When did you decide to be a writer?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. When I was in elementary school, I would write and illustrate stories and fold them up like books. I kept journals throughout high school and college where I documented every small detail of my life and my analysis of it. Reading and writing have always been a huge part of my life.
How long did you write before you sold your first book?
A few years ago, I got serious about seeking publication. In 2007, I joined ACFW and entered the Genesis Contest so I could get some honest feedback on my writing. At that point, I really started trying to learn as much about the craft of writing as possible. The following year at ACFW conference, I was awarded a publishing contract from Barbour Publishing for my Walk in the Park series. Each year they award a surprise contract to an unpublished author—it was such a special moment for me!
Everyone’s journey to publication is different. Now that you’ve walked that road, what tips can you give to authors still hoping for that first contract?
Learn as much as you can about the publishing industry and the craft of writing. And keep writing—the more you write, the better you become. For me, joining ACFW and attending the annual conference has made a huge difference in my writing career.
Was there something about the experience of getting published that was a surprise to you?
Seeing my name on a book cover surprises me every time! I’ve just finished my fourth book, and I have to say, the thrill of seeing a new cover for the first time hasn’t gotten old yet! I have two books out now and another that releases next month—and getting my hands on the first copy of each title has been an emotional experience. I’ve also been surprised by reader feedback. I love to hear from people who’ve enjoyed my books.
Are you a disciplined writer or do you just write when you feel like it?
I’ve been on a continual deadline for more than a year now—so just writing when I feel like it isn’t an option! I’m trying to become more disciplined and work on a set schedule. Although that is much easier said than done. But I have finally figured out my most productive and least productive writing times, and that has helped a lot. I think there are just certain times of the day when I’m naturally more creative.
What kind of activities to you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?
This may sound a little weird, but one thing I do is go to the Target store near my house and wander up and down the aisles. I’m not shopping for anything—just walking around, thinking about the book I’m writing. Sometimes just stepping away from my laptop helps my creativity. I also spend time out in my back yard, playing with my dogs or gardening.
What is your favorite novel (not written by you) and what made it special?
This is a tough one! There are so many that come to mind. If I had to narrow it down to one that’s impacted me recently, it would be Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos. She has such a way with words—it’s just beautifully written. Normally I breeze through books very quickly, but I loved this one so much, I forced myself to read slowly so it would last longer.
How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?
I think it pushes me to become a better writer—with pretty much every book I read, I think of ways to improve my own writing. Even though I’m reading for pleasure, I can’t help but notice things the author did particularly well and learning from those things.
Tell us a little about your latest release:
Kristy O’Neal gave up her dream job as a park ranger at Shiloh National Military Park to get married and move away. When she’s left at the altar, she returns to the park to find her old position has already been filled. She accepts a seasonal position even though it is a step back, career-wise. Working alongside Ace Kennedy (the man who has her old job) is almost more than Kristy can handle. Throw in a matchmaking mother and friends who think she should put herself back in the dating game, and Kristy is nearly at her wits end. She sees the past as a battlefield of failed relationships and isn’t sure she’s ready to risk her heart again.
For Ace Kennedy, history offers proof that true love exists. With stories from the park’s rich history in his arsenal, he begins the battle to win Kristy’s heart. But when Kristy learns he’s keeping secrets from her, her skepticism seems justified. Can she risk her heart on the battlefield of love one more time or will Ace lose Kristy forever?
Where did you get your inspiration for Love is a Battlefield?
I spent a few years working as a park ranger at Shiloh National Military Park. I absolutely loved my job, but at the same time realized it was very unique. Not many people dress up like a Civil War soldier and fire a musket on a daily basis! Since then, I’ve wanted to use Shiloh as the setting for a novel. My experience as a park ranger inspired the entire Walk in the Park series.
Which character is most like you?
I probably identify the most with Kristy, although I’m not sure how much alike we are.
Who is your favorite character and why?
I love them all! If I have to choose, I guess it would be Kristy. She’s funny and quirky. She tries so hard to be tough and never show her emotions—even though underneath the surface she’s very vulnerable. And despite the things that have gone wrong in her life, her faith never wavers.
Did you know how Love is a Battlefield would turn out? Were you surprised by any of the plot twists or characters?
I knew how it would turn out, pretty much from the minute I started writing it. But I didn’t know all of the bumps along the way. I think the only thing that surprised me a little was a romance that developed between two of the secondary characters. They’re an older couple and their story ended up being really sweet. I had lots of readers who commented that they really enjoyed that aspect—and that particular romance wasn’t in my original plans!
What is the main thing you hope readers remember from this story?
Sometimes bad things happen to us that end up being the best thing for us. Kristy is devastated when she’s left at the altar, but it ends up being the best thing that could’ve happened to her.
Also, the theme of forgiveness is really central to Love is a Battlefield. Kristy’s journey allows her to understand how important (although not always easy) it is to forgive those who’ve hurt her, and how freeing that can be.
What kinds of things have you done to market this book? Have you found anything that works particularly well?
Blog interviews like this one (thanks for having me, by the way!), book signings, speaking appearances, etc. I have an author page on Facebook I keep updated, and I’m also on Twitter. I think every little bit of exposure helps, especially as I’m getting started and trying to grow a base of readers.
Tell us what new projects you’re working on.
My next book releases in May. Love is Monumental is the second book in the Walk in the Park series. Here’s the blurb from the back cover:
Finding love has become a feat of monumental proportions for a shy park ranger.
Park ranger Vickie Harris loves living in the nation's capitol. She loves working at the Washington Monument. But she's never been in love. In fact, her personal life is non-existent. On her thirtieth birthday, shy Vickie impulsively promises her friends that she’ll ask out the next eligible man she meets.
Professor Thatcher Torrey has had enough heartache to last forever. Through with love, he’s spent years building his life around work. So when his longtime rival sets out to make a historic find, Thatcher is hot on his heels. But he can’t do the research alone. Intellectual Vickie is the perfect research partner and he'll stop at nothing to convince her to help him with his quest.
Just as these polar opposites form a bond, a secret from Thatcher’s past pulls them apart. Will they go their separate ways? Or will they come to realize that when it’s with the right person, Love is Monumental?
Do you have any parting words of advice?
Don’t let fear of the unknown keep you from trying something new. My writing career has been a huge leap of faith. In the beginning, I was scared to even think about letting someone else read my words—and now I’m hopeful that people will want to read them.
Thanks so much for having me on here!
I can be found online in a few spots:
My Web site