Q & A
My life is full of family, house, and business in additional to writing. I'm pretty much an open book. What do you want to know? Ask away!
Q: Have you gone on any literary pilgrimages?
A: Two local pilgrimages. I drove down to Mansfield, Missouri to tour the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum and farm. Growing up, I adored the Little House books and so it was definitely a place I wanted to go. I also drove to the birthplace of Robert Heinlein and took pictures of the first house he ever lived in as a kid before his family moved up to Kansas City.
Q: What is the first book that made you cry?
A: Probably Horton Hatches the Egg. I was horrified over poor Horton's treatment and experiences. Like, seriously, he went through some serious shit for that egg. The Giving Tree and Love You, Forever are books in my house which I have refused to read to my children as I sob uncontrollably while trying to do so. It's really quite alarming.
Q: What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
A: Um, how long do you have? The fact that an author spends months, years, even decades writing a book to hand over 99% of the income from said book seems pretty unethical to me. Then again, if you work in the corporate world in a "anything below CEO" position, you are likely to be used to slaving away for peanuts while some megalomaniacal asshole makes millions while practicing golf. Hm, maybe I shouldn't have answered the question.
Q: Does writing energize or exhaust you?
A: Yes. Mainly it makes me feel like a crack addict. Not that I've ever smoked crack, so maybe this isn't a good analogy, but basically, it gives me a high, followed by a low, and a jonesing for more. So, yeah, there you go.
Q: Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
A: It took until after I wrote and published my second book for me to ask, "Does this make me a writer?" So, darling, I have no idea. Ego is not a thing in my book. I write because I love it. I write hoping others will love what I have written. And I keep writing, because I really have no other choice.
Q: What is your writing Kryptonite?
A: Aside from imposter syndrome? Or as I prefer to call it, The Liar. The Liar tells you in the most insidious voice that you haven't written anything worth reading. That your writing is shit. That you are shit. Et cetera. So yes, the voice in my head is my kryptonite. Beyond that? Babies. Fostering babies and not sleeping is my kryptonite. That said, His Majesty is my last foster baby, and hopefully my forever son, and I'm ready to dive in, full-time to writing now. Me and imposter syndrome will still have our round and rounds, but such is life.
Q: Have you ever gotten reader's block?
A: God, no. What seventh level of hell kind of shit is that? If I ever do, call the coroner.
Q: Would you ever write under a pen name?
A: Yes, if I end up writing straight up erotica, I probably would. At some point, I'm going to end up in my kids' classrooms talking to the class about being a writer and damned if I'm going to have them Google me and find out I've written Daddy's Little Bad Bitch. Note: First erotica novel will be titled Daddy's Little Bad Bitch.
Q: Do you write to market?
A: No. For two reasons. One, the stories come to me and ask to be written. Usually through a snippet of a scene. Two, the market is constantly changing and I have zero patience for such inconstant things.
Q: Do you want each book to stand on its own or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
A: Easter eggs, I love them! [claps while jumping up and down] I love connecting my series - even the cross-genre ones! The Book of Z references both The Collapse (although it might not be spelled out as such) in War's End and the asteroid hitting Earth in G581: Earth (oops, spoiler alert!). The Chronicles of Liv Rowan will occur directly before the Collapse and Fate's Highway has several characters that appear in Tales of the Collapse and G581: The Departure. I even have a reference to Liv Rowan, the protagonist in the upcoming Chronicles of Liv Rowan series mentioned in passing in my romantic thriller Hired Gun. I'm a HUGE geek, I love adding the Easter eggs into the various books.
Q: If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?
A: Write the shit out of your life. Do it NOW. Don't wait. You can do this. You have the ability (and the youth, which I no longer have) and you can and should fucking do this. Listen to absolutely no one who says you cannot. Spend zero time giving two fucks about when it will pay off and just write. Oh, and Christine? When you meet this "nice" guy named Walter? RUN. And when you meet this other nice guy, named Jim? Run even faster.
Q: What other authors are you friends with and how do they help you become a better writer?
A: I have very few friends who are writers. Most, a handful, I've just recently met. However, I really, really want to become friends with Joanna Penn, author and podcaster, who is totally awesome and damned smart. I'll listen to The Creative Penn podcast and just take it all in as I'm cleaning our two short-term rental properties. She has taught me so much. Some day, I'll be successful and she will have me on her show, I just know it! And of course, in the process, she will realize that I'm funny and weird and amusing even if I am an American and will decide we are besties. Or at least good friends. Acquaintances. Passing familiars. Not stalker ish or some random weirdo that approaches her in the loo that time in 2020 before Covid raised hell and we all got locked down.
