I've been a published writer for a number of years now, and even though I enjoy answering emails from my readers, I see the same questions quite frequently. So here are the answers to, I hope, most of your questions :)
Where do you get your ideas?
Answer: From books, magazines, movies, plays, TV, newspapers, my kids, my husband, strangers... Basically, everything I do is all fodder for my writing! All my experiences, all the people I've met, my travel experiences, and all the classes I've attended. It is all is fuel for the fire of my imagination. I advise aspiring writers to go out and experience life,
take classes on anything that interests them and talk to people. I have a notebook full of notes and ideas from my various experiences. I don't lack for ideas, but for time.
How did you get the idea for POISON STUDY?
Answer: I was reading Orson Scott Card's book, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. In chapter 3, Card tells the writer to consider some questions before choosing the main character. He wrote, "Too often--particularly in medieval fantasy--writers think their story must be about rulers. Kings and queens, dukes and duchesses--they can be extravagantly powerful, yes, but too often they aren't free at all. If you understand the workings of power in human societies, you'll know that the greatest freedom to act in unpredictable ways is usually found away from the centers of power."
This comment led me to think about a person who was close enough to the center of power to witness important events, yet not be the Prince or Princess. I thought about a food taster and a scene jumped into my mind. I saw a woman tasting food that was most likely poisoned through the eyes of the King. He watched her with heartbreaking horror because he had fallen in love with her. That led me to wonder about this woman. Who was she? Why was she there? Why would a King fall in love with her? And POISON STUDY was born.
Are you going to write more Study books about Yelena and Valek?
Answer: No. DAWN STUDY is the final book for Yelena and Valek. After six books, they've been through so much--fights for their lives, kidnappings, assassination attempts, daring rescues, mother-in-laws, arrests, rogue magicians, betrayals, and Janco's campaigns against sand--that I think it's time for them to get a well deserved rest. :) But I'm still open to writing more short stories about them, or more books set in the world of Ixia and Sitia. There are a number of interesting characters who might spark an idea or two for another book or two. Key word: MIGHT ;)
What is your preferred reading order of the Study/Glass (Soulfinder/Chronicles of Ixia) books and short stories?
Answer: Here's the order that will give you the best experience with the books:
- POISON STUDY
- POISON STUDY (Chapter 1 from Valek's POV - read it HERE)
- ASSASSIN STUDY (short story - read it HERE)
- MAGIC STUDY
- FIRE STUDY
- POWER STUDY (short story - read it HERE)
- STORM GLASS
- SEA GLASS
- SPY GLASS
- ICE STUDY (short story and prequel to SHADOW STUDY - read it HERE)
- SHADOW STUDY
- NIGHT STUDY
- SHATTERED GLASS (eNovella - read an excerpt HERE)
- DAWN STUDY (forthcoming January 31, 2017)
Do you need to read the Glass books to read the Study books?
Answer: No. The Study books focus on the adventures of Yelena and Valek and you should be fine as long as you read ICE STUDY before SHADOW STUDY. However, there are references to events that happened in the Glass books in the 3 new Study books so you might feel like you missed something exciting (PS: you are - just sayin' ;).
Warning spoiler alert!! Speaking of the Glass books, I was really upset about Opal's choice at the end of SPY GLASS. Can you explain your reasons for her choice?
Answer: I can. I realize that many of my readers weren't happy that she ended up with Devlen. Yes Devlen did horrible things in the first two books, however, I saw his terrible actions being fueled by his addiction to blood magic. It's like being an alcoholic or drug addict. Many people do horrible things while drunk (like driving a car and killing someone) and they'll steal to get money for drugs. But once they overcome the addiction they can be very different people. I remember sitting in an assembly in high school and listening to a group of young men and women tell stories about their addictions. They detailed what they did while high and drunk and how they overcame the addiction. They were going to schools to help others not to make the same mistakes they did. That has stayed with me all these years. And that's how I see Devlen. Plus people can change and they should be forgiven for making mistakes.
Are you going to write more Healer books about Avry and Kerrick?
Answer: I don't have any plans to write more books about them, however, I said the same thing about Yelena and Valek after I finished FIRE STUDY and look what happened. ;) I'm not going to say never, and I also might consider other characters in that series, like Danny and Zila. Key word: MIGHT!
Warning spoiler alert!! Speaking of Kerrick, why did he strike Avry?
