Tell us a little about yourself and your book?
Well, I live in New London, Connecticut with my husband Tim and our son Cameron where we have a menagerie of very, very spoiled pets including a couple of collies, two birds, a bunny, a cat, and an aquarium full of fish which the cat thinks is The Fish Channel. We live in a lovely Victorian home, which was built in 1902, that we restored ourselves. It’s been both rewarding and a money pit all at the same time, but we love it. I homeschooled my son which was truly the greatest adventure of my life and he’s now a straight A student at Holy Apostles College and Seminary here in CT, and still lives at home which I’m thrilled about.
Aside from writing books, I edit other people’s books and scripts to make them funnier. I also freelanced for the past several years, writing everything from stand-up routines for comedians, to comedy skits, to radio commercials, and pretty much everything in between. I’ve been quite lucky because my work is very much like play, with the exception that people actually pay me money to do it.
My theme of my latest book, Surviving Gretchen, is about the importance of friendship, mutual trust, and never taking the people you care about for granted. It follows the lives of two 13- year-old best friends—Abby and Emma—and what happens to them when an extremely jealous girl name Gretchen tries to weasel her way in between them. There’s high drama as well as plenty of humor. There’s also a goat.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
To become rich and famous of course. No actually my goal is to create humorous, wholesome, entertaining fiction that appeals to all ages.
When my son Cameron was younger he was a very advanced reader for his age, and it was quite difficult for me to find books to challenge him with that didn’t have unsuitable content.
So I want my books to be ones parents can feel confident about when their children read them, knowing there won’t be anything even remotely inappropriate thrown in, but at the same time be something teenagers will think is “cool,” and adults will also enjoy.
Which writers inspire you?
There are quite a few actually. From a very young age I loved Erma Bombeck. Her take on things was just so funny and real. She had a HUGE influence on my interest in writing humor. Stephen King inspires me as his writing style is just so darned good. I mean if this guy were to write a 937 page instruction manual on how to unclog a toilet it’d still be highly entertaining stuff. Same thing goes for Dean Koontz. No matter what that guy writes, every single sentence is just so beautifully constructed. Jane Austen is another inspiration for me, as her character portrayals are just so amusingly realistic. And last but not least, Lemony Snicket, of all people, because of how weirdly wonderful his writing is. I firmly believe that if we could stick them all together in a blender the result would be the world’s greatest writer.
Give us some insight into Emma and Abby, the two main characters in Surviving Gretchen.
They are inseparable best friends, and have been so for their entire lives. Their two families are more like one big happy family even though Abby’s is quite well-to-do and Emma’s isn’t. Emma is a very sweet, quick-witted ball of energy, who can also become quite reserved at times. She cares just a little bit too much about what other people think of her and she keeps a lot of things bottled up inside of her, which doesn’t really work out all that well for her. Abby is quite vivacious and outgoing. She’s got a great, big heart—to the point where she’ll go out on a limb to help both friend and foe alike—and she’sfiercely loyal to Emma.
Tell us a little bit about the character of Gretchen?
Gretchen’s the new girl in town who’s actually quite insecure but tries to hide all of that behind a snooty façade. But she’s also shallow, spoiled, jealous and manipulative. Her mom is like the epitome of a superficial social climber, and that has a direct influence on her daughter. She tells Gretchen she needs to become best friends with “the richest, most popular girl in town” who just happens to be Abby. Yet Abby’s best friends with Emma, which bothers Gretchen to no end that Abby would rather hang out with someone whom Gretchen thinks is “beneath her” and so Gretchen takes it as a direct, personal insult and she sets out to do anything and everything she can to come between Abby and Emma, and ultimately take Emma’s place.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on the first chapter of the second book in The Storms of Friendship series and I’m having a blast with it. It’s been a few months since I finished writing Surviving Gretchen, so bringing these characters back to life again is a lot like visiting with really good friends I haven’t seen in a while. Also the book opens up on Christmas Eve, so it’s a lot of fun writing that at this time of year. With my first book Christmas Madness, Mayhem, and Mall Santas, which is obviously about Christmas, I wrote it in the scorching heat and humidity of the summer, so the feeling was anything but festive, so writing an actual Christmas scene at Christmas time seems pretty nice.
What was the most difficult part of writing your book?
That would have to be when one of the characters develop panic attacks, which I’ve actually suffered from off and on for years. There’s one scene in particular where this character had a very intense panic attack and when I wrote it I actually began experiencing some of the same feelings she was having. So much so that I had to stop and come back to it a few days later. I guess maybe it’s what you might call becoming just a bit too involved with your work.
How much research did you do while writing Surviving Gretchen?
I really didn’t have to do much at all—other than consulting with a friend of mine who’s a medical doctor. And it’s a really good thing I did as she saved me from creating some unintended humor where humor didn’t belong. At all. She still teases me about it.
When did you decide to become a writer?
