2006 interview

Thank you for taking the time to answer some question about your release, Storm Watch.  Why don’t you start off by telling us a little about the novel?

Storm Watch is Book Three in the Unfinished Business series, a Cape Cod Paranormal Romance.

Please tell us more about the Unfinished Business Series and specifics for each book.

In Book One, Breakwater Beach, Liz is trying to recover from the untimely death of her husband. She attributes the visits of a dream lover to grief, but when she moves into the dilapidated Victorian in the historic sea captains’ town of Brewster, the dream becomes very real, jeopardizing her chances at a new life—and a new love. The journey begins in England, and spans an entire century.

The Widow’s Walk, Book Two, is set in Brewster and London, the year after the events in Breakwater Beach.  Mike and Liz must come to terms with their hauntings, and the dark secrets they try to hide from each other threaten to tear them apart.

Storm Watch, Book Three, leads Mike and Liz to reconciliation and resolution of the unfinished business in their past lives, on the winds of a Category Five hurricane headed directly for them.

Where did the idea for the series come from?

The Unfinished Business Series began like most of my projects—when I was not even thinking of writing a story. While opening up a summer cottage, pulling dust covers off furniture and vacuuming up flies, I had the sudden inspiration to write a story about a woman who finds a trunk of old clothes and learns sad truths about the person who they once belonged to. It was a quick hop from that to a ghost story, and I missed all the barbecues and parades over that the Fourth of July weekend in upstate New York while immersed in writing a paranormal fantasy set on Cape Cod. The series combines my love of the beach and boats with a fascination about paranormal activities, and how past life experiences influence our fears, fantasies, and choices.

I grew up on the waterfront and on boats of all sizes. My family has been vacationing on the Cape since I was very young, and I have been intrigued by the history of the Brewster sea captains and their wives. What better place than to situate this trunk in a dilapidated Victorian, that just happens to be haunted?

The short story version was done before it was time to pack up and go home. Over the next several months, it expanded into a novelette—and then into a novel. Breakwater Beach is Liz’s story, and the novel delves more deeply into Elisabeth’s and Edward’s stories.

I never intended to write a series, but the story line presented itself in another moment of inspiration—with a focus on a key feature of Victorian architecture. Book Two, The Widow’s Walk, is primarily Mike’s story, though he shares the spotlight with his very troubled new wife.

There is a lot of pressure and competition in becoming an author.  What made you decide to become a romance writer?

I was writing fantasy and science fiction, as well as non-fiction, before I got into writing romance. Romance was only one of the genres I’ve read all my life, but I found so much support from my chapter of the Romance Writers Of America I’ve found a niche for the time being.

How did you get started in writing?  I have found everyone has a story about getting started and they are usually interesting stories. 

About twelve years ago, I was so immersed in research reports and articles I didn’t want to write a shopping list. Then I saw a very popular movie, rated PG, where the main character kills his wife. It’s science fiction, but still, I was infuriated and decided that had to be put right. Women’s and political issues are a main part of everything I write, so it informs my fiction as well. I still haven’t given up on that first novel, which is a young adult space opera and a kick-ass heroine–it just needs major work and I’m very busy with my other series right now.

I find the process of writing interesting and unique.  How far are you willing to go for research? Would you for instance, cook certain foods, go on police ride alongs, view autopsies or surgeries, try BDSM, etc. 

Well, I am a nurse midwife, and my job is public health, so I walk the streets of New York City. I’ve ridden in ambulances, been at crime scenes, seen autopsies, perform surgery, and have worked with, and protected patients from police and law enforcement in the emergency room. That makes urban fantasy pretty easy to write. For the Unfinished Business series, I traveled to London and Surrey to see the manor houses and get a sense of distances and places. The Victoria and Albert Museum was one of my favorite stops though Salisbury, Stonehenge, and Sussex were very cool. For urban fantasies, I’ve been making the rounds of botánicas to study Santeria. For the sci fi I go on thrill rides to experienced centrifugal forces. Did you know that the average bra does not perform well in those situations? That’s all living dangerously enough, so I’ll pass on the BDSM. For now.

Is there a character that was the hardest to write? The easiest? Have you ever patterned a character after someone you knew?

All my characters are composites of people I know, and people I observe. Occasionally, I have one that just comes to life on his or her own, but that’s rare. Mike in the Unfinished Business Series is a composite of my father, uncles and grandfather. Again, because I use ethnography for research, the inspiration comes from the sensory stimulation I’m immersed in. The hardest character to write was the serial killer in my horror short story The Ultimate Test. I scared myself. One of my horror writer friends kept telling me to relax, it’s fiction.

