There are a few things I need to confess. As a child, I never read much for pleasure because I was a painfully slow reader. I went faithfully to the bookmobile and library, but rarely finished a book. Then, after I married, my husband read The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Reader’s Digest condensed version) to me and from then on, I took off as a reader, devouring books non-stop when I wasn’t doing my college homework. I learned to love reading and the ability of a good story to transport me to other worlds.
Other things I love—
I love to watch the leaves change from green to shades of yellow, orange, and red as the days shorten and the wind nips at my cheeks. Then, when a gust of wind sends them whirling through the air, raining down or surfing the breeze—that’s awesome, too.
I love sightseeing with my husband, who provides the history behind the sights. I love places with mountains, seashores (the sound of the waves is mesmerizing), rolling hills, manicured gardens, desert sunsets, architecture—you name it.
I love spending time outdoors—even if it’s just mowing the lawn or shoveling snow, but my favorite things to do are hiking, archery, gardening, rock climbing, canoeing, drawing, and just gabbing with my husband and kids.
I love researching for my stories and concocting a blend of history and fiction to produce the finished novel. My favorite part of the research process is spending hours rummaging through nineteenth-century newspapers in the special collections room in the local library and finding some gems hidden in the lines that make my stories more real.
I love being the mother of four wonderful kids and the grandmother of six amazing grandkids. My hope is that they will grow to love reading and writing as much as I do. My recent reads have been by Sarah M. Eden, Julie Klassen, and Josi Kilpack. I also love the works of Jane Austen and Lucy Maud Montgomery—two truly brilliant trailblazers. I feel grateful for their friendship—shared with me through their literature.
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Tell me about yourself. What inspired you to write?
My mother was a creative writer, as were my grandmother and great grandfather. So I suppose my desire is somewhat innate. I wrote my first story when I was in third grade—some absurd tale about Dracula. (For some reason, I was very obsessed with Dracula at that time.)
Describe your desk / writing space.
I write at my kitchen table, which has to be somewhat organized or else I have to stop and clean up my workspace. I also need it relatively quiet to keep my train of thought as I become easily distracted. I usually play music to match the mood of what I am writing, but it must be instrumental and must be background music, not blaring from my speakers.
Do you have a writing routine, or do you write when inspired?
I try to write every day—whether it is on my own work or editing the work of others. I also keep my computer or a notebook handy so I can jot down ideas that occur to me. I’ve also been known to get up in the middle of the night to write down a scene or dialogue that occurs to me because I know I’ll forget my inspiration by morning. Sometimes I read these jottings and wonder why I thought they were inspirational and sometimes they are truly golden.
How do you come up with the title to your books?
This is my true weakness. Usually my sister, who is my beta reader, shoots down my first ideas for titles. Sometimes she even suggests one. I bounce ideas off my family members until I hit on one that everyone thinks works.
What was the hardest scene for you to write?
What types of scenes are your favorite to write? Fight scenes are always my nemesis. They take many rewrites and much consultation. I like to write dialogue and have playful banter take place. Thinking up snarky comebacks is always fun.
What inspired your book/series?
I actually wrote Ninety-Nine White Horses, Book 2 in my Gilded Age Romance series first. The creative seed for this book was planted in my brain the moment I thumbed through the book, What They Say in New England; a Book of Signs, Sayings, and Superstitions, by Clifton Johnson, published in 1896 by Lee and Shepard Publishers. This was way back in 1988. At the time, I was working as a student assistant at Eli M. Oboler Library at Idaho State University. Dusting, shelf reading, and book shifting can become very tedious tasks, so when I came across this gem, I sat down to take an unofficial break. It was then that the superstition about the ninety-nine white horses started to gallop through my mind. That was over thirty years ago, and shame on me for having taken so long to write this story. Some seeds just take longer to germinate, grow, and bear fruit than others, I guess. The Gilded Age has always interested me, and when I began researching it for fun, I knew I’d found my niche.
What are you working on next?
For my next book, I will be following one of the characters from Little Eden to Montana and Wyoming and focusing on an adventure on the copper mining kings and cattle baron wars that took place there around 1890-1900. I am still in the planning stage but am anxious to get started.
What authors or books have influenced you to start writing?
I love classics, like Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, as well as everything Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, and Elizabeth Kleghorn Gaskell. In my writing, I seek to bring my characters alive as these women did. I also love Julie Klassen’s works. For my upcoming novel, I find inspiration in Kirby Larson’s Hattie Big Sky.
If you had to compare your writing to another author which one would that be?
I would have to say that my novels are a blend of the works of Lucy Maud Montgomery and Edith Wharton—heartwarming, clean fun combined with the outrageousness and selfishness of Gilded Age society.
Is there genre you’d like to write but never have?
I would like to attempt a cozy mystery series.
Do you enjoy writing short stories or long form i.e., manuscripts? And why?
I have found short stories harder to write than a novel. In fact, my book, Pearls & Steel, started out as a short story prequel to Ninety-Nine White Horses, but I found that I needed to tell the whole story of Sheridan Baird and Elinor Taylor. So, consequently, it grew into a novel length story. I think I prefer writing novels because I like to flesh out the stories and their characters and follow them to their end.
What advice would you give to unpublished writers?
Studying how to write a good book has helped me become a better writer and editor. The Great Courses offers a course called How to Write Best-Selling Fiction that really helped me understand what needs to go into a story and where it needs to go in order to be a successful and satisfying read. That was where my schooling in writing began. I’ve since continued to study other instructors, like Dwight Swain, Deborah Chester, Lisa Cron, John Truby, Shawn Coyne, Sol Stein, and many more. By studying the craft, I find my own work improving with every book I write.
Do you have a new book coming out? If so, what’s the title and when?
I have just completed my third novel, Little Eden, which takes place in Gilded Age Newport. It is still in the revision stages, and I hope to have it out later this year. I also completed a short story, Angelica’s Tale, which is a prequel to my first book, Pearls & Steel, and will be out for distribution soon.