When I about seven or eight, I used to pull out my mom’s old typewriter and “pretend” to write books, although I didn’t even know how to type. As I grew up I always had it in the back of my mind that I’d love to be a writer, but figured my writing would never be good enough so I really never tried. So it just sort of stayed a secret fantasy of mine. That being said, I read everything I could get my hands on about writing, took a couple of courses, and got involved with some online writing groups. Yet despite all of that I still pretty much avoided writing at all costs. Which doesn’t make a lot of sense, but in a way it does as my fear of failure was just too great. I figured if I actually wrote anything then I’d find out how terrible I was at it and that secret fantasy of mine would be squashed like a bug on a windshield.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
This is my biggest obstacle. I work from home—and have a lot of distractions—so it can be quite difficult for me to fully concentrate for long periods of time, which is essential for me when I’m writing. The one thing I’ve found recently that works out great though–when I can actually haul myself out of bed at that hour—is to get up around three in the morning to write. For me there’s just something about being up in the wee hours of the morning that seems to promote creativity where I can get a few solid hours of writing in before both the people and the dogs in my house wake up wanting breakfast.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
I start out with a loose outline, but the story usually ends up going in a completely different direction than I’d planned for it to. I’ve found that when I can devote my full attention to the story, as crazy as this sounds, the characters almost seem to take over. There are times where I feel like I’m just watching it all play out, while I try to jot it all down as fast as I can. For me this is by far the most magical part of writing. The characters can—and do—sometimes take the storyline in directions I never would’ve imagined. They also don’t always behave in the way you wish for them to.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I never thought myself capable of writing an entire novel—never mind an entire series. I figured I could never write in that much depth. When the opportunity arose to write Surviving Gretchen I really had to push myself to my creative limits and found out it was actually a pretty cool place to be, even though it was much harder work than I ever thought it could be.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Finding the time I need to fully immerse myself in the story and block out all outside distractions, which is very hard, unless I get up at three a.m. I’ve been trying to convince my husband to build me a writing shed out in the backyard, but I doubt it would help as my dogs, which are two big furry, in-your-face distractions, would just follow me out there anyway, so I doubt a writer’s shed would really do me much good anyway.
What do you love about writing?
I love the whole creative aspect of it. I love being able to create characters, the situations they find themselves in and the worlds they live in out of nothing but my imagination. And then inviting others into this world to experience the story. I also love playing with words and trying to craft them into something I wouldn’t be able to do if I were just talking instead of writing.
This book is part of a series called The Storms of Friendship. Tell us a little more about the series?
The Storms of Friendship series follows Emma and Abby, as well as the people they’re closest to, through both the good times and bad times of their lives. With surprising twists and turns, it focuses on the importance of true friendship and how relationships evolve over time.
What book/s are you reading at present?
I actually have a weird, quirky thing going on where I absolutely cannot read anything, if I can help it, at the same time that I’m writing. I just don’t want to have anyone else’s writing influencing my own, or compare my writing with someone else’s. But when I’m not writing I binge read.
The cover of the book looks astonishing! Tell us about the cover and how it came about.
Thanks! My publisher and I worked very hard together to find something to reflect the tone of the friendship between the two main characters. After trying on many different looks that neither one us were sold on, we finally came across Claudia Tremblay’s incredible artwork, and we instantly knew we’d settle for nothing else. She did an amazing job and we’re very proud to have her art gracing the cover of the book.
What part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book?
It comes as sort of surprise to some writers—as it did to me at first—that you can’t just do what you love to do (which is write) and not have to do any marketing. But books don’t just magically fall into reader’s hands. Someone once told me that you could write the most magnificent book in the history of mankind but no one would ever know about it if all it did was sit on a back shelf in a back room of a bookstore. And that’s basically what happens if a book isn’t marketed properly. So part of the writer’s job is to help bring their work out to the front of the bookstore, so to speak, by promoting it and helping to market it so it will get noticed. I would say a writer needs to devote at least 20-25% of their writing time to marketing. And once you start it’s actually a lot more fun than you think it’ll be.
What do you think of “trailers” for books? Do you intend to create one?
I think book trailers are a fantastic as they give potential readers more insight into what the book is all about, far more than if they just read a simple synopsis on the back cover. And yes, we do have one in the works.
How do you relax?
Relax? What’s that? Haha. Actually, I do find writing relaxing, when I can fully get into “the flow” of it. I also enjoy going on great family adventures, in addition to camping, bicycling, picnics, almost anything that involves being outside really, tennis, playing the piano, composing music, and spending time with our animals.
What is your favorite motivational saying?
That’s easy. “With God all things are possible.” I know from personal experience how true that is. I also love that Nike saying “Just do it.” As I take that to mean you shouldn’t let anything hold you back from achieving your dreams, and usually the biggest thing holding someone back is themselves.
What writer—living or dead—would you like to meet and why?
I would have to say Dean Koontz. I’m a huge fan and I think he’s just about the most eloquent wordsmith there is. And he’s so prolific. I also know how dedicated he is to his writing and how much he enjoys it—which definitely comes across in his work. So I’d love to sit and pick his brain about several different things.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
To never give up on your dreams, and to never tell yourself that your writing won’t be good enough. Also, writing every day is key—no matter what it is you’re writing. You know, it could be anything from beginning a new chapter in your book to writing an obnoxiously long facebook status—just as long as you write. And once you publish your first book, take reviews with a grain of salt. If you get a negative review, don’t take it to heart. Even the best books written by the greatest authors get bad reviews sometimes. Find something in that less than stellar review that might help you to improve your writing in the future. If your reviews are great, try really hard not to get an overinflated ego and act like Guilderoy Lockhart about it. 😉
How can readers discover more about you and you work?