When did you first start writing?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t telling myself stories in my head. I was writing them down as soon as I knew that was a thing you could do.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes! It was the story of a young handmaiden to a queen who wanted to escape a loveless marriage. The handmaiden TOTALLY wanted to be the queen’s best friend forever. It might have been … diagnostic. LOL.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I remember being utterly swept away by The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe when Miss Dedic, my fourth grade teacher, read it aloud to the class. It was a clever way to settle us down after lunch. I couldn’t wait to get back inside to hear more. I think one of the reasons it grabbed me so hard was that it was told from the perspective of a girl my age, Lucy Pevensie. That has stayed with me throughout my writing life, that books that mean the most are mirrors of ourselves in some way.
What’s something people don’t know about you?
Winnie-the-Pooh is my patronus. (Here is an illustrative gif: https://goo.gl/images/2SRMhK ) I find it amazing that people don’t believe it when I say this about myself. I mean…have they met me?
What are you working on next?
My greatest fear as a writer is telling the same story twice. I think the mystery of the heart and the human connection is a universal story, and the women in my stories are the heroes of their own lives. So whatever new idea or fresh twist I can come up with to keep readers thinking “I’ve never read this before” – that’s what I’m always working on.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Connecting with readers. This is a demanding career with a lot of hard work, and hearing from readers how a book made them feel is the whipped cream on any day.
What is your process?
I am grabbed by an issue or stray thought, a “what if,” or even more often, a “how does that feel” curiosity. Like how would it feel to find out your parents were financial frauds? How would it feel to sink every penny you had into a restaurant and the next day have all the furniture repossessed? How would it feel to be a violin prodigy and lose your ability to play?
I let these thoughts mill around in my head. A lot are forgotten, but the ones that stick I start to populate a character or framework to match the situation. Because I write romance I ask myself how would falling in love would help or hinder. I keep thinking about it until it’s all I’m thinking about. Then I pick a title and start anchoring plot points and writing notes about scenes I already know have to happen.
It sounds messy, but I don’t know another way to make sure I don’t write the same book over and over. My creativity comes first, and THEN I figure out how to put it into a story my readers might enjoy.
Describe your desk.
Functionally messy with a chocolate stash.
What do you read for pleasure?
Mysteries! I love Anne Hillerman’s Bernadette Manuelito mysteries, Laurie R. King’s Russell and Holmes stories, Donna Leon’s Inspector Brunetti series, and of course Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher. In lesbian mysteries I am there for JM Redmann’s Mickey Knight and Ellen Hart’s Jane Lawless, and of course, every Katherine Forrest’s Kate Delafield. Justice seems scarce in the world of late, and finding it in books is heartening.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
California’s Central Valley is more like the Midwest than anywhere else in the state. Sacramento especially felt like a small town, but it certainly wasn’t a very diverse one. It was great to have the cosmopolitan scene of San Francisco not that far away. It gave me an appreciation for how different types of people improve on one another as neighbors and colleagues, teachers and friends, so that nobody goes stale. That has kept me always looking for fresh perspective as a writer.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
This changes, all the time. But I invite readers and writers alike to enjoy CJ Cherryh’s Pride of Chanur. It’s a fun romp of a space opera and a great read. For the writers: This is how you tell a story with no exposition. Remarkable.
Why do you love libraries so much?
First – duh. Books. Free. Second – libraries are like food. They tell you everything you need to know about a community. Its values, where its roots are, what kinds of resources it has. Third – Batgirl. Was a librarian. So there’s that.
How do you know you’re a success as a writer?
I can only define that for me, because every writer is different. I succeed when I connect with readers. Connecting – acknowledging that we both exist and share a bond over a story. But I also feel successful when I get tangible affirmation that the story I’ve told has value to someone. That could be money, reviews, a note from a reader, anything at all that says “this story was worth it.”
What’s the Best Way a Reader Can Help?
This. And read legally.