Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I was born and raised in the heart of New Jersey and was a teacher for 25 years. I also did some education writing for the Courier Post. After I retired, I moved to Florida and decided to start working on my bucket list. The first item was to become a writer. I started by writing for The Island Reporter, a local paper. Two years later, I completed my first novel – “Project June Bug,” the story of an idealistic young teacher’s efforts to help a student with ADHD. It won several awards including an Eric Hoffer Award and a Mom’s Choice Silver Medal and was named Premier Book Awards “Book of the Year.” I’ve also had four stories included in Chicken Soup for the Soul collections. Last year, I was offered a contract for Jacqueline, my middle grade historical fiction, which was released in July. I live in a small beach town with my husband and two rather noisy macaws, but I spend a lot of time back in New Jersey visiting my parents, three grown children and six gorgeous grandkids.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest book, “Jacqueline,” is a middle grade historical fiction set in France during WWII. ” Jacqueline” was inspired by an experience my dad, a 99 year-old WWII vet, had while stationed in Rennes with the 127th General Hospital in 1944. A little girl named Jacqueline began following him to and from the military hospital where he worked. Their friendship blossomed, and when the 127th was transferred to another city, my father promised her that if he ever had a daughter, he’d name her Jacqueline. This was the only war story Dad was willing to share, and it became part of our family lore.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I don’t know how unusual this is, but I’m a night owl. I find I can do my best writing when everyone is asleep and the house is quiet.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
I’m a voracious reader, and since I write a column and a blog about Florida authors, I spend a lot of time reading books by Floridians. I’m constantly amazed by the number of terrific writers we have here, and I love to read their books. But my all-time favorite non-Floridians would include J.R.R. Tolkien, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King and Maeve Binchy, and my writing’s been influenced by each of them. I love Tolkien’s ability to create a strong sense of place; Bradbury’s lush descriptive writing; King’s amazing mastery of story; and Binchy’s lyrical storytelling style.
What are you working on now?
I’m planning a coming-of-age story set in New Jersey in the 1940s. I’ve really fallen in love with that era, and I’d like to write something set on this side of the pond.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I’ve found social media (like Facebook) the best and least expensive way to promote books. I’m also fortunate to have a wonderful publicist who helps me with marketing.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Be sure to engage the services of a good editor. I receive a lot of books from writers who want to be featured in my column or on the blog, and the biggest mistake I see is books that haven’t been edited well. You can’t depend on a relative or your friend who’s an English major. A competent editor is worth the investment.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Join a critique group. There’s nothing like a group of fellow writers to help you see what’s wrong (and right) with your writing. Those extra sets of sharp eyes are invaluable!
What are you reading now?
I’m reading “The Secret Language of Women,” a wonderful historical fiction set in China during the Boxer Rebellion. It’s written by Nina Romano, a Florida writer I’ll be featuring in my Florida Authors column in July.
What’s next for you as a writer?
Right now, I’m focused on marketing “Jacqueline”, and that’s extremely time-consuming. I’ve also got my two columns for The Island Reporter and my Fabulous Florida Writers blog, and I’m finishing up another story for “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” so I keep pretty busy.
What is your favorite book of all time?
Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine.” It’s such a charming coming-of-age story set in a kinder, gentler time, and I adore Bradbury’s lush, descriptive writing style. I first read it when I was in junior high, and I fell in love with it. I reread it every few years, and the story never gets old. Depending on where I am in my life, I see it in a new light.