Tell us about yourself and what inspired you to start writing.
Before I even knew how to read or write, I began telling bedtime stories to myself when I was unable to fall asleep right away. My mother read to me regularly, and after I learned to read, I always had my nose in a book.
I liked writing because it allowed me to create a world where I was in control, my heroine acted nobly, and bad things happened to bad people. I had early encouragement from teachers, family, and friends. My favorite assignments in school involved creative writing.
Tell us about your books.
I’d completed four novels and abandoned countless others before I got a contract from Sunbury Press to publish my “first novel,” Going Home. It is a murder mystery inspired by my mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease, which prompted me to wonder what it would be like to interview a witness or a suspect who couldn’t rely on her memory. The story opens when the heroine goes home to check on her elderly mother and finds her hovered over the bludgeoned body of her caregiver, unable to provide a straight answer about what happened. The heroine must step into a caregiver role and remain in her hometown, dealing with baggage from her past, while trying to prove her mother’s innocence.
I also self-published an e-book about personal finance, Live Cheaply, Be Happy, Grow Wealthy.
How did you go about getting published?
Publishing my first novel was a long process. I began writing Going Home in 2003; it was 2013 before I finally got a contract, and 2014 by the time the book was released. It went through seven drafts. I pitched to both agents and small publishers that would look at unagented material. I paid $50 for a critique from an agent at a conference and he spent half of our 15-minute session on his cell phone making lunch plans. All he had to say to me was, “I didn’t like your heroine as much as I wanted to, but keep writing.”
The first draft was a cumbersome 100,000 words filled with backstory, flashbacks, interior dialogue, and the protagonist’s opinions about everything under the sun. I was lucky to find an excellent beta reader from my Sisters in Crime chapter. Her advice was to cut, cut, cut all the superfluous prose that didn’t advance the plot; what I had was a mystery, so focus on that.
Several drafts later, I had a lean, mean, 75,000-word mystery, but it was still getting rejected. One agent said she loved it, read the whole thing on an airplane. “But,” she said. “It’s not a mystery. It’s more about the relationship between mother and daughter. This needs to be a mainstream novel. Give it more layers, and take it up to about 100,000 words.” She said she’d look at it after I did the rewrite, but suggested I seek other opinions as well.
My manuscript never made it back to 100,000 words, but I managed to flesh it out to around 89,000. Since I hadn’t really done what she’d asked, I didn’t resubmit to that agent.
I had a small press ask for the full manuscript, and then I didn’t hear from them for six months. When I finally got in touch (at a new email address I’d happened to find online), the editor admitted she’d lost my manuscript before getting a chance to read it. (She still had the SASE.) She’d been afraid to ask me to re-send it, because she kept thinking it would turn up. She let me resubmit electronically, but then she ignored me again. After a few months, I followed up, and she said she’d decided to pass; she wasn’t interested in publishing fiction anymore. I had wasted almost a year with her, for nothing.
When I finally got a contract from Sunbury Press, I was afraid to tell many people, for fear of jinxing things. What if they went out of business or cut their list before they got around to publishing my manuscript? What if they changed their mind? As a result, I made a lot of mistakes regarding marketing: I didn’t build a website or start a blog, didn’t get on social media and create hype, didn’t try to get advance reviews and blurbs. In my contract, I was entitled to some free copies. But I didn’t realize they wouldn’t be sent to me automatically; I had to go to the publisher’s website and order them. So the book had been out more than a month before I held my launch party.
I’ve been in writers groups and networking for years, so I should have known better, but I’m the type who can only learn by making the mistakes myself!
What is your writing process? Do you have a time, day or place you like to write?
I was working full-time when I wrote Going Home. I’d get up an hour early, stumble downstairs to my office, and write before I had to stop and get ready for work. I’d think about the manuscript a lot during the day, so I was always anxious to get back to it. In those days, we only had dial-up internet, so I wasn’t distracted by email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Now I’m retired and I write at varying times of the day and night. I’m not as productive as I’d like to be, because I allow the internet to distract me.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Full-time job, pets, hobbies?
I’m on the Board of Directors for the Fayette Humane Society. I handle their grant writing and volunteer almost every weekend at their pet adoptions. I love animals and am chief-of-staff for a 16-year-old cat. Retired from a 27-year career with Delta Air Lines, I love to travel. My husband and I have taken over 60 cruises and have visited over 100 countries on six continents. I’m also a member of Sisters in Crime, a national organization for readers and writers of mysteries.
Any advice for authors about book covers?
Since Going Home is traditionally published, the publisher provided the cover designer, although I had input.
For my self-published ebook, I hired a neighbor who is a graphic designer.
I have heard that readers often judge a book by its cover, so it’s important not to skimp on a quality cover.
Any marketing tips you’d like to share with other authors?
Marketing is about building relationships. Give potential readers content they can use and support other authors instead of always trumpeting, “Buy my book!”
What’s your favorite book?
The Great Gatsby, Water for Elephants
What are you reading now?
I’m about to begin The Girl Who Lived, by Christopher Greyson, which my book club selected. Just finished Coyote Zone, a new thriller by Kathryn Lane.
What’s your next book project?
Think: The Woman in Cabin 10 goes to the Galapagos. Giovanna Rogers, my 25-year-old heroine, suffered a crushing business loss at the hands of an unscrupulous partner, Jerome Haddad. To add insult to injury, her fiancé, who was also an investor in the nonprofit spay/neuter clinic, blamed Giovanna for the fiasco and broke off their engagement. She’s feeling about as low as she can get.
Her grandmother invites Giovanna on a cruise of the Galapagos Islands to distract her from her troubles. Little does she know, Giovanna’s reason for choosing the Galapagos is because Jerome Haddad is headed there.