Tell us a little about yourself: I wrote my first story when I was seven—a short tale about a bear. At twenty-seven, I signed my first book contract. In those twenty years, I just kept writing. Unfortunately most of those stories are really, REALLY terrible and will NEVER see the light of day. I also read anything I could get my hands on all through junior high, high school, and college, but always, always I loved sweet romances. I’m a hopeless romantic, so it wasn’t a surprise that my first book was a romance. But I also love the action and adventure in suspense, so it was a natural fit for me to combine the two. Now I’ve written six books for Love Inspired Suspense (the sixth releases in March 2014) and an historical novella for Barbour. I live near Nashville and find a lot of inspiration in the history and culture of Middle Tennessee.
What is your writing day like? I don’t have a regular writing day, per se. I work full-time, so my writing time is confined to evenings and weekends. I usually try to put in an hour or so of some sort of writing most nights, and I like uninterrupted Saturday afternoons where I can settle in at Panera or Starbucks and get a couple thousand words in.
How do you organize your writing (outlines/note cards/post-its)? I used to be a seat of the pants writer. In fact my first two books were completely written as I went along. But when I pitched my third book to my editor, she wanted a very detailed synopsis, and I discovered that writing that synopsis (generally 5-10 pages) became a great outline for the book as a whole. And that’s what I write from. I have great aspirations to use color-coated note cards and line my walls with intricate outlines. But I’m an epic failure at those things. My mind understands narrative, so that’s how I keep organized in writing. I just write it out. I start small and build from that.
What’s the most surprising thing a character has “told you”? I think I’m a pretty rare writer. My characters don’t speak to me very often. I generally just see their lives play out in my mind’s eye. But I was terribly shocked when I realized that Myles (the hero in my first novel, The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn) was an undercover FBI agent. When I began writing that book he was just another prisoner. And then I realized that he’d been hiding his true identity from not only Kenzie but also from me. And it made him so much more fun to write!
Do you have a list of characters that you’re saving for future use? What kind of information do you keep on these characters? Most of my characters are tied to a future story in some way, but when I get to write a series, I’m always thinking about which character I might like to give a story of their own. Right now I’m working on a team of navy SEALs, and I love thinking about how secondary characters might get their own books some day. The great thing about writing a series is that I’ve already lived with these characters for a couple books so that I already have a good sense of who they are as people. As for the nitty gritty details, I use a spreadsheet for the name and details. Some characters are more detailed than others. The basics are all there—name, occupation, role in my book. And I fill in the extras—appearance, relationships to other characters, etc.—as I figure them out.
What does your work space/office look like? I have a couple different work areas—generally my dining room table with a comfy desk chair pulled up to it. A couple years ago I bought myself a “writing chair.” It’s a giant gray chair and a half with an ottoman. It’s the most comfortable seat in the world, and I only let myself sit in it when I’m writing. I prop my laptop on a pillow and away I go.
What is your go-to snack when writing? Well, Diet Dr. Pepper is pretty much a must. And if I’m having a hard time getting anything written—or if I have a looming deadline—then peanut butter M&Ms are magic!
If you could only recommend one NOVEL, what would it be? Why? Only one? That’s just a cruel question for someone who loves books as much as I do. 🙂 I suppose it depends on who I’m recommending it to, but the novel that I ALWAYS ask if someone has read is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. It’s such an intricately woven story in such a unique style. It’s absolutely enchanting, and the characters come to life so quickly, so truthfully.
If you could only recommend one CRAFT book (writing, no crocheting), what would it be? Why? Quick—funny story! At a writer’s conference last year during an open discussion, I asked an editor what craft book she recommended, and she looked at me like I was crazy and said she wasn’t really into crafts. She thought I was talking knitting and needle point. I was not. 🙂 My favorite craft book is probably Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. It’s one of those timeless resources that I think every writer should read. Plus, it’s written in such an engaging manner. I like it a whole lot more than I like my Chicago Manual of Style, anyway.
Is there anything else you’d like to add? Thank you so much for having me on your blog.