Today’s interview is a little different from what you might usually read here – because I’m the person being interviewed. Ana, a Goodreads member, received Sarah from NetGalley and graciously posted a glowing 5 star review, saying “The Harry Potter references make my heart smile” and “a well written book with easily relatable characters whom you can’t help but root for”. She was interested in learning more about Sarah, my writing process, and me, but didn’t have a blog, so I offered the use of my own. (On a side note, Ana is a fellow Potterhead, so she’s obviously good people.) Welcome Ana, my first guest interviewer!
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I wouldn’t say I have any interesting quirks – Diet Coke or chocolate gets the brainwaves flowing, I usually have music playing, and sometimes I wear my son’s flannel shirt. For some reason, my productivity increases when I wear it – so I confiscated it permanently. Occasionally my cat sits beside me and stares while I work – he’s a very discerning editor.
Where did you get the idea for Sarah?
Strangely enough, the idea came from my cat. We’d just moved into a new house, no previous occupants, and Shadow would sit at the foot of the stairs and hiss or growl at something at the top of the stairs we could never see. Kind of freaky, but it made me start thinking about how a new house could be haunted – the result was Sarah.
Did you do any type of research while writing Sarah?
Not a lot. I researched metaphysical stores – one of the characters in Sarah owns one and I wanted to get a good grasp on what those types of shops offered. The book is set in Charleston, SC and the movie theater, mall, and restaurant Cain goes to are real. I once learned in a writing workshop that it lends more authenticity to your story if you use actual places, so I googled those and even read reviews of the restaurant.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I read a lot – my TBR pile is over 100 books and I’m usually reading anywhere from one to four books at a time. I also review books and feature indie authors on my blog. Working out and yoga keep me sane, and I’m constantly trying to stay caught up with my Netflix queue and DVR. I’m beginning to think that will never happen.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
How vocal the characters can be. If you don’t write, you may laugh at that, but it’s true. I may have a direction in mind for my characters, but sometimes they rebel and do their own thing. I’ve had minor characters decide they needed bigger roles and I just had to go with it.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’m a huge animal lover and thought about being a veterinarian, but then realized how miserable I’d be if I lost any patients.
What is the first book that made you cry?
I’m not one to tear up easily and can’t remember the first book that made me cry. However, I was in a book club a few years back and someone had selected A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron – and I couldn’t finish it. I can watch people be eaten and bashed in the head on The Walking Dead and stabbed, shot, and disemboweled in horror movies all day long – but if animals are involved, I can’t handle it.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
It depends on the day. Some days, the words are flowing and all is right with the world. Other days, I can’t form a sentence and I’m beating my head against the wall hoping something useful falls out.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
I’m really bad about editing while I write and searching for the perfect word to describe something. That can work for some writers, but hinder others – I’m in the latter category. Some of the best advice I’ve been given is just get the first draft down – edit later. Once I started doing that, my productivity increased.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
The book I’m working on now is developing in an unusual way, but it seems to be working for me so far. I’m writing out of sequence, creating scenes from two different characters’ POV, then hoping it forms a cohesive story when it’s blended. Keep your fingers crossed. The next book may form another way – I’ll just go with the flow and see what happens.
Did you draw inspiration from authors, TV shows, etc. as you wrote Sarah?
I read Stephen King’s On Writing again, a book on craft I’d highly recommend to writers, and attended writing retreats and workshops led by author C.J. Redwine. She’s a master at world-building. I’m a big fan of horror books and movies, so I’ve got years of creepy images stored in my brain!
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
A black cat, hands down. Shadow, the cat who inspired Sarah, was black (he’s crossed the Rainbow Bridge now), then we adopted another black cat named Bond a few years ago. Due to superstition, black cats are the last to be adopted from shelters, but I’ve known several and they’ve all been full of personality and love – consider giving them a forever home!
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters of the opposite sex?
Oddly enough, I don’t find it difficult to write from a male perspective – it comes more naturally to me than writing from a female POV. A friend of mine says my brain is wired more like a man’s, so maybe that’s the reason? I also have two sons and after years of being around them and their friends, writing from a teenage boy’s perspective comes pretty easily.
What is something you edited out of Sarah?
If I told you one of the things, I’d give away a spoiler. The other was that Maddie’s character, Cain’s little sister, was a younger brother. I thought the story read better with a sister and several reviewers have commented on the sweet relationship between them.
Did you identify with any of the characters in Sarah?
After reading Sarah, a friend of mine said Cain was me on the outside, the personality I let people see, but Finn was the real me. I think he nailed it.
How do you select the names of your characters?
For the most part, my characters choose their own names and introduce themselves to me. For minor characters, I’ve looked up popular baby names in the year the character would have been born and waited for something to jump out.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Close friends have recognized some things I’ve taken from real life. One of the lines in the book came directly from one of my friends – something she said in response to a rude woman at a concert. In the book, it was a comment Finn made to someone.
What was your favorite part of Sarah to write?
The banter between Cain and Finn – those guys talked in my head constantly and I had to cut out a lot of their conversations during editing. They could go on for hours if I’d let them.
Are you currently working on another book?
I just signed a contract with Black Rose Writing to publish my second book, with the working title of Gemini Connection. It’s a YA sci-fi/fantasy and will probably be released sometime in the winter of this year.
As a Potterhead, I must ask, what House do you consider yourself to be in?
I’ve been sorted into Gryffindor on Pottermore and every other quiz I’ve taken. My wand is 12.5 inches, fir wood, dragon heartstring core, unbending flexibility, and my patronus is an orangutan. I’m a bit of a Potterhead too!
Is there something you’ve never been asked in an interview, but would love to talk about? If so, what is it?
The importance of reviews for authors – especially indie authors. They don’t need to be long, even a couple of lines would be extremely helpful and much appreciated!