometimes I use the web too. Especially if I need, say, legitimate last name from Africa .
In my first novel, New Sight, I couldn't think of a name for the bad guys, so I named them the New until I came up with something better. By the time I got finished writing the book, the New had stuck. It's a dumb name, but now it's theirs.
4-What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
This one is easy, and maybe you're expecting me to say "Finishing my first manuscript!", but that's not it at all. While writing isn't easy, it's something that I can do. What I struggled for six years to get is my black belt in Shaolin Kempo. I'm a round girl--always have been--and I had to put some seriously hard, physical effort into every single thing I did at the dojo. I can write all day, but ask me to do a push up, and I still inwardly roll my eyes and do them from my knees. So yeah, black belt. I'm pretty proud of that.
5-What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors.
Years ago, I was at a little, tiny writing/Sci-fi/Fantasy convention and I went to a class by a guy I'd never heard of. A guy named Brandon Sanderson. His first Librarians book was about to come out, and he was talking about magic systems. I don't really remember what he said about that. What I do remember is one simple statement he made, "Don't be afraid to suck."
I've lived by this creed ever since. Don't expect to be the best author in the room, don't expect to get everything right the first time, and don't expect to wow every reader you encounter. What all authors need to do is keep writing. Find some people who will help you get better and listen to them. It's okay to suck, as long as you're willing to try again.
6- Do you read reviews? Do you respond the them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I started out reading my reviews, but quickly gave up. Partly because it's like an emotional roller coaster with some ups, some downs and often times afterwards I just wanted to throw up. My fix for all of this was to have my husband read them. He then tells me if there are any common threads. For instance, if three or four people say they felt the ending was rushed, then that's something I should look at.
I remember getting a review of my first novel that said it was horrible and she couldn't connect with the characters and she didn't even make it through the book. I was devastated. How could anyone be so mean? In a fit of rage, I looked up her blog to see if she was mean to everyone, or if it was just me. That's when I found out that she reviews fluffy romances, not action/Sci-Fi/Fantasy stories. No wonder she didn't make it through, there wasn't nearly enough googly eyes and sexual tension for her. That's when I asked my hubby to read the reviews for me. One romance writer hated my book. That's totally fine, but her feedback isn't terribly pertinent to me, because I'm not writing Twilight.
7-What is your biggest failure?
I still haven't received any death threats for killing off a character. This will happen.
8-What is your biggest fear?
The dark. No, wolves. No, the lack of toilet paper in the apocalypse.
9-What do you want your tombstone to say?
Okay, two things here. The mom of one of my best friends growing up wants this on hers, and I think it's brilliant, "See, I told you I was sick." I can probably talk my husband into this.
If not that, then something silly. None of the sweet, tear jerking messages that people leave. Those are lovely, but not really me. I'm more like, "Did you turn the lights off before you left?" or, "Be good. There is no try."
10-If you had a superpower, what would it be?
Flying. Fast. Then I'd figure out some weapons and the bad guys would hate me. Buahahaha!
11-What super talents do you have?
I'm killer at writing dialogue.
I'm really good at making people feel stupid (the question didn't say good super talents).
I'm good at diffusing tense situations. With either humor or logic.
Sometimes I think I'm around to look dumb, just so other people can feel good about themselves.
12-What is one place you want to visit that you haven't been before?
I've had the opportunity to travel a lot, but I've never been to Antarctica. I know it sounds insane, but I totally want to go! Seriously, penguins and the driest place on earth. Plus ice. I'm so there.
13. If you could have an accent from anywhere in the world, which one would you choose?
Hello, 10th Doctor British please.
14. What is something you want to accomplish before you die?
Keeping my flower gardens weeded for more than two weeks of the summer. I abhor yard work (don't hate me) and at some point I'm going to simply pay someone to do it. Lazy? Yes. But it keeps me from wanting to punch more things than usual.
There are plenty of other serious goals, such as: running a 5k (I hate running almost as much as yard work), traveling to all 7 continents, getting a fan letter that tells me that my book/story helped them through a hard time, beating my husband at wrestling without having to resort to pressure points, surviving a 2nd degree black belt test, go into space...the list goes on and on.
15. What were you like as a child?
An angel. Not lying. My favorite things were helping my dad with home improvement projects--this meant that I followed him around with a bucket of tools, hanging out with my friends and reading. I hardly ever got in trouble, and I always wanted to be good. This may be why my characters get into so much trouble. Repressed childhood issues.
