What kind of books do you write?
The short answer is contemporary women’s fiction with strong romantic elements. More particularly, I am drawn to issues that women today often face. Some of those issues can be difficult to read about, but I hope that within my stories, the readers will see that the characters come alive when they confront, and overcome, the dilemmas they encounter. I’ve always loved a happily-ever-after ending. Thus, they figure in my stories, too.
When I first began writing, however, I didn’t think in terms of a particular genre. Rather, I wanted to share the stories that circled in my brain and floated to the surface at odd times—when I was making dinner, watching the birds at the feeders on my back deck, in the midst of watching a television show, while listening to music, driving down to see my son and his wife… Those stories included characters that had captured my imagination and I wanted to learn more about them, too. So, I let them tell me their stories. The words seemed aimless at first, mostly just scenes that weren’t connected, but which seemed to illustrate something about the character in question. Soon, as if ordered by the characters themselves, I had a story with a beginning, middle and end.
When I finished the first draft of my first novel, Dream Chaser, I realized I’d written a romance that was couched in a contemporary woman’s struggle to find herself. That surprised me. I’d never thought of myself as a romance writer, but there it was, within the confines of that more general category of women’s fiction. I should have guessed I would include a happily-ever-after ending before I finished it, for the wedding of Suzannah’s son and the ending scene between Suzannah and Jonathan, were both written long before I finished the story. I laughed at myself and figured, “why not?” So I went with the notion of creating stories about real people with real problems, who also ended up happily-ever-after.
Where do you draw your characters from?
My characters are drawn from my imagination, but each of them reflects people I’ve known or situations I’ve experienced or observed. My friends probably wouldn’t be able to say with certainty, “oh, that’s me!” because I don’t write that way. However, if my readers have found themselves in similar situations, I hope that they also recognize the reality of those situations and that they appreciate how the characters deal with those experiences.
In one case, meeting a foster child captured my imagination so completely that I had to explore foster child experiences (the good and the not-so-good) in a story, which became the basis for Her Daughter’s Father. And because my mother was herself adopted, I chose to focus on the many relationships that adoption creates in a new story, scheduled for publication later in 2014.
What age are your main characters?
My primary characters represent three different age groups: Jane and Chet in Family Bonds, and Dannilynne and Ben in Concealed Attractions are in their early- to mid-twenties, because those two titles are New Adult Novels.
Olivia and Beau (in Granddad’s House) are in their early thirties, as are Sally and Paul (in Just Friends), Amanda and Marcus (in Package Deal), Carrie and Brian (in Safe Beside You). Melanie and Sam (in Choices), and Gretchen and Craig (in Her Daughter’s Father) and Bella and Gavin (in Bella’s Destiny) are in their mid- to late-thirties. Joel and Angela (in Heartstrings) are in their thirties when we first meet them (in Concealed Attractions) and in their mid-forties in the sequel (Heartstrings). Suzanna and Jonathan (Dream Chaser) and Gillian and Matt (in Gillian’s Do-Over) are in their mid- to late-forties.
Someone told me once that readers wouldn’t find stories about couples older than their thirties very appealing, particularly if romance was involved, but that’s not been my experience. Most all of the readers of Dream Chaser and Gillian’s Do-Over, for example, have appreciated reading about older couples, perhaps because they, too, were older than the characters in my other stories.
How much has your own life experience influenced your writing?
None of my stories are autobiographical, but each of them include details that I could claim as my own. Something as unimportant as the color of a particular car or the way a character describes something, using word phrases I’m familiar with. In Gillian’s Do-Over, the main character has a white-water adventure that paralleled my own except for one important detail. I loved going white-water rafting. Poor Gillian’s experience is less positive, but enabled me to show her in a humorous situation. In Choices, my personal experience with divorce was very different from Melanie’s, but her concerns about making enough money as a struggling real estate agent mirrored my own in the early years of my career. Places I’ve visited also figure in several of my novels. For example, I’ve taken road trips much like that enjoyed by Suzanna in Dream Chaser, and I worked on Mt. Rainier several summers while I was in college. That made it easy for me to describe the visit Olivia and Beau make to Paradise Inn in Granddad’s House. The examination of adoption (in Bella’s Destiny) derived from my mother’s experience as an adoptee, something she rarely talked about. In that story, the winery the main characters visit on their way to Spokane is drawn from my own visit to a similar spot near Lake Chelan. And my observations of foster children in a variety of families and other settings gave me insights that informed some of the children’s experiences that occur in Her Daughter’s Father.
I have had several careers, among them, real estate broker/sales person, mother, college professor and have travelled widely throughout North America and elsewhere. Thus, Olivia (in Granddad’s House) and later, Melanie (in Choices), were easy characters to understand as they went about the business of helping clients buy or sell homes. Although I never served as an English professor, Amanda reflected some of my experiences with other professors in Package Deal.
Do you have any special favorites among your characters?
Usually, while I’m writing a story, the characters whose lives I am creating are my favorite characters. But overall, I have to admit that I really liked Gillian (in Gillian’s Do-Over). She will probably remain a favorite, no matter how many books I write.
What do your fans mean to you?
My readers and fans are important to me. I love to hear from them and take seriously all of their comments about my books. When I hear that a reader liked a particular story, I feel like we’ve had a friendly conversation over cups of tea and cookie snacks. Because of some readers’ suggestions, some of my stories focused on, or included, a particular issue. Two that come to mind are breast cancer (which features in Just Friends) and child abuse (which appears in both Package Deal and Her Daughter’s Father).