When people find out I'm a writer, questions always abound. Here are a few of the most common ones, with my biased and uneducated answers . . .

 What is wrong with you?

 I don't know. I choose to believe this question comes up frequently because I don't seem like someone with lunatic murderers in my psyche. At least, I don't think so.

For the record, I'm an ordinary person and mostly I'm pretty nice. I carry no weapons, am not given to violence, and while some scary characters occasionally inhabit my brain, I can honestly say that I have never personally known any of them in real life. At least, I don't think so.  I'm just a sucker for a good chase featuring a hot hero, kickbutt heroine, and creepy villain.  So that's the kind of story I write.  [back to top]

 Where do you get your ideas?

 I don't know. I'd love to be able to tell you there's an Idea Bank where writers can go and withdraw what they need and maybe even deposit extra thoughts for safe keeping and future use. In reality, the only idea bank for me is life--the grocery store, the news, books and magazines, a trip down memory lane to the last family reunion. And my husband will tell you I'm one of those Venus women who wants to talk it out. (It takes a brave and confident man to sleep soundly after the type of pillow talk we have.) Actually, I have found that ideas strike all the time, by the dozens, but usually I don't realize I'm being hit at the time. They pop up later as a possible solution to a problem.

For me, getting the Grand Idea--that is, the basic premise of the book--isn't an issue. The book doesn't exist until there's a villain driven by voices, a hero running for his life, or a heroine bent on justice. The idea shortages come up in smaller situations as I write. Suddenly, the villain is in hiding and I can't get him out without being noticed by the hero. (I hate stupid heros.) Or suddenly, the hero needs to find out the heroine's Big Secret but she's doing too good a job hiding it. (I hate stupid heroines.) Or suddenly, the villain needs to get THIS close to killing the hero/heroine/someone-else-we-really-care-about but since it's a suspense, everyone knows they're in danger and they're taking precautions, so how can the villain manage it? (I hate stupid villains.) Those are the times I most long for an Idea Bank.

Since there isn't one, I don't know what to tell you. Sometimes, yes, the muse strikes as needed and the perfect idea simply arises like magic. (This is most likely to occur in the shower, by the way.) More often, these are the places I stall. The signs are clear: My house is clean, my gardens are weeded, and the meals I put on the table originated in Bobby Flay's kitchen. And I shower three times a day in a quest for ideas. My life is clean and orderly and yummy until I solve the problem and get back to writing.  [back to top]

 Do you plan out the plots?

 No. I never know what's going to happen until it happens - and therein lies the fun of writing. My husband refers to my process as "channeling" (and, frankly, is a little freaked out by it). I feel more like a scribe or court reporter. I simply watch and eavesdrop, and take down what I see and hear.

The trouble comes later in editing, when I do know what needs to happen and therefore try to exert control. Sometimes it's very hard to make a character stop knowing something they found out in an earlier draft and re-write a scene without that knowledge, or to change a character's attitude and actions based on decisions that weren't yet made the first time through. I often have to remind the characters who's in charge. I know it sounds nuts, but there it is.  [back to top]

 How did you start writing? Did you always want to be an author?

 I never planned to be a writer. I wasn't even a reader; at least, not of fiction. I was a choral conductor and professor of music education, and my reading list was unconscionably narrow: a hit-parade of articles on aesthetic responsiveness, theses on baton gesture, research on educational assessment. Thrillers like that.

Then a friend convinced me to read a novel, just for pleasure.  Well, there was an idea I'd never considered. You mean, read something that wasn't required for an English class or part of my professional development?

So I did. It was by Kathleen Woodiwiss.  Wow.  Almost instantly, I became a glommer, without even knowing what the term meant.

The notion of writing a novel came much later, in the midst of my doctoral dissertation in music education. I had just submitted the required chapters of the dissertation when a snow storm closed the university. Suddenly, I had free time, fingers primed for typing from the weeks of writing research, and a right brain crying out for equal time.  I spent the first few hours of my rare free time reading a novel.  And at the end, I had an unexpected thought:  I wonder if I can do that...

I went back upstairs to the computer I had hardly left for months and typed a few lines of awful prose.  I hit SAVE and stared when the computer demanded a title. Title? I didn't even know what it was about. I sighed, and aloud, I said to myself, "This is nuts."

"Nuts" evolved into a 230,000-word tome about a sixteenth-century duke forced to marry a down-and-out heiress whose brother is spearheading a French-Scottish plot to overthrow Elizabeth I. Don't worry, you'll never see it.

But the hobby became a closet obsession, littering my computer with long, over-written and truly purple manuscripts: "Nuts," "Crazy," "Ludicrous," "Insane," "Daft," "Absurd." It seemed ridiculous to me that I was writing novels, so those are the only titles my books ever had. But somewhere during those years, I heard a piece of sage advice: If you can stop writing, do.

Turns out, I couldn't.

So, I got serious about it, joined a couple of writers groups and entered some contests. When I got brave enough to send an agent a manuscript (two years after she had asked for it), things changed. She believed in it enough to push until it sold.  Suddenly, I was a published author.  [back to top]


 What are your hobbies beyond writing?

Hobbies?  Are you kidding?  My two part-time jobs fill most of my non-writing time.  In my personal life, I live by the kitchen calendar so I don’t miss a kid’s violin or flute lesson, orchestra or band performance, gymnastics meet, dance recital, paintball tournament, play practice, dentist appointment, and on and on.  I always try (but don't always succeed) to make time to take the dog on a daily outing, snuggle with the cats (that’s easy), and let the birds out of their cage for some flight-time.  (They are the most obnoxious of all, though, when it comes to writing.  Can I tell you how much cockatiels like to type on laptops?)  Of course, I read when I can, though I don’t come close to keeping up with the great suspense and romantic suspense authors out there.  And I love to putter in the flower gardens or whip up a FoodNetwork-inspired meal (so long as someone else cleans up.)  Otherwise, I just try to squeeze in time to be with friends.  I’ve turned down a lot of social dates because there’s still a villain loose in a story!  [back to top]