16. Do you dream? Do you have any recurring dreams/nightmares?
I do dream, and they are very random. It gets worse if I watch sci-fi before bed. Anime is the best catalyst for extreme bizarrity.
However, I don't really have nightmares. I remember having one as a kid where my grandpa's car ate me. I was so young that I was still in a crib. I clearly recall waking up and looking through the bars. I had one about ghosts when I was in Ireland on vacation about 10 years ago (maybe a haunted hotel) and that's pretty much it. I'm grateful for this.
17. Top five favorite titles (Not just books)
In no particular order:
Star Wars, the original trilogy. It's nostalgic, I can't help it.
Ender's Game. I still love that story so much. It has to be the book, not the sorry excuse of a film they made.
Ever After. I don't know why, but this show never gets old.
The Walking Dead-the TV show. I've never read the comics. Whole. E. Cow. I shouldn't watch it, but I can't stop!
The Elenium series by David Eddings. Not the most spectacular writing, but they drew me into fantasy as a teenager, and his characters are brilliant. It's like going on a road trip with all of your favorite people.
18. When you walk into a book store, where do you head first?
Fantasy and Sci-Fi. Either adult or YA. Whichever I find first. Although if there is a cafe, I might get a snack before I start. Looking at books is both exhilarating and exhausting.
19. Describe yourself in four words.
Evil and easily amused.
20. Top ten snacks while writing.
Soda Stream Cola on ice. I can't get enough
Pretzel Thins, they go great with the cola
Those little Cadbury crack eggs
Rice Cakes-Carmel Corn is preferred
In-N-Out Burger or Pace's Dairy Ann, whichever is closer
Any innocent chocolate that doesn't get hidden
In reality, if there are snacks, I'm not writing, so usually I keep water or cola at my desk and that's it. Mostly cold water.
21.When did you first start writing, and when did you finish your first book?
I started writing when I was a young teenager. Maybe 13. If you read the dedication in Fractured Memories, it mentions my dad watching Aliens with me. Once I recovered from being too terrified to move off of my yellow bing bag, I started writing myself into the tale.
Don't judge, many a writer has started with fan fiction.
Those were awful, and after college my writing waned a little. Then a friend wanted to start a writing group and asked me if I would help her. A few months after that a member of the group mentioned something called NanoWriMo. I'd never heard of it, and I was sure anyone who tried to write 50,000 words in a month was completely insane.
Two days before the month started, I scratched a loose plot on a scrap of paper while I was waiting to see the doctor about my knee that I almost took out in my Kempo class. That was the year I joined the insanity. I finished that novel and have done NanoWriMo for a good 10 years. It took me three years to finish the initial story that I started. After that, I just kept writing. Most of the early stuff is craptastic, but all the suckage has to go somewhere, right?
22. Where do you get your ideas? Where did the idea for this book come from?
My brain is a bizarre place. I've gotten book ideas while driving on the freeway, while in church (and not light, fluffy ideas, which is strange), while at dinner, while trying to work on something else (that's just mean, by the way) and in dreams.
The very first shadow of Fractured Memories that I had was while I was in college. Too many years ago to count. I had this dream. In it I woke up and found myself on a round bed in a cave. I had no idea where I was or who I was. There was a man sitting at a desk trying to do some paperwork by candle light. He looked like the guy who plays Goose in Top Gun. I said something and scared him half to death. When he turned to look at me, he asked if I was okay.
And that's when I woke up.
The scene isn't in the book. As a matter of fact, the only thing left of the dream in the story is Wendy (who is not me--I'm not nearly that cool or traumatized) waking up and not knowing where she is. The part that remains is the feel of the dream. It was dark and cold and felt so alone. Wendy gets all of that. Poor kid.
23. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I'm an outliner. The more I wade through the story before I start, the less times I have to rewrite it. I have a whole list of things I go over as I plan, including plot points, a theme, the characters needs and desires, the main conflicts and as many other little things that I can think about before I actually begin writing.
However, things always, always, always change. It's taken me a few years to realize that it's okay to rewrite a story. Six times. It just takes a while. My process is getting better, but I suspect that I will always have a throwaway rough draft that ends up only getting about 20% of it into the final manuscript.
I've tried the "just write" approach, and for me it always ends in a spectacular temper tantrum by me and a shopping spree.
24. Can you tell us about your upcoming book? Why should anyone read it?
Fractured Memories is a kick a**, YA Post-Apocalyptic novel that 's one part action, one part horror, and one part fun.
