Tell us a little about yourself ?
I am an author/screenwriter who has been writing in some form or fashion since 1981. Over the next few decades I grew up, raised a family and basically lived life, but writing was always there to help me over all the rough patches (and there were plenty.) In 1996 I got my first agent, who unsuccessfully shopped one of my book ideas around only to be told I had a very “visual” writing style that might be better suited for screenplays. I was intimidated by the collaborative, competitive process so it took until 2002 for me to dip my toe in the pool and begin that learning process. By 2006 I optioned a film with a director with a project that inevitably got shelved due to financing. After reading the successes of independently published authors in 2011, I dusted off several of my finished projects and began self-publishing some of my more niche “Rubenesque” titles. By the next year, my “Groupie” trilogy had found an audience, which took me into the Top 20 best-selling contemporary romance titles on Amazon by November of 2012. In 2014 I landed my first traditional publisher courtesy of my new powerhouse manager who supports my being a hybrid writer (both traditionally and independently published.)
How would you describe your books?
I’ve been told I have a knack for angsty writing. I chalk that up to the decades I spent watching (and recreating) soap operas that took years to fully develop plot lines. My books inevitably tick off every single reader, with a variety of no-nos like cliffhangers, series, triangles and tragedies, but more often than not, that’s what readers tend to like best (or love to hate) about them.
What genre is your work mainly? Do you tend to stay in the same vein or are you hoping ( if not already ) to explore new ventures?
I genre-hop. I’ve written contemporary fiction, horror, paranormal romance, contemporary romance, middle-grade. Basically I write what I love to read, and I read a little bit of everything. Starting 2015, I will be co-writing a YA thriller, as well as releasing my mainstream biker drama, the Wyndryder trilogy.
Share with us a quote from one of your favorite characters in your books?
“I’m a custodian!” – Twitch/Comic Squad
"We are a species driven by innovation and creativity. The world is full of information and any number of things to learn and discover at any given time, so if you are bored, it’s your choice. As such, you’re not allowed to complain." - Rachel/Enticed
Is it hard to come up with new ideas and / or plots?
There was a time when I would consider the careers of prolific authors like Danielle Steel and Stephen King and wonder where I was going to find ideas to sustain a lifelong career as a writer. Now that I am on book 25, with 15 projects in my immediate queue, I no longer worry about that. In fact, it’s come to the point that I come up with ideas so fast it’s hard to prioritize which ones I want to write first.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Music inspired both my first novella, written when I was 14, and my first full-length manuscript, which I started at age 19. For the novella, I was lying in bed listening to the radio when the Barry Manilow “Ships” came on, which is a song with a significant story behind it. (A father and his estranged son try to connect.) My brain kind of ran with it until I filled a spiral notebook with my story. My 7th grade English teacher read it and encouraged me to keep going to make it better, since it was utter crap. (She was nice enough not to word it that way.) When I was 19, I was living out of my car in Los Angeles. I had moved with my then boyfriend and we had seriously underestimated what it would take to make the transition, leaving us homeless for about six months. I was in my car near the Amtrak tracks where we used to park every night when Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” came on the radio. At the time I was living the song, so the plot for the book came easily after that. The experience to do it justice, however, took longer. It took until 2014 to rewrite it, but it is the book that will be published next year through True North.
Who is the easiest character to write for and Why? Hardest and why?
Jordi in “Fierce” was extraordinarily hard to write, because there’s so much of me in her. The insecurities and the failures were hard to stomach that second time around as I told her story. The stalker, Talia, in the “Groupie” trilogy was a very, very creepy character that I ended up writing in the first person POV, which made me want to shower away the oogie on a regular basis.
Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scenes in your book(s)?
“Dirty Little Secrets” – the Eye is on the Sparrow scenes
“Comic Squad” – the ending
“Love Plus One” – the Hollywood Bowl date and any scene with Jorge
“Picture Postcards” – the drunk scene
“My Immortal” – the final confrontation
“Under Texas Skies” – the honeymoon, final night
“Taste of Blood” – the scene under the bed
“Groupie” – the first kiss and the cruise ship scene
“Rock Star” – the ‘it hurts’ scene
“Mogul” – the ending
“Fierce” – the canoe scene
“Unstoppable” – the final concert
“Epic” – the Christmas scene
“The Undisciplined Bride” – the elevator scene and the wedding
“Enticed” – when Rachel stands up to Drew the first time
“Entangled” – the aftermath of the pool scene
“Enraptured” – the Vegas scene
“The Leftover Club” – the first scenes in Big Bear, the karaoke scene and the Bry/Roni scenes right afterwards
“Southern Rocker Boy” – The hotel scene when Jonah unveils his “grr” side. The last time Lacy sings. Any scene between Jonah and Leah.
Do you have any hobbies?
