When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’m not sure I want to right now! LOL! Like most writers, I’ve always written stories, but I decided to write my first novel, Vivid, after the death of my brother-in-law, who was killed in a hunting accident at a young age. He had a brand-new baby and a bright future, and it was just so tragic. I knew it was time to stop making excuses, and that’s when I began tossing around the idea. I didn’t actually commit until a bit later after I had a particularly spunky group of students (mostly girls) in one of my afternoon classes. I created Vivian, the protagonist in Vivid, in honor of those girls.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It took about three months from beginning through beta reading for Omni. The actual writing took about half that. The story came easily. It’s hard to improve on Homer! His story has stood the test of time, and I didn’t want to change it greatly. It really depends on the story. The sequel to Omni took a bit longer. The story was much more complicated, and I did a bit of research trying to figure out what I wanted to keep and what had to be changed.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I usually do my writing/reviewing in the EARLY morning hours, like 4-6 am, before [children] get up, though. It’s a struggle to drag myself up some mornings, but it centers me and helps me remember there’s still a part in there that’s me, not the teacher, the wife, or the mom, just me.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I like to have Investigation Discovery (dubbed The Murder Channel by my kids) on while I write. I don’t know why, but it helps me think. Most of the time, I’m not paying any attention to it, but I like it on regardless.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
When I’m not writing, I’m probably grading papers. I teach junior high English, and that occupies a great deal of my time. I also have two children, and I coach my eight-year-old’s Odyssey of the Mind team, which tends to take up what’s left. When I do get some “me” time, I enjoy reading (like most authors) and watching all the shows I’ve saved on my DVR. I’m ashamed to admit how much I enjoy television.
What does your family think of your writing?
My daughter likes to help. She actually thought of a perfect name for a character in my second novel, Vicious. She’s always peeking over my shoulder to see what I’m up to when I have the laptop out. My son—he’s too interested in Thomas the Train for writing nonsense! My husband helps keep the kids out of my hair when I have deadlines, and my mother is great about watching the kids, especially during summer, so that I can write. My niece, Katie, is a beta reader and one of my staunchest supporters. I have two close friends, Kim and Ashley, whom I count as family. They have been amazing since day one! In fact, I’ve kept up the writing in part because they always have an encouraging word.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing Omni?
Retelling a famous story is hard, but creating a different “reality” is even harder! The society of Omni really became a character all its own. I have to keep remembering that my reader can’t see it the way I can and that I need to explain everything. Recently, I added an editor to my production team, and she has been wonderful about reminding me of this issue. I’ve added a great deal more description of the society in Omni’s sequel, Contra.
Omni seems different from your other work, The Vivid Trilogy. Do you worry that crossing genres will confuse your fans?
I don’t think so. I write for my students, and when they inspire me, I go with it. A student inspired this one, and I just couldn’t let it go. It’s a romance at heart which is like Vivid. I’m hoping with the new piece I’m working on to test myself on that even and branch away from romance somewhat.
Do you have any suggestions for amateur or aspiring writers? If so, what are they?
Don’t write that first sentence! Just kidding although sometimes I feel that way. Once you begin, it’s like an addiction but a good one. Keep working. Set up a time daily to work, and keep that time no matter what’s happening.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Just this week, I received feedback on Omni, and I have to say, I love hearing from fans, even when they complain. The complaints can sometimes be quite helpful. I had a woman once tell me she’d rather be washing dishes than reading my novel! OUCH! Once I got over the initial upset, I contacted her, and she gave some interesting feedback that I did take into consideration.
What other fiction influences your work?
My MA in English focused on Romantic and Victorian literature, so I’ve read a great deal from those periods. However, I have to admit that I’ve gone the opposite direction from much of that. The lengthy descriptions of setting always bothered me, so I’ve adopted the “less is more” idea. I don’t give a tremendous amount of detail on landscape, which is both good and bad depending on your perspective.
When can we expect the second book of the Omni duology? What other project(s) are you currently working on?
Book Two, Contra, is the editing phase. It should be out in the fall (hopefully) if we don’t run into complications. I’ve also been playing around with something different. I had a protagonist practically banging around in my head for a month or so, and I’ve decided to let her out. Her story seems to be a bit ghostly. We’ll see!
As someone who has studied social stratification, and enjoys myths like you do, do you find these old stories to still hold value in today’s modern society?
Absolutely! And my primary audience, teenagers, tend to love those old stories. Because Omni isn’t obviously a myth, I included the afterword to tie it all together. My school librarian beta read the novel for me, and she suggested the afterword. Those myths are tried and true, and unfortunately, I’ve seen a decline in the study of them. Overall, my students love the social stratification idea. I think it gives them something to be indignant about!