Q: What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
A: Buying a copy of ProWritingAid. It catches the passive voice, repeated words, and SO much more. I highly recommend it.
Q: What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
A: When I was 20, I was homeless. Not live under a bridge kind of thing, but I lived in a homeless shelter, my eldest child and I, for about three months when she was two years old. There were two pay phones in the commons area, along with a couch, and there was this Latina teen who thought she was all that. She was desperate to pick a fight with anyone and everyone and repeatedly insulted and threatened to hit me if I tried to use the phone. It was "her" phone. I wasn't a fighter, not at all, but I needed to use the damned phone. I was also tired of her bullshit. So I proceeded to use very large words to describe what I thought of her behavior and why I didn't give one rat's ass whose phone it was, I was going to use it and no, I would not waste my time, not one second, fighting her for it. She knew I was insulting her, but didn't know what the words meant (they were really big ones), English was her second language, she was young and mainly full of air. I got to use the phone and there was no fighting for it. After that, she just kind of avoided me.
Q: What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
A: I'm well known for putting my enemies into my books and killing them off in rather inventive ways. The neighbor who repeatedly called codes on us (while his own house has holes in its roof) became a pedarast who drinks embalming fluid in G581: The Departure. There was a gentleman who was new to the community and mistook my offer of free furnace filters and basically accused me of being a porch pirate. I did actually meet him later and we patched things up, but he was killed off with a giant tsunami in G581: Earth. The CEO of EcoNu in G581: The Departure was based on a real-life co-worker who seemed to take special joy in being a sheer bitch to me on a daily basis when I worked for Marriott Distribution Services back in the mid-90s. I only put casual enemies into my books, however. The ones who are personal, the ones who cause deep and abiding grief or pain, they live in my journals only. I think too that often my characters are the aspects of me as I wish I had been. The words I wish I had said, the deeds or the line drawn in the sand that I didn't do or draw. Fiction allows us to create better versions of ourselves. In the end, I owe everything to those who have given me such real and rich fodder on which to write with.
Q: How many unpublished or half-finished books do you have?
A: No fully finished unpublished books, but plenty of partially finished ones. As far as half-finished? As of mid-September 2023 - six - G581: Zarmina's World, Broken Code (it will be done this weekend and out by the end of the month), Return of Winter's Child, The Retirement Home, The Glass Forest, and Quit Your Job, Change Your Life. There are a medley of others that are at least partially started.
Q: What does literary success look like to you?
A: I'll let you know when it arrives. That said, 2023 has been a big year for me. I'm averaging around $200 per month net income and I've sold over 5,000 books this year. I'm 15 years into my writing journey, and by the end of September 2023 will have written and published 15 books. I fully expect at least a five figure income by the time another 15 years has elapsed. By then I should have around 60 books in print.
Q: How many hours a day do you write?
A: As long as it takes to achieve my goal. I typically set a 2,000 word per day quota (5 days per week, God willing and the creek don't rise). Sometimes that is a few hours or less, sometimes, it simply does not happen because I've deviated off course. You know, like today, when writing up a Q & A sounded far more interesting.
Q: If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
A: What I do right now, run my Airbnb properties. In the past I ran a housecleaning business but my body is telling me I'm too old for that. I've also taught community education classes, which was something I enjoyed immensely, but it isn't a full-time kind of thing. The reality is, I'm a square peg trying to fit into a round hole with most job jobs. I can last for a while, but in the end, I'm just not cut out for working for others. It's writing or bust!
Q: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
A: I do read my book reviews, but not obsessively. When I do, I'm looking for particular feedback. If, for example, I'm getting feedback that says there are multiple grammatical/typo errors, that's a huge red flag and means somewhere, somehow, the book has not been edited properly. When it comes to the main part of reviews - how the characters are developed, opinions on the storyline, et cetera - I am far less concerned. The reason for this is simply that where one reader will totally get a character, love that character and gush about them, another will tell me it falls flat. I can't please everyone. I'm not a taco. There is literally no way to make every reader happy. So while I read the reviews, I tend to look for big complaints, such as, "The storyline was confusing" or "there was a major plot point that was never answered" or, as I mentioned grammar/typos. Readers will love the story and the characters, or they won't, based on their own, unique perspectives and life experiences. Who am I to argue with that?
Q: What are your hardest scenes to write?
A: Believe it or not, the hardest scenes are the ones where there is violence involved, especially when it is a character I care about. Someone special, someone kind. I hate killing off characters, even when I know that it is absolutely necessary to move the story forward. Erin, in War's End: The Storm, whew, that was a HARD one. I literally wrote before the scene and after the scene and put it off for a few days to mentally gear myself up for it. And I cried, buckets of tears, snot, headache, the works, while writing it. I also found the short story At the Gates which appears in G581: Plague Tales hard to write. Unrequited love in the face of annihilation, what a thing!
