Who is your favorite author(s) and why? I like Susan Wiggs, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Debbie Macomber, and anyone who writes about multi-dimensional characters. But I'll read nearly anything except fantasy and erotica. Although I don't write historical, I can get lost in a good historical romance.
Tell us about your new book. The Mitchell Money is the first book I wrote, and rewrote, and rewrote. Rachel has just discovered her husband had hidden most of their money before he died. She's living in an old motor home behind the building site for her half-built home, and if she doesn't find the missing money within the next two or three months, she stands to lose everything, including the land.
Gary Martinson is the surly ex-cop who owns the ranch next door. He had a little fender-bender with Rachel and she doesn't want anything to do with him, but he's the only person in the area who can help her find the missing money. Gary hires Rachel to cook at the ranch and offers to trade her cooking for his investigative services. She reluctantly agrees, but she doesn't expect him to dig up so much information on the man she'd been married to for so many years, the man she thought she knew so well. And then a young teenage boy shows up on her doorstep. He's skinny and dirty . . . and he looks just like her dead husband.
Here's an excerpt from The Mitchell Money:
The woman stared at his cell phone and her eyes narrowed. Her lips pressed tightly together, and she looked like she’d erupt any second.
“What’s wrong now?” he said in frustration.
“Were you talking on that thing when you ran into me?”
Oh, no! She wasn’t blaming this on him. She’d backed out right in front of him. “Lady, if you’re implying I can’t do two things at once, you’re wrong.”
She lifted her chin. “If you’d been watching where you were going, you would have seen me and stopped in time.”
He snapped back a response. “If you’d bothered to look first, you wouldn’t have backed out in front of me.”
After a withering glare, she said, “I’ll wait for my car.” She opened the door, slid off the seat and walked to the bench nearest Joe’s office, muttering something to herself. He couldn’t hear her words, but it was probably just as well. She was obviously irritated, but so was he. The woman backed right into him.
Bert arrived and, ignoring the scowling woman on the bench, Gary pointed to her car. “See if you can pop the fender out so she can drive it.”
Bert reached under the fender with a rubber hammer and, in three quick whacks, popped the dent out. A crease remained, but the metal no longer touched the tire.
“You want this fender replaced?” Bert asked the woman.
She peered at the fender. “Can I drive it like that?”
“I don’t see why not.”
“Then that’ll have to do. How much do I owe you?”
“I’ll take care of it,” said Gary.
She scanned the front of his old truck. “Are you sure your truck is all right?”
“It’s fine.” Best truck he’d ever had.
Her eyebrows knit as she peered closer at his pickup. “You mean it always looks like this?”
Gary looked to see what she was talking about. It was scratched and dented and the bumper hung a little askew. The hot Arizona sun had faded the light blue paint until it looked white in spots, but he didn’t see anything wrong. “Like what?”
“Like . . . like this isn’t the first time you’ve hit something.”
A burst of laughter erupted from Bert’s mouth. “She’s got you pegged, Gary.”
“Mind your own business, Bert.” Gary turned to the woman. “Are you making fun of my truck?”
“I didn’t mean to insult you or your . . . uh . . . lovely truck. Thanks for taking care of this. I’ll try to stay out of your way from now on.”
He tried to explain his rude behavior. “Look, I’m not having a very good day today, and—”
“Well, neither am I,” she snapped. Without another word, she got in her car, slammed the door, and drove away, leaving him standing in the street beside his truck, feeling like an idiot. Frustrating woman. She’d be nice looking if she’d get rid of that angry scowl on her face. With any luck, he’d never see her again.
What is the appeal of writing your genre? I love writing books with a little mystery or suspense in them. No matter that I begin a book expecting it to be something else, the suspense and mystery always sneak in. And I love writing about older characters, like the ones in The Mitchell Money. There's such richness in life experiences, richness you don't necessarily find in younger characters. Gary and Rachel are old enough to have grown children, but they're not too old to enjoy each other in every way.
What kind of writings turns you off? What stops you from writing? I can't wrap my practical mind around fantasy and way out there paranormal. I have a whole lot of respect for people who can write it, but it's not for me. The same with erotica. Although my books contain love scenes, I like a love story, not a story focused on sex.
If I'm not writing, I'm usually thinking about the characters in my next book. I've written over 30 books and thrown some away because they were so bad. I don't plot or do character sketches, but if I can't find the right names for the characters, the story just won't come together.
How have you shocked your readers? Some of my endings might surprise readers, but I don't think I've written anything that shocking.
How do you get your ideas? What is your writing day like? Ideas come from the news, like when the Tacoma Police Chief shot his wife and then killed himself. My grandparents used to live in a big old house in Columbus, Ohio. They called The House on Livingston Avenue, so I used that. Only in my book, there's a hidden staircase and a body buried in the basement.
I don't spend as much time on the computer as I once did, so I write about four or five hours a day, with plenty of interruptions from my husband and two little doggies. And then there's email, contests to judge, promotions for the book that's coming out . . . there's never enough time in the day to get it all done.
Can you share three writing tips?
1. Characters are primary. No matter where you set your book or how the plot plays out, if you don't have strong, likeable characters, what's the point?
2. Find a good critique group or partner, but don't let anyone change your voice. If you don't get good advice or if they're too intrusive, don't be shy about moving on. You don't want your book to sound like THEY wrote it.
3. Figure out your process, what works for you, and stick with it. If you plot, great, but if you don't, that's fine, too, as long as the process works for you.