I write because I love it. To be honest, I can't imagine not writing. It's also one of the ways that I explore the world around me, particularly aspects of it that I find disturbing. Sometimes I deliberately write characters that have traits I dislike or backgrounds that confuse me so that I can learn how those people think and find empathy for those who are different than I am.
Another side effect of writing is that I have the opportunity to research and learn about things that I otherwise might not look into for my everyday life. After all, what are the odds that I need to learn medieval swordfighting to live in the suburbs? (Failing a zombie apocalypse, of course.)
2. How many books have you written?
I've published one book, The Universal Mirror, and am working on the sequel, The Jealousy Glass. My publisher, Hydra Publications, has been great to work with and I look forward to continuing with the series.
3. What inspired you to write your (latest) book?
A lot of my writing comes from frustration with the world around me and a wish to change something specific. The triggers for each book that I write aren’t what I’d consider obvious. In the case of The Universal Mirror, there were two things at play. The first was listening to my youngest daughter complain about how beautiful the people always were in the fantasy novels she was reading at the time and that she wanted “to read a book about regular people.”
The second, oddly, was my frustration with the whole universal healthcare debate and my dissatisfaction with the political process on both sides. The book is about two men who defy the government so that they can heal others and the moral complications that come with the experimentation involved. Those are issues that exist in our society--I wanted to explore them in a medieval setting to see how that changed the ways in which those kinds of questions were dealt with.
4. What is your favorite genre to read?
That depends on my mood. I am constantly reading history books of one kind or another since, as a museum curator, I spend much of my time searching for the story behind an artifact or photograph. At home, well, I still read history books (I love history, particularly biographies) but I balance that with a lot of fantasy, science-fiction, and horror. I dabble in other genres but those are the ones that I most enjoy.
5. Is your writing style at all influenced by those of your favorite authors?
To be honest, my writing is more influenced by authors I dislike! There are stereotypes in the fantasy genre that I'm really not fond of and Mirror was, in part, a reaction to that. I like heroes that are flawed, romances that aren't easy or reliant on physical appearance, and characters who try to do the right thing even when it looks wrong from the outside. Those are things that I don't find as often in fantasy as I'd like.
6. Which is your favorite book that you’ve written?
I've only written the one. :)
7. What is your opinion of the art of writing?
Writing isn't an easy thing, even to those of us who do it constantly. Like any art, it requires practice and the best writers are often those who spend years honing their skills.
That said, the one thing about writing is that I genuinely believe anyone can write. No two lives are the same and we all have our unique stories to tell and ways in which to tell them. Every book has its reader waiting--the trick is simply to discover who that is and how to put that novel in their hands.
8. What advice would you give someone who is just beginning their own novel?
"Don't give up" is the advice that everyone gives but it's very true. I would add to that, however, "don't look back." It's too easy to fall into the trap of editing over and over without actually finishing your work. Finish your book and then edit it. Don't obsess too much over the tiny details but let the story tell itself.
9. Do you have any funny and / or interesting stories about how you’ve come up with plots or characters?
My kids are always after me to name characters after their obsession of the week. I do have a character named Nicolas in the second book who was named after Nicolas Cage because of their deep love of the cinematic classic "Con Air" (no, I'm not being sarcastic. At all.). Currently, I'm being encouraged to name a character after Martin Freeman's John Watson in the BBC Sherlock. Thus far, I'm resisting.
I take a lot of my plots out of newspaper articles. The worlds in which I write are distant and different from our present circumstance so it's very easy to twist thoughts and come up with something that's unrecognizable from the original event I started with.
My characters also often throw a wrench into any plan I come up with! I am a strict outliner but only when it comes to the main plot and event-based subplots. I never outline relationship developments but rather, let those happen organically. This means that I often end up having to return to my plot outlines but that's not a bad thing. (Though I sometimes wonder what life would be like in an alternate universe where the characters involved made different choices!)
10. Coke or Pepsi?
Pepsi. :) (Especially Mountain Dew. I'm a total dew addict.)