Most of my hobbies relate right back to the writing, like reading, movies, music or travel. Anything I can learn something about the world around me.
Do you have a specific writing style?
The style depends on the story, but I’m told that I have a pretty distinct storytelling “voice.” I tend to like writing in first person, so it tends to be very conversational. I write like I talk.
How did you come up with the title?
It usually occurs to me fairly easily when I’m developing the plot, before the story is even written. I’ve only struggled on a few. Next year’s “Chasing Thunder” started as “Welcome to the Jungle” in 1989, when I first started writing it. I kept the “music” theme, using a phrase from the Journey song, “Still They Ride.”
How much of the book is realistic? Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I plant a little bit of my own history in every single book, whether the feelings that my characters are going through or their specific experiences. Books like “Fierce” and “The Leftover Club” infuse a *lot* of my personal experiences. In “Fierce,” Pilar tells Jordi that she “is a joke and always will be.” That line was lifted right from life. One of my ex-bosses said that to me in a parting email. In “The Leftover Club,” I used some of my experiences, like the first kiss and gym class, dramatizing them for effect (but not as much as you’d think.)
What books have most influenced your life most?
In all honesty, “The Bible.” Just because it crafted my outlook on life the most, in particular how to treat other people. For fiction, “Where the Red Fern Grows” and any variety of titles from Danielle Steel in the 80s taught me how to infuse heartache beautifully in emotional stories, where Happily Ever After wasn’t guaranteed, but that made the stories that much better. VC Andrews fed my addiction to series books, teaching me how to flush out a story completely. Stephen King taught me that the connection between writer and reader should be nurtured and encouraged. Jean M. Auel and Barbara Wood inspired me to write epic female characters and Jennifer Weiner gave me permission to write “un-pretty” characters defiantly and confidently.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Stephen King is the master. Anyone aspiring to write should pick up his “On Writing” ASAP. John Hughes, the filmmaker behind “The Breakfast Club,” “16 Candles,” “Ferris Bueller,” “Home Alone,” “Plains, Trains & Automobiles” was my idol and I still mourn his loss. Marie D. Jones is a personal friend of mine, who has been my biggest cheerleader since 1996. In 2010, she told me that when writing has to work there can be no plan b. My career soon took off as I followed her wise advice.
What book are you reading now?
I’ve been in the middle of “Round Robin” and "Little Earthquakes" since the beginning of the year. I have a policy that I don’t read while writing, and in the last two years I’ve done nothing but write. I’m going to balance that more in the future, though.
What are your current projects? And if you had to do it all again would you change anything?
I am in the middle of my “Southern Rockers” trilogy, which I’m releasing by the end of the year. I’m also rewriting a YA thriller and will be editing “Chasing Thunder” and starting its sequel, “Lightning Crashes” by the end of the year.
And truth be told, there is always something I change whenever I reread my material, which gets a little tricky after the title has published. They say a work of art is never finished, only abandoned. So I tinker as little as possible once I publish, and, to keep myself from getting OCD about it, I tend to let the project go after that.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
It was a Halloween assignment in the sixth grade. I hadn’t ever written anything before, though I was a voracious reader at the time. Instead of writing about a scary haunted house, I wrote about a childless couple who died, leaving the house as an orphanage. The teacher hung it on the wall with the highest accolades and there was no turning back.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
The “Southern Rockers” series is yet another foray into the world of the rich and the famous. This time the aspiring singers are from Texas, which is where their story starts. They try to balance finding love and fame, which doesn’t always work out. It will expand the Groupie universe, inevitably taking us back to Los Angeles in Book Three, “Southern Rocker Duet,” and bringing back many beloved characters from previous books.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Not having enough time or enough hands to write everything I want to write. Aside from that, the marketing part of the business has always intimidated me. I just want to write books, but as an independent publisher, I end up wearing a bunch of hats, including PR person, marketer, bookkeeper and accountant. I love it all, but it does make me long for some sort of cloning device to get everything done.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Like I said, Stephen King is the master. Though he didn’t write books, John Hughes is the storyteller I look up to the most, for the artful way he can blend all sorts of elements in a story.
Who designed the covers?
I design all my own covers. I love the creative process of it and I have very specific ideas how I want my covers to look. Eventually, due to time constraints, I’ll probably have to hire designers, though. But I always prefer to get first dibs.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Rewriting. That’s where the real work begins.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learn something from every title. A notable example was in my Groupie Trilogy, when a nasty character I had written therapeutically ended up teaching me more about forgiveness and letting go than I could have ever predicted. A friend of mine challenged to write the villain from that empathetic point of view, so it’s amazing what you learn when you turn a “bad guy” into a three-dimensional character.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
First, there ‘ain’t nothin’ to it but to do it.’ If you want to be a writer, write. Don’t let anyone talk you out of it or down from it. If you have something to say, say it, even if it’s the hardest thing you ever do. But get it done. Don’t think about writing, dream about writing or talk about writing. Plant your butt in the seat and do it. Two, don’t give up. Success won’t come easy because it is not guaranteed. But if you feel like this is what you’re supposed to do, then do it simply for the love of doing it.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for taking a chance on my books. For those who read more than one; thank you for having faith in me to entertain you. I wouldn’t be where I am today without you. I am eternally grateful for your support.