I once heard an author say that when you tell people about your story, you should look and act as if you are telling them about the first time your baby said "ma ma.". I totally feel this way about Fractured Memories. Wendy is a character that's been rolling around in my head for a lot of years. Her friends have been lurking as well. They all have hopes, they all have dreams, they all have faced sorrows and horrors that hopefully none of us have to face. They're scarred, but they're still people, and they still care about others.
The world in the book has changed, but the ever-present need for friendship and trust will never die. That's what this book is about. Wendy is alone, on a mission to avenge her family at any cost, when these pesky teenagers befriend her. Hard to plot revenge when someone is trying to make you laugh.
25.Will you have a new book coming out soon?
Oh goodness, I hope so.
Right now I'm writing some short stories that go before my first novel, New Sight. (New Sight is not the same story as Fractured Memories) Those should be out this summer. I'm pretty excited about these, they're origin stories for the characters of that series. Then New Sight 2--oh how I hate finding just the right title--will be out in the fall. Barring a disaster in my life, the second book of Fractured Memories should be out early next year.
26. What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
Like all good stories, there's a character that's just a jerk. Think Malfory in Harry Potter. In FM, his name is Dennis. Wendy takes him down in a fight the first time they meet, and he's pissed about it. In the middle of the book, he tries to extract his revenge, and what he does to Wendy is pretty terrible. But what Wendy does in return is bad enough to make me both flinch and let out an evil laugh at the same time.
It wasn't in my original version of the story, but all of my beta readers felt as if Dennis had gotten off too easy. That is no longer the case. I honestly didn't know I would get as much glee out of Wendy hurting him as I did.
27. What made you want to write a book about a girl with PTSD?
Okay, so I'd written the story twice before I figured out that Wendy had PTSD.
Let me go back a bit. A few years ago, I was on my way to a writing retreat with two other writers. We're driving on the freeway, and my sister calls. This is what came out of her mouth.
"I just finished Mocking Jay, and if you ever write a character like that, I will kill you."
"Uh, hi, how's it going?"
"I haven't read it yet."
"Don't. I hate her. I hate the author. 'l'll disown you then kill you."
After I read the story, I had to agree with her. Suzanne Collins is brilliant, and she totally got her point across, but I didn't like the characters in the last book. This is not the reaction I want from my readers.
Fast-forward a few years, and I'm at a writing retreat. At the same place, coincidently. My friend runs it, and she was short a few people, so I'm pretty much there for moral support and to be a warm body. Plus, she's a chef. Hello, delicious food? Yes, please.
There was an agent from New York there who was going to review whatever we sent her. I sent the first chapter of Fractured Memories, which I wasn't really working on at the time. Not because I cared about what she said or thought about it, but because my friend told me to.
Well, it's a good thing I didn't care, because she ripped it to shreds. Most of her analysis was spot-on, the other part of it was complete B.S. Mostly because she'd skimmed it and missed stuff. I think she took my dispassionate reaction to her rant as offense, so she backpedaled and asked me a few questions about the story.
I told her about Wendy's compound getting completely destroyed and Wendy waking up with strangers, alone and with a memory full of holes. She seemed interested in that, so I went on and told her that Wendy didn't remember the attack and therefore didn't know who betrayed them. She has flashes of memories, but nothing substantial.
This editor, bless her heart, look at me and said, "Have you read the Hunger Games?"
"I hate the third book."
"Good, then you won't be offended by this. Your character has PTSD. Katniss had PTSD, but the author didn't do a good job of explaining it to the reader. Please don't do that. Do your research and make sure your readers get it, or they'll all think your character is as bad as Katniss."
New Sight, my fist series, has undertones of addiction. I don't have a history of mental illness, but lots of people around me do, and I think it's an area that a lot of people deal with. It kind of fascinates me, and that comes out in my books.
(Jagged Scars #1)
Publication date: May 20th 2015
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Sixteen year old Wendy never knew the world before the Starvation. She’s learned to put her trust in her knives, and her confidence in her fighting ability. When the Skinnies attack her compound, she’s the lone survivor.
Injured and near death, Wendy is rescued and nursed back to health by mysterious strangers. Her saviors offer her a place among them, but trust has never been one of Wendy’s strengths, and suspicion soon leads to evidence that these people might be the group who killed her family.
The decision to get her revenge, and take the settlement down from the inside out is easy. Keeping her distance from those she must befriend in order to make it happen proves to be much more difficult.