Hello everyone! Hope you all had a wonderful break during the holiday season and are already getting cozy, sitting back, getting ready to get acquainted with talented writers learning about them by reading their interviews with Coffee Time Romance. I am pleased to welcome Stefanie Worth to Coffee Time Romance. Hi Stefanie. Congratulations on publishing your debut novel, Where Souls Collide with Dorchester Publishing. How does it feel publishing your first book?
Thanks, Delores. This has definitely been one of the most exciting adventures I’ve ever undertaken.
How long did it take you to write the novel?
I actually started the book in 1998, working with a critique group. I kept at it for about a year, then dropped out of the group – and quit working on the novel – to focus on my nine-to-five career and my kids. Then, in 2004, I ran into one of my former critique partners at one of her book signings. She invited me back to the group and I accepted. I then finished the novel about a year later, in September 2005, and began editing/revising and submitting. I received the offer from Dorchester in October 2006. I’m fortunate to have sold my first manuscript so quickly.
What inspired you to write such an intriguing contemporary romance based on the paranormal?
My kids will tell you that I’m in Seventh Heaven when the annual Twilight Zone marathon airs every New Year’s weekend. I’ve always been intrigued by otherworldly stories. I started reading Stephen King at thirteen and Dean Koontz later on. I also enjoy dissecting movies – everything from The Sixth Sense to The Matrix trilogy, The Others and similar supernatural stories.
Have you always wanted to write a book based on the paranormal?
I didn’t set out to write a paranormal story, but I haven’t been able to develop a concept without throwing in supernatural elements and twists. It’s definitely become my comfort zone.
How much do you know about the supranatural and paranormal?
I wouldn’t consider myself an expert…yet. But, I think that’s where my journalism background comes in handy. When you’re a reporter, you have to be able to immerse yourself in a subject and convey it with credibility. So my training builds on my natural curiosity. I expect to learn more with every story I undertake.
How much research went into gathering material for the novel?
In terms of the paranormal aspects, I started by researching Navena and Maxwell’s sun signs. Early in my writing, I even had an astrology reading for Navena. I studied books on Tarot cards, dream interpretation and later researched Empaths. I also had to do some lunar charting for the story.
Personal characteristics as well as the journalistic background of Navena appear to be similar to your own. Would some of the concepts and events at the Detroit Dispatch, be drawn from your own experiences?
Aside from the day-to-day operations of the newspaper and the editorial process involved in producing a magazine, the rest of the happenings at the Detroit Dispatch are purely fictional. I did want to spotlight the Black press because working at the Michigan Chronicle in Detroit was my favorite job.
I’m a transplant from St. Louis and working there allowed me to interview so many incredible people – like former mayor and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Dennis Archer, former Miss America Marjorie Judith Vincent, Chris Rock during his Saturday Night Live days, John Salley when he was with the Detroit Pistons, and an artist named Ralfie, whose paintings were featured in the Huxtable household on the Cosby Show set. I also got to spotlight social programs, health issues and community activists. I worked extremely hard at the Chronicle, but it was work I truly loved. I enjoyed filling Navena with that same passion.
You have been writing for many years now, please share with us a few of the awards you had won during your earlier writing career.
While I was a reporter and editor at the Chronicle, I won three awards from the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Two were for Best Women’s Section, which went to the paper’s Compositions Section, and the other was a third place recognition for a feature article I wrote about the Lula Belle Stewart Center, an agency for pregnant teens.
I later won two poetry honors. A poem called “Milagro,” which I wrote about my first child and oldest son, was published in the Metro Times Summer Fiction issue. Another poem, “Romance,” won first place from the Detroit Writers Guild in its Paul Laurence Dunbar poetry contest. And the first finished version of Where Souls Collide, then titled “Inkling,” placed fifth in Coeur de Louisiane's 2005 Romancing the Tome Contest.
Each award was great for building my confidence as a writer. It’s always nice to know that people “get” what you write and that they liked reading it.
Moving on to your characters. Maxwell and Luke, being quite talented and multifaceted, are men of all sorts. Fern is a very likeable, fun and feisty woman yet, on the other hand, Navena’s mother, Audrey Larimore comes across as a strong, dark and mysterious woman leading me to the question, are any of your characters based on people you know?
Audrey Larimore lives in the same religious/superstitious realm that my grandmother lived in. She was a devout Saved & Sanctified woman who would spit on a broom in a heartbeat if you swept it across her feet. It makes for an interesting mix of beliefs that I decided worked well for Navena’s mother. As for the other characters, their personalities are composites – not of people I know, but of literary archetypes that played specific roles in the story. I spent a lot of time deciding how I wanted each character to behave and trying to refine that in the editing process.
Navena is confronting many issues and challenges, personal, career, men and finding herself. How hard was it finding ways for Navena to tackle her interspersed challenges?
It wasn’t hard at all. I live in a very real world where people experience great struggles and true triumphs. Life, to me at least, is seldom a straight line from birth to happiness. Hopefully, readers can find some aspect of Navena’s existence that they can relate to and empathize with.
Do you have any plans to write a sequel?
I’ve actually had the question posed to me by some of the story’s readers, and until they asked, the thought hadn’t occurred to me. I have tucked the notion away in my idea file, though.
I wish you great success with the book and in your writing career. Thank you very much Stefanie Worth, for taking time out of your schedule for this interview. It has been a pleasure.
Thanks for the well wishes and the opportunity to spend this time with your Coffee Time Romance readers.