Answer: I figured my readers wouldn't be happy about that, however my characters are not perfect and they make mistakes. At that time, Kerrick had been searching for a healer for two years. Avry was refusing to heal his good friend, Prince Ryne, who Kerrick believed would bring peace to their world. Plus she was bad mouthing the Prince. Kerrick snapped and lost his temper. It was a mistake that he regretted and never did again. Later in the story, Avry zaps him with her magic, causing him more pain than he caused her - a little payback there ;). And then in SCENT OF MAGIC, he's beaten and frozen by Noak so he suffers there as well. Just like Devlen, I believe people should be forgiven when they make mistakes, especially when they are making an effort to make amends. Now, if he had hit her again, well then, he'd have to die! ;)
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Answer: Be Persistent! Don't give up! Finish that first draft before doing revisions. Learn the craft of writing as well as the business of writing and attend writer's conferences and classes if you can. Be wary of predators, if someone is asking you for money proceed with the utmost caution, and get feedback on your stories from fellow writers before submitting, consider joining a critique group. And I agree whole heartily with Stephen King's advice in his book, On Writing, where he wrote, If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot." I also have a number of writing advice articles HERE.
Are any of your books going to be made into movies?
Answer: I would love for a movie to be made of any of my books! My agent is currently sending the books around Los Angeles, but Hollywood has yet to call us. If you know anyone in the business, please feel free to mention my books ;> I could also see the Study/Glass books as a TV series - with Joss Whedon (who did the Buffy and Angel TV series) in charge, of course.
I'm working on a short story or novel. Can I email you my story to read and get feedback?
Answer: Unfortunately, I don't have the time to read your story. Between my family, my deadlines (two a year), my students at Seton Hill University, and my promotional efforts, there isn't enough time in the day.
If you like feedback you should consider joining a critique group - I have an article about how to find one on my website. Here's the link: Critique Group Advice.
Is FIRE STUDY available as a hardback? And will FIRE STUDY ever be released with a matching YA cover with the vines?
Answer: Unfortunately, FIRE STUDY has only been released as a trade sized paperback and there are no plans to release a hardcover edition. Also there won't be a matching YA cover either. :(
Can you do a book signing or event in my area?
Answer: I would love to come to your area, unfortunately my publisher only pays for certain events and the rest I pay for on my own. Also my family and Seton Hill students limits my promotion time - that and I still need to write books :)
However, that's not to say I won't ever come to your area. On occasion, I'm invited by a library or school or convention to visit an area and they'll cover my travel expenses. In that case, I always try and do a number of public signings for my readers. The best way to keep up to date about my schedule is to subscribe to my FREE quarterly email newsletter. To subscribe, go to my News page and scroll all the way down to the bottom and fill out the form. Here's a link: News
Do you base your characters on real people? Are the heroines really you in disguise?
Answer: Sometimes :) I will use bits and pieces of people I know for my characters, but never their whole personality. And I don't plan my characters out ahead of time; they develop as I write about them just like a Polaroid picture. I start with a general stereotype and then the character comes alive as they move through the story. For example, Valek. He started as an assassin stereotype-athletic, confidant, skilled in the martial arts. But as he interacted with the other characters (mainly Yelena), he diverged from the stereotype. He's a pack rat with an insatiable curiosity. He's also a sculptor and has a very dry, sarcastic sense of humor.
My heroines are not me. We might share some traits, but they are all braver, smarter and stronger than I am.
Do you outline and/or plot out your novel before writing?
Answer: No. I'm what's known as a "seat of the pants" writer (a.k.a. pantser). I like to discover the plot and twists as I write. However, I usually have a general idea of where and how the book will end, but I don't write it out until I reach that point, because it can always change. This method works for me and I especially love when my characters do something that surprises me. For example, in POISON STUDY the Commander in surprised me and I figured if I'm caught off-guard, them my readers will be too :)
When and where do you write?
Answer: I'm a night owl and am most creative in the wee hours of the morning. I usually write from 10:00 p.m. until 3:00 a.m. I write on a computer in my home office. My husband enjoys woodworking and he built me a great writing room with built in bookcases and a custom made desk all out of cherry wood. I keep a number of toys nearby to fidget with as I'm working out a problem in my head, and I keep weapons nearby to act out the action scenes.
Here's a couple pictures of my desk and office:
You have a meteorology degree. How did you get started writing?
Answer: I started writing because of boredom! My first job after college was as an environmental meteorologist for a consulting firm. The amount of work came in waves, and we were either extremely busy or very bored. During the slow times, I started writing a short story. Ideas were always floating around in my mind, but that was when I began using them. I submitted my first short story for critique at a writing conference in Philadelphia, and when the workshop leader gave me 7 out of 10, I thought that was pretty good for a first effort and decided to stick with writing for a while. After my son was born and I only had about one hour a day to myself, I had to decide what was important enough to spend that precious time on. Most days writing won.
Growing up, I'd was always drawn to creative activities. I danced, acted in community theater and in school productions, took art classes, and played the piano and cello. My adolescent lack of confidence in these pursuits guