Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I am a freelance writer, editor, and playwright in Camas, WA, a suburb of Portland, OR. I've published four novels in two series: Lying in Judgment and Lying in Vengeance (Lying Injustice Thrillers), and The Mountain Man's Dog and The Mountain Man's Bride (Mountain Man Mysteries). My fifth novel, The Mountain Man's Badge, is expected to be released in 2018. My newest play, "Voodoo Snowball," takes the stage as part of the 2018 Fertile Ground Festival of New Works on January 25-26, 2018 in Portland, Oregon.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
Lying in Vengeance is the sequel to Lying in Judgment, which was originally conceived as a stand-alone novel. In the months after the release of Lying in Judgment, many of my readers kept asking “what happens to them next?” – particularly about Christine, who is a very strong female character. The more they asked, the more I thought about it, and the story for the sequel just kind of came to me.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I write longhand first — always. Sometimes a story begins as a morning freewrite that I'll later flag for development; other times it comes to me as I'm doing something else, and I'll jot down a quick note to return to later. I develop the main premise and principal conflicts first, then develop detailed character outlines — even biographies — so that I know everything about them before I immerse them into scenes. I know what they look like, what car they drive, where they went to school, how many siblings, their fears, their obsessions, their quirks. I sketch the story outline in a "top down" manner, with the major "acts" and plot points first, then develop scene structures and beats. Despite all that, the story can take on a life of its own as I write, usually because the characters begin to take over a bit. New characters emerge unbidden at times — but only in novels, never in plays.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
My favorite authors include Philip Margolin, Scott Turow, John Irving, Barbara Kingsolver, Lee Child, Toni Morrison, and Michael Connelly. I love any good fiction, especially mysteries and crime thrillers, but also everything from literary to science fiction. I also love biographies and memoirs. I get inspired by any good writing, but also by the success of newcomers and self-published authors, whose grit and determination help them overcome an industry sometimes marked more by rejections and gatekeepers than helpers and cheerleaders.
What are you working on now?
I’m about 2/3 done with my next novel, The Mountain Man’s Badge, the third book in my Mountain Man Mysteries series. In this story, the main character, Lehigh, has gotten drafted to serve as sheriff, leading a law enforcement agency that has been trying to put him in jail repeatedly over the past year. Right out of the gate, he has to investigate a murder — and a lot of people want to see him fail…including some surprising people responsible for the murder.
I’m also nearing completion on a full-length stage play called Voodoo Snowball, a comedy about an estranged son coming to terms with the impending loss of his crusty old father to cancer. Yes, I said comedy!
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I start with my email list subscribers, who get the early heads-up and excerpts for upcoming novels and plays, as well as any discounts or specials I might be offering. I also set up my eBooks for pre-order on Amazon and Smashwords and line up as many book signing events as I can. Bookstores have been wonderful, but even better have been book signing events in pubs. People get much more cheerful about buying books once they've had a beer or two!
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Get help. Join critique groups and writing clubs to get feedback on your work in its earliest stages. Learn all you can about the craft and apply it daily in your writing. Write daily – even if you don't know what to write and don't expect to keep what you produce. Get a professional editor and book cover designer. And keep going – it WILL happen!
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Read more. It's the fuel for the fire within us that compels us to write – and to write better.
What are you reading now?
Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt. Incredibly absorbing memoir.
What’s next for you as a writer?
After The Mountain Man's Badge and Voodoo Snowball I plan to turn my attention to a new series with a strong female protagonist, a woman who becomes a policewoman to avenge the abuse she suffered as a child on pervs and molesters she finds on the streets. Sort of a female Jack Reacher with a badge.
What is your favorite book of all time?
Hard to pick just one, but Lord of the Rings is probably it.
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