I grew up in Kentucky, but I’ve lived in Nashville for the last twenty years. I’ve been writing since I was eight years old. I started with a newspaper that I wrote, illustrated and distributed with the help of my mom’s work copy machine. I had a successful run of two editions before publishing an exposé based on sketchy facts in my third paper – that one shut me down for good! Since then, I’ve become an accountant that writes, sings and paints in her spare time, and a mother, which is always inspiring.
What were you like at school?
I was a very good student – all A’s, or very nearly so. I had scholarships to college which was good, because I married young (at eighteen) and was living on my own with my new husband. We were broke and knew it (I always wonder how some people can say they were broke but didn’t know it – it was very apparent to us :)). I guess you could say I was semi-popular in school – I was never excluded from anything and I had plenty of friends, but only a few really close ones.
Were you good at English?
Yes – I took college English in high school and made the only A in my class both semesters. That continued on through other English and Humanities courses in college, where my papers and essays were often read to the class.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
To write books that inspire or entertain, that make readers think and feel. If that means I write a book a year, great! But if it means I only ever have one or two really great books to my name, I will feel honored and blessed to have been given such a gift.
Which writers inspire you?
J.K. Rowling has been a huge inspiration to me. Even though we write different types of books, her ability to develop characters and create relationships is amazing to me. I also love Diana Gabaldon – her gift of dialogue and her ability to convey everyday life in eighteenth century Scotland are awe-inspiring.
So, what have you written?
I’ve written two previous novels and some poetry. A Whisper of Smoke is my first published novel.
How would you describe your book?
The genre is up-market women’s fiction – think book club (in fact, A Whisper of Smoke includes book club discussion questions at the back). But men, don’t let that turn you off – I’ve had lots of men read it and love it! It’s a story about uncovering family secrets, and how one teenage girl’s life experiences shape how she deals with them. At the same time, it is a profound love story between the teenage girl, Susanna, and her best friend, demonstrating how star-crossed love and a war can teach important life lessons. In the end, it is a coming of age love story, involving both romantic and familial love.
What inspired you to write it?
Most of us have our share of family secrets. I was intrigued by what might happen to cause a new generation to deal with them differently from the older generation, and how cycles might be repeated or broken, depending sometimes on the smallest of decisions. I also was interested in the notions of redemption and condemnation, and how complicated both can be yet, at the same time, intrinsic to the human condition.
What makes the setting, 1960s Kentucky, important? And how does the Vietnam War play an important role in the story?
The story took place in Kentucky because, as my home state, it is familiar to me – this story could have taken place virtually anywhere across America. However, the 1960s setting was essential because it was a time when dysfunction was as common as it is today, but very often not discussed. It was also a time when a nation’s innocence was passing away in the shadow of civil rights unrest and a foreign war with ambiguous purpose. I liked the parallels between our nation’s loss of innocence and Susanna’s, and how both were underlined by the strong personal and cultural desire to develop new moral boundaries that were different from those of the previous generations. The Vietnam War was an important part of the book because it emphasized for my characters, as in real life, the idealization that’s inherent in innocence, and how, when that innocence is lost, you are faced with the realization that even the most honorable person can be changed by his or her experiences.
Where can we buy your book?
It’s available in trade paperback on-line at Amazon and Books-A-Million. It’s available electronically for Kindle on Amazon. Stay tuned (on my Facebook page and my blog) for news about local bookstores (in Nashville, TN) where you can find my book.
What are you working on at the minute?
I’m writing a young adult book about a teenage girl who goes on vacation to Ireland with her family and gets kidnapped by Leprechauns. Enough said :).
This is so different from your first book. Tell me more!
Here is a brief description: Upon hearing about the legends of Ireland during a family vacation, including the legends of Leprechauns and the Faerie Pool, Briley Dunn sneaks out in search of Leprechauns and fairies under a full moon. Accompanied by her reluctant sister, Briley’s moonlight dip turns to apparent tragedy when she disappears in the depths of the still waters. What her family doesn’t know is she’s been taken (by a Leprechaun Taker) to Coffers Glen, a world reminiscent of ancient Ireland. There she finds the stuff of legends is rooted in a terrible reality, and her adventure becomes a struggle between life and death – for herself as well as for the other stolen children in her care.
What genre are your books?
As I said, my first book is up-market women’s fiction, which is where my heart is. I know I will write more in this genre, but it is so emotional to me that I will only write another novel in that genre when I find great inspiration. But I also love and often read young adult books, so this second book is still firmly inside my sphere of influence and has been a lot of fun to write. That said, since it is so different, I may use a pen name to publish it.
How much research did you do for A Whisper of Smoke?
Quite a bit. I didn’t grow up in the 1960s (I was born in the 1970s and was Susanna’s age in the 1980s), so I did quite a bit of research , supplemented by interviews, in order to get a sense for that time period in history and the generation that grew up then. The majority of my research, though, was around the Vietnam War. I wanted the letters to have a realistic feel and for the reader to get a clear sense of what it might have been like for two people who cared about each other to be separated by that conflict. My research included reading lots of resource texts, watching documentaries and several interviews with a Vietnam veteran. In the end, though, the sentiments that were expressed between Susanna and Calvin, the farmboy-turned-soldier who was her best friend and secret love, were from my heart.
How long did it take you to write your book?
It took me ten years from start to completion, with many, many drafts in between. This was because I was also working full-time at my career as an accountant.
Is A Whisper of Smoke part of a series?
No, but my new book is. I plan to write three books about Briley Dunn and her adventures with the Leprechauns.