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
Again, my biggest challenge is time. I love research, but some books demand it more than others. I have a Greek mythology book idea that I would love to bring to life, but haven’t had time to scratch the surface on the research needed to complete it.
What is your favorite genre to write?
Romance. I get to fall in love again and again and again. It kinda rules.
What is your favorite genre to read?
Mainstream romance in the vein of Danielle Steel, or contemporary women’s fiction ala Jennifer Weiner.
How long have you been writing?
Do you have a favorite movie?
Top Five: Tootsie, Hairspray (2007,) Pixar’s Up, American Beauty, The Breakfast Club.
How difficult is it to come up with one of your amazing plots?
It usually starts with an idea, sort of a “What if,” kind of scenario. In the case of “My Immortal,” for example, I was chatting via IM with my best friend in 2006. It was late because we always stay up late chatting every weekend, so I teased that “we must have been vampires in a past life.” The idea stuck and I crafted the plot around the idea within about a day. I revisit this in “Love Plus One,” where my lead character is a writer who gets haunted by an idea that won’t let her go until she pounds it out into a skeleton outline. That’s how it works for me.
How about characters? Are they easily born and developed?
The characters are another thing altogether. I have an idea who they are and what they’re supposed to do to further the plot, but more often than not I won’t know who they are until they show up in the story. In “Dirty Little Secrets,” I simply wrote the opening sentence for my character, Mike, and it flipped who he was supposed to be entirely. Same thing with Twitch in “Comic Squad,” or “Shelby” in Fierce, and most recently Gaynell in “Southern Rocker Boy.” Truth be told, this is my favorite part of writing, getting to know all these incredible people I never knew were locked deep in my brain screaming to come out. I can only hope I do them justice, whether they be good or bad.
How long does it take you to complete a novel from concept to completion?
I can write a first draft in a month or less. Add the prep work and the research, probably about six to eight weeks per project. The only thing that adds significant time is the editing process.
What was you first published piece? And how was it to publish your first ever book?
I self-published four titles to start with, “Dirty Little Secrets,” “Love Plus One, “Comic Squad” and “My Immortal.” The first of those I held in my hands was “Dirty Little Secrets.” I cried. It was a dream 30 years in the making.
Have you ever trashed a novel or story before or after finishing it, feeling it wasn't turning out as you planned?
I almost did that with “The Leftover Club,” which took me several months to get around to completing. I think the biggest problem is that I had grown past her conflicts, but she hadn’t. So next year I’ll be writing “up,” meaning my characters will be one step ahead of me rather than falling behind.
Do you have a special time or place to write?
I work from home and I have a full house. The witching hour has always provided me the time and privacy to work. Unfortunately staying up all night generally screws with my regular life commitments. Still trying to find balance. These days I have the “Till-6” rule. I write before 6am or 6pm, no matter what time I go to sleep or wake up.
Any funny experiences or quirks you'd like to share with your readers?
Since I write at night, I tend to freak myself out when I write thrillers or horror stories. Hence why I have the “Till-6” rule. If you’re going to dance with devils all night, you have to wait for the sunrise to go to sleep.
Which one of your awesome books would you like to see made in to a movie?
Almost all of them. It is my career goal to be both a published author and a produced screenwriter, so I tend to adapt my books into screenplays and my screenplays into books. I have screenplays written for five of my books, with ideas for more in the future. For some, like the “Groupie” trilogy, that wouldn’t work as a movie necessarily, I’d love to adapt those for series TV.
What is your favorite band or artist?
Journey with Steve Perry, Pink, the Eagles, Prince, But I love all kinds of music and artists.
What is the worst job that you have ever done and why?
Thanks to a rather crushing social phobia, I don’t work well in customer service situations. Answering calls at a phone center was one I quickly began to dread.
Do you ever get ideas at random moments, and if so how do you hang on to them?
I write them down or repeat them over and over until I can write them down. It forces me to keep it simple until I have the time to explore it thoroughly.
Can you write on demand and under pressure, or do you need time and space before the creativity starts to flow?
I work well with deadlines. I used to just wait for the muse to show up but I’ve found she comes around a lot more often if I’m already at the computer. If you write, she will come.
How would you overcome writers block?
I try figure out the source of the block. Is it fear? Is the story not working? Once you figure out what is blocking you, you can figure out how to get around (or through) it.