Why did you decide to write these books?
I awoke on the morning of my fortieth wedding anniversary thinking about all of the ups and downs my husband and I had survived, and about how love had changed for us as we weathered the bad times and the challenges of day-to-day living. Then — and this is where the magic came in, I began to wonder how life would have been if romantic love had lasted forever. The next thing I knew, I was sitting at my laptop, writing the first chapter of Dear Heart.
What genre are your books?
I would characterize both Dear Heart and Sweet Heart as contemporary romances.
Do you consider your books character-driven or plot-driven?
Definitely character driven since each book is narrated by a main character; Dear Heart is told by the female character and Sweet Heart is told by the male character.
What makes your books unique?
Primarily, the voice of the characters. But I think that the use of music and specific song titles to drive the plot is something that distinguishes these books from other romances.
Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?
I knew when I started that the main characters would have a passionate affair, be separated for a long period of time, and would ultimately get back together because, well, when I read a love story, I want there to be a happily ever after. Beyond that, the plot emerged as I wrote.
How do you develop the names for your characters?
I knew the title would be Dear Heart before I even started writing the book. When I came upon the name Deirdre when I was looking at baby names on the internet, it hit me that the first four letters of her name was a variation of the first word of the title. Then I found the name Hartley for the male character and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. The only problem was that I thought Hartley was too formal for the male character. I struggled with that for a little while, until I decided to give him a nickname.
How do you decide on the setting?
I knew I wanted to include music as a key element in the book and I decided to use music recorded by Frank Sinatra very early on. When I started going through his discography and discovered “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” it felt right to set the story there. And when I separated the lovers, I wanted Lee to be on the other side of the country, hence, New Jersey.
Do you have a writing mentor?
What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?
I am very lucky to have my own study which looks out into our yard, so I enjoy working there. But I don’t have a set writing schedule. I write when the spirit moves me. I don’t force it. I say, why torture yourself? Conventional wisdom is that writing in 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. But for me, writing is 100% about the inspiration, because when you’re inspired, you won’t have to break that much of a sweat. I’m not saying you won’t have to work, but the fact is that a truly inspired story will tell itself, while a story light on inspiration and heavy on perspiration will end up hopelessly contrived.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Yes, I’d just like to tell other aspiring writers to never give up. More than anything else, believe in your story. Don’t listen to anyone who tries to dissuade you from writing it. And don’t let anyone convince you to self-publish if you believe you can place your book with an actual publisher. It took me almost two years of sending out queries before Solstice Publishing offered me a contract for Dear Heart. And I could not have been luckier that Kathi Sprayberry and Melissa Miller took a chance on me. Together with KateMarie Collins, these women have taught me more about publishing and marketing than I thought I’d ever know, and I owe them a debt of gratitude I can never repay.
Where can readers find you?