Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I was born in Washington State, but I was raised on the island of New Guinea where my father was a missionary bush pilot and mechanic, and during my high school years, I attended a boarding school in the Philippines. Like military families, we returned to the US every couple of years for furloughs. Needless to say, traveling is in my blood! My husband and I now live in sunny Southern California about an hour away from everything – Los Angeles, the beach, Palm Springs, the desert, San Diego, Disneyland, our glorious mountains….
I'm a dog person – our favorite dogs are rescue pups and we currently have two, Vito and Betsy. Most of my books will have dogs as supporting characters…sometimes they really steal the show. We also have two ducks, Spencer and Susan, seven chickens (yes, they're named too) all who lay eggs about every other day, and a horse who doesn't like to be ridden or told what to do or bathed, even after rolling around in the mud (she likes being brushed though!), and she can't figure out why no one wants to just hang out with her.
I write commercial fiction, primarily Women's Fiction with strong elements of Romance and Magical Realism. I also write Contemporary Christian Fiction, and some Coming of Age/YA/NA that's clean, or rated PG-13 due to subject matters like date rape, teen pregnancy, and domestic violence. I'm currently writing my tenth full-length novel, but I have a few novellas under my belt as well. Some of my books are in series, but most of them can be read as standalone novels, although they're better read in order. I'm not a big fan of cliffhangers, although I've been known to throw them out there every once in a while.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
I have two books that have released almost simultaneously, and both are third books in two different series.
1) PHOEBE AND THE ROCK OF AGES is Book 3 in The Gustafson Girls, a series of 4 (possibly 5) books about a family of sisters orphaned by a drunk driver. The books take place fifteen years later when the girl (who happened to be the eldest Gustafson girl's classmate) is up for parole and is preparing to return home, forcing the four sisters to deal with their collision course past. These are Women's Fiction/Christian Romance novels.
2) A LONG WAY HOME: Book 3 of the Fallout Series actually completes the series – the box set releases August 13! About the box set: At an ancient olive grove in Tuscan Italy, behind the scenes of a rock and roll band, on a Gypsy stage at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, or back home on Maple Avenue in Midtown, California, three friends discover what it means to fight for love. BOOK 1: ALL THE WAY TO HEAVEN – Anica Tomlin cashes in her graduation gift to herself a little early―a trip to Tuscany―but from the moment she boards the wrong train in Pisa, her plans for solitude and self-indulgence begin to unravel around her. Sometimes help comes from the most unlikely of hands, and sometimes getting lost is the surest way to be found… BOOK 2: A LIGHT IN THE DARK – Tish Ransome thinks she knows all about passion and pain – she sings about it on stage – until she comes face to face with the real thing behind the scenes. When volatile turns to violence, Tish gets an unfiltered view of the dark and learns to recognize how beautiful the light can be. And BOOK 3: A LONG WAY HOME – Savannah Clark lives her life as a modern-day bohemian, hiding her identity behind her beaded scarves and swirling skirts. But an unexpected encounter with her first love tears open old wounds. Will she run again, tethered to the lies she’s come to believe about herself and those she left behind, or can she trust her heart enough to embrace the girl she once was as the woman she has become? The Fallout Series is a collection of clean Contemporary/Coming-of-Age Romances about college age characters and experiences. Some of the issues are difficult – domestic violence, teen pregnancy, sexual abuse, etc., but because the abuse is more off the page, and the issues are extremely relevant to today's teens and young adults, they are suitable for YA readers. "Romantic settings, irresistible men, and loving family relationships make these beautiful, memorable stories."
As far as inspiration goes, I tend to find it in life around me. Most of my fiction is contemporary, so all it takes is for me to catch sight of an unusual scene, a newspaper article, an exchange between me and someone else or one I witness between strangers, etc., and my mind spins off into a story. It could be because I'm adopted. Let me explain. I have a fantastic relationship with my adopted parents, and it was really only during my teenage rebellion years that I wanted to find my birth parents, mainly because I thought he and/or she would be soooooo much coooooler… But I've always played this game about my adoption. Any time I'm at a public place, I find someone who might possibly be my mother, father, sister, or brother and I create reunion scenes about them. I give them a back story, give them a reason to be wherever we are at the time – at the airport, at the mall, at the restaurant, at the dentist, etc. – and then come up with some poignant moment when our eyes meet and we KNOW, we just KNOW that we're connected. Silly, I know. But basically, I've spent my whole life giving complete strangers made up backstories, to the point where I feel like I know them. The downside? If I do happen to get to know them and learn they're not an deep sea treasure hunter but a data entry clerk at Xerox, I tend to be a little disappointed in them…. So you see, LIFE is the inspiration for my stories!