How long did it take you to write your first book?

That first novel took about six months. It’s terrible and will need a complete re write. Breakwater Beach took five years to finish since it’s a dual timeline story. Merging it was very difficult. Once I had more writing practice, The Widow’s Walk and Storm Watch took about a year each.

How hard is it to keep your ideas fresh in each new book? 

Not hard. I write in a very spontaneous, loose way. I see something and write it down. Whether it becomes fiction or non-fiction depends on how the story plays out–or how the experience strikes me. I cannot write to prompts. Once I stop thinking about plot, it opens up before my eyes.  What is hard is no writing cliché or predictable stories. It’s those random events that pop up when I’m on the NYC streets, buses and subways that give me plenty of twists and turns to write in.

For example, ne morning, I was sitting on Breakwater Beach in Brewster and there was a fisherman in his beached boat, waiting for the tide to come in. I remembered doing the same when I was a kid, while my father was cleaning the bottom. I dashed the opening scene of Storm Watch off the same day. There is also a scene in the book reminiscent of a harrowing experience on Long Island Sound. Plus, I’ve prepared for and recovered from several major hurricanes, so there wasn’t too much research to do for Storm Watch. But I had to tie up not only that plot, but also all the other plotlines that took some doing. I’m delighted with the way it turned out and think the cover is just perfect.

To date which is your favorite book you have written and why?

That is so hard to say since my favorite is the one I’ve just finished or am working on now. I believe that the Unfinished Business series represents a particular part of my life experience. It’s special because of that.

Since Storm Watch, are you working on any projects now?  Can you give us any “brief peeks” of them?

It’s all about urban fantasy romance for me right now. The Boulevard of Bad Spells and Broken Dreams series examines another facet of my life, and I’m thrilled to be able to show people another, less common aspect of my present reality.

Here’s a quick snippet of the main character, Taina, finding out she’s got a mission–and she doesn’t intend to accept it.

A pigeon flew so close Taina expected the poop to plop on her back. It flapped its wings to challenge a squirrel that scavenged through an overflowing pail filled with remnants of fried chicken, egg rolls, and pizza crusts. The rodent was faster though, and it scaled a tree with a crescent shaped remainder of something in its mouth.

As she passed Ritual Rock, a nondescript gray bird, its wing tips and breast streaked with blue and green bright enough to adorn a peacock’s tail, landed in front of her and blocked the way like it had set up a force field.

“What the fuck?” Taina tried to push past, but couldn’t.

“Humans really like that word.” A creature, waist high to Taina, with a Cheshire Cat grin, a British accent, two iridescent blue wings, and a squat, leaf-green body materialized, his choice parts barely concealed by a brown rag.

“What the fu**!” A fairy in this human wasteland?

Like a true New Yorker he ignored the duplicate expletive. “Allow me to introduce myself. Bridge Rat, minion to Hawkclaw, Fairy King of New Yorke at your service, Lady Taina. I am in charge of this sector of The Bronx. My liege lord shall arrive in a moment.”

He bowed like a praying mantis being eaten by a bird. “I daresay the foul language you’ve acquired in such a short time bodes well for your ability to rise to your duties.”

Tonight couldn’t get more weird. First, she’d broken some punk’s nose. Now she’d dropped the F bomb on a fairy. Twice. And she didn’t give a shit about either transgression.

“Knock it off. The only court around here is on 161st and the Grand Concourse. This isn’t Camelot, and I’m not a lady. I’m a woman and don’t rise to do anyone’s duty.”

Do you have a newsletter and or a chat-loop?

My newsletter subscription link is  http://eepurl.com/bfNver  All subscribers get a free PDF download of Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, which features a short story version of Breakwater Beach. I am on Twitter and Facebook, and just started creating Pinterest boards for all the Unfinished Series books so readers can “see” the scenery. I love to hear from readers on any of those platforms, or they can contact me through my website if they would like a signature or a gift package off all three books (in print) autographed and tied up with a bow.

Is there a question you wish readers or interviewers would ask more? 

Most writers I know have day jobs, which inform what they write. I talk about my day (and night) job a lot in my non-fiction. I think readers would find that interesting. Thanks for asking.

Every author has some way they are most comfortable when writing; do you have a method by which your write?  Surrounded by music, dim lighting, snuggled on the couch, time of day, etc.

I’m usually in the kitchen so I can look out the window. I am able to drown out most of the chaos in the house, and wear headphones if I’m listening to my novel being read (proofreading). If I get too comfortable, I fall asleep.

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