Q: Do you believe in writer's block?
A: No, I don't believe in it. Not in the traditional sense. Life gets in the way of my writing. I'm a mother of four (one grown, one teen, and two littles), I own and operate two short-term rentals and one long-term rental, and I handle the financials and most of the household runnings and doings. It makes my schedule rather hectic at times.
The Liar also gets in the way. That insidious voice most refer to as Imposter Syndrome. The Liar is always busy telling me how, despite having written thirteen books (as of November 2022), I'm nobody and nothing and have no business writing books and no one will read them anyway. The Liar chatters away, and tosses in distractions and more along the way. The best thing I can do is ignore it, and when I can't, I try to focus on another aspect of my work as a writer. There's plenty to do behind the scenes that go beyond writing for all Indie authors. Steven Pressfield, in The War of Art and William Kenower in Fearless Writing have a lot to say on this topic, primarily around how to deal with Imposter Syndrome and get on with the task of writing.
Q: Does your family support your career as a writer?
A: Yes, yes, and YES. My husband is fantastic and supportive. So is my teen. The littles are, well, little.
Q: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
A: Not a lot. I have a basic idea, scene or outline and I have a lot of frequent stops and starts as I go. If I run into a situation where I need expert advice, I toss out some feelers, place a note in the notes section of Scrivener of what I need, and move on. Otherwise, I end up falling down a lot of internet rabbit holes.
Q: What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
A: I'm always a little worried I will emasculate the guys and make them too feminine in thought and motivation. Perhaps I make them too complicated or simplistic. I've never been a man, so [shrugs] it's a crapshoot. You tell me, read one of my books and tell me, how did I do with character development?
Q: How long on average does it take you to write a book?
A: Numerically speaking, my quickest book took right at six weeks to write. My "longest" book, writing from starting idea to end product, took about 25 years. So my average between those two books is 12.55 years. If I had been tracking my writing progress with the others, I could give you a better average. But I haven't, so I won't. And if those numbers weren't confusing enough, at first I tended to produce around one book every two years. With Covid came many changes, including the end of my cleaning business. I have been writing 2-3 books per year ever since. Last year I only wrote two, but that was because I had an infant, our bookend baby, as I like to refer to him. Lack of sleep = not a lot of writing. He just turned two in early September 2023, so I'm hoping to get back into producing at least three books per year.
Q: What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
A: Cleaning my house and running errands. Ope, that's two. Oh well! I now only dust when I'm going to host a party or have guests over. It's uh, rather dusty around here.
Q: Do you Google yourself?
A: Well I haven't in forever, but I figured I'd give it a go. 1st result in Incognito mode is this website. Woohoo!
Q: How do you select the names of your characters?
A: A variety of ways. Sometimes the name just comes to me, other times I use the name generator in Scrivener (my book writing software). As I mentioned before, I'll use the name of my enemies, but with a twist or change. It wouldn't do to call them out directly. The one exception to this would be if I told someone I wanted to put them in my book and kill them off creatively and they said "yes, do it" in which case it is on like Donkey Kong. Lastly, I sometimes add a humorous twist. For example, Lila Benoit, the protagonist in Hired Gun and Broken Code (and also Code on Fire, but that hasn't been written yet). Her last name is pronounced "ben-wah" like those balls you put up your cooch to strengthen your muscles. Not that I've owned any such balls or claim to know anything about such shenanigans, but there you go.
Q: If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
A: First of all, I need to give a shout out here to my teachers (Dori, Kate, Rachel) at Independent Learning School. I might have been a real pain in the ass, but they gave me the chance to do something unique and truly wonderful. Instead of boring grammar lessons, I was allowed to write creatively - essays, poems, stories. I'm the kind of person who learns best by doing. Even if that means failing, or screwing up, repeatedly. I learned everything from how to do a paragraph break to how to use quotes properly. All by doing it. So I already was doing something different as a teenager to be a better writer. What would have made the difference (besides having the massive Indie publishing options writers have today) would have been to write more, believe in myself more, and listen less to others (namely my dad). I seemed to need validation, and certainly encouragement, at that age. When I didn't get it, or when I got any level of criticism, I just shut down. I lost confidence. I didn't have the inner spunk developed yet, and that was desperately needed, in order to become the writer I wanted to be. Especially then, when everything required the blessing of an agent or publisher.
Here are more questions I may (or may not) answer in the near future. Feel free to email me with more!
What’s the best way to market your books?
Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?
What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)
What did you edit out of this book?”
Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
What is your favorite childhood book?
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?