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I don’t have any terribly odd writing quirks, but I do love sour gummy worms and red vines when I'm writing, and celebrate with trying a new wine whenever I finish a book. So I have an empty wine bottle on my shelf that represents each finished book.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Asking me who my favorite authors or books are is a bit like asking which of my kids is my favorite. I'm a sucker for authors like Sarah Addison Allen who write about "real" women with unique gifts – I do love believable magical realism, the more subtle the magic, the tastier the tale – you'll find bits and pieces of it in several of my books, too…although I attribute it to spiritual gifting or ability rather than magic. I have been a fan of Diana Gabaldon since she first published Outlander over twenty years ago, and perhaps it was that twist of magic, the impossible happening, that drew me to her and has held me there for all these years. I'm so thrilled we FINALLY get to see these remarkable books in film. I'm kind of an Outlander snob, though – I haven't read any of her other work except the Outlander series. I also love a good Stephen King novel now and then – his more literary work rather than the pulp fiction. Who doesn't love a little Misery?
What are you working on now?
I'm currently neck deep in a new book (and series) about triplet sisters with a much younger brother and aging hippie parents who still aren't quite sure what they're doing with their lives. The setting of the book is Nettles and Nests, and herb shop and garden owned and operated by the eldest of the sisters, where a lot of love and a little magic go hand in hand to keep the family together.
I also have Book 4 of The Gustafson Girls to get out before the end of the year, and I have about 12 audiobooks on my production schedule which will keep me busy until Christmas.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
Hm. This is a tough one for me since marketing is my major weak spot. I love sites like this where I can share about more than just my books, because I think of my readers as PEOPLE first, with backstories of their own, you know? Amazon is a marketing mega source in and of itself – you type in a keyword and everything that even comes close pops up. So for me, I focus more on getting my keywords right in my books, on getting interviews out there like this one, and then pushing my free books on the multitude of FREE ebook websites who will let me share so people don't feel I'm constantly selling them something. I'd much rather you discover my books organically, fall in love with my writing, and read more. My best marketing, in fact, is just through my books and my newsletter!
Do you have any advice for new authors?
You've heard it a thousand times, I know. Read. And read some more. Or if you like audiobooks, listen. And listen some more. Who says you can't have your books read TO you? Read and listen to what's being published now, what's popular now, what's on the top of the lists now, find books you like and books you write like and study them. Learn why they're popular and emulate that!
If you want to be successful as a writer, this is one time when it's actually GOOD to be like everyone else…with the caveat of using your own distinct voice. It’s your VOICE that will stand out in the crowd, not your book.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
I have the good fortune of being able to say that I ran the Dublin Marathon 2000. I’m not a runner, nor do I have any compulsion to go back to running, but I set the Dublin Marathon as a goal for myself, trained for two years while I saved up for the journey, ran two half-marathons locally as part of my training, and then headed off to Ireland to celebrate the new millennium by running the streets of Dublin with a bunch of other crazies. Yes. Crazies. Why am I telling you this? Because the best advice I ever received was this, and because of that Dublin Marathon, I GOT it: Just keep writing. Just keep writing. This is the marathon of marathons. Some can do it in a mad dash, but most must consider it a marathon and be prepared for the long haul. If you quit when you “hit the wall” you’ll never know if you could have finished well.
What are you reading now?
I'm usually reading and/or listening to 2 or 3 books at a time, and currently, I'm in the middle of these three:
The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee
The Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
What’s next for you as a writer?
Keep writing. Keep producing. Keep pitching. Keep growing my library, and as organically as possible, keep growing my readership (I hate pushy sales pitches and marketing – I want readers who actually want to read my books, not who are coerced into doing so.), and stay the course for the long haul. There are very, very, very few one-hit wonders out there, and even though it could happen to anyone, I need to keep writing the next book and the next book and the next book, so my readers keep coming back for more.
What is your favorite book of all time?
Ha! Right. The ultimate unanswerable question.