1. Did you choose the writing profession or did it choose you?
A little of the former mixed in with the latter. I have always enjoyed writing. When I was in grade school, I used to write little stories and force my teachers to read them out to the class during free time. Since then, I have always viewed writing as my hobby, done purely for my own enjoyment. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I realized that I could turn that hobby into a career.
2. What is your background? (education, work, etc.)
I majored in anthropology at Laurentian University (where I earned a B.A.), spent a year studying primatology at the University of Calgary, and received a diploma in animal care from Sheridan College. My original intent was to work in primate rescue and rehabilitation, but such lofty aspirations were side tracked by the real world and the real necessity of earning a pay check. I gained employment as a veterinary technician soon after graduation. Since then, the only primate I’ve had the opportunity to study is Sean Sanders, my husband of twelve years.
3. When did you ‘know’ you were a writer?
I knew after I finished the first draft of Thief. It was the first time I looked at something that I wrote and thought, “Good job, me.” It gave me the confidence to go through previous stories and start the painful process of editing and submitting to publishers. Also, when I received my first rejection, and didn’t immediately want to throw in the towel, I knew that I had potential to make it in this business.
4. How would you describe your style of writing?
Accessible. Someone can look for hidden subtext and a greater meaning behind my words, or they can just take it at face value. I try not to overwhelm the reader with details, although I do enjoy popping a pretty bit of purple prose in every so often. I also enjoy the use of hyperbole to get my point across, which is why I enjoy writing in the fantasy genre so much. You can throw average, ‘every man’ type characters into the most unlikely of situations and see how they react. I think you can better examine human nature and the human condition. Plus it makes for a fun read.
5. What is your writing process?
First and foremost, music is a must. I live in a small apartment with a lot of pets and a work at home husband. I need music to help draw my attention away from outside noises.
I don’t do 50 million hours of plot outlining like some writers do. I personally don’t think it’s necessary to write out the whole book before you start writing it (if you get my meaning). Basically I have an idea of where I want the book to start, and where I want it to end. I don’t have a complete cast of characters at this point, I don’t know what the theme of the book will be, and I don’t know how I’m going to fill 100,000+ words, but I don’t worry about that. I start with chapter 1. Again, I decide where I want that chapter to start and where I want it to end. I don’t necessarily know how many scenes it will take to get me there. I just start writing and see what happens.
Once I start writing, I may think of things that I want to happen later. I jot down these little blurbs go into my notepad and resist the urge to skip ahead because I find writing in chronological order helps me keep track of my end goal. Plus, if I just jump to the exciting scenes, it makes it that much harder to go back and add in less exciting connecting scenes.
I repeat this, chapter by chapter, until the book is finished. Then I read everything over. Now that I see the whole, I can go back and rearrange scenes if I need to, deleting some, adding others as needed. At this point too, the theme of the book should be obvious, and I can go back and emphasize certain parts to make it more apparent.
6. What was your path to publication?
A whole heck of a lot of rejections. I started submitting in the fall of 2006, but didn’t receive an acceptance until the summer of 2008 and that was just for a little silly bit of flash fiction. That was followed up by more acceptances for short stories, which gave me the strength to keep facing the rejections I was receiving for my novel.
Getting Thief accepted is a drama onto itself. I submitted to Mundania Press in January of 2008, and heard back from them that summer. They told me that I had passed their first two stages of review. I was optimistic for the third and final review, but unfortunately, they decided to pass. At that point, I decided to put Thief aside until I could gain some emotional distance and resolved to work on other projects. Then out of the blue, I received another email from Mundania in December. They asked for another look at Thief. Two days later, I was signing the contact. And another couple of weeks after that, I was signing the contracts for two of Thief’s sequels. So I went from nada to three contracted books in less than a month.
7. What is your favorite self-marketing idea?
Starting a fan art contest at DeviantArt. I only received two entries, but I got a lot of hits to my website after that. Contests in general seem to be more effective in spreading the word than anything else I’ve tried.
8. What are the biggest surprises you’ve encountered as a writer?
When things suddenly click. Say for instance, I’m working on a story that feels as though its dragging and not making any sense. And then all of a sudden, I’ll get an idea that makes everything somehow work. I have never had as much proof of the existence of serendipity than I have while writing.
9. How do you inspire yourself? What are your sources of creativity?
Everything is a source of inspiration. Co-workers, strangers, family, and friends. Songs and books and movies. Nature and technology. Day dreaming is a big part of my process. “What ifs” give birth to an infinite amount of potential stories.
10. What is your proudest writer moment?
Probably the instant I wrote the final line of the first draft of Thief. That sense of pride and accomplishment lingered for days afterward, and I have yet to replicate it even after getting accepted and seeing my novel in print. At that moment, I knew that even if Thief was never published, even if no one ever read it except for me, I had created something from my heart, something that I could be proud of.
11. What’s the best advice you were given about writing?
Toni Morrison once said, “If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it yourself.” To me, that sums it all up. Write for yourself, for your own enjoyment first and foremost. Readers will respond to that authenticity better than they will to something that was written without passion.
12. What is your most embarrassing writer moment?
I sent a submission to one publisher using the submission guidelines for another. I realized my mistake about a minute or so after I had sent the email. The most embarrassing bit was that I put “as per the instructions on your website” all cocky-like, even though I had done just about everything wrong. I never heard back from them. I wonder why? :p
13. What business challenges have you faced as a writer?
Trying to find time to get everything done! Writing a story is just the first step. There’s also marketing and promotions to worry about, especially for new authors and those contracted by small to mid-sized publishing houses. Add that to the necessity of a day job, and you tend to run out of hours in the day.
Also, if you’re anything like me, then the business side of getting your story published is quite scary. I’m naturally a shy, soft spoken person, which is counter productive when you’re trying to get your book noticed.
14. What is your writer life philosophy?
See the above question about the best writing advice I’ve received. I write for myself. If what I write happens to appeal to others, so much the better. I think I’d stop altogether before I let someone else dictate what I should write.
15. When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?
I’m a bit of a homebody and have the makings of a terrific hermit. I enjoy playing with my pets, reading, listening to music, hiking. Basically anything that can be done alone, away from other people.
16. Who do you like to read?
Lately, I’ve been on a Jane Austen kick, although regency novels are not exactly something I make a habit of reading. I chalk my interest in her up to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Before that it was Dean Koontz and Patricia Cornwell. I also enjoy reading non-fiction books about the paranormal, folklore, and cryptozoology.
17. What’s your advice for new writers?
Be persistent. You will get rejected. Suck it up. Be patient. Writing a book takes a lot of work and a lot of time. Getting published takes even longer. Be professional. Nothing turns a potential publisher off like pushy, diva-like behavior. Remember, creating a story is art, but getting that story published is all business. Treat it like you would any other career.
18. What books have you published?
Romancing the Beard
Forget Me Not
Shades of War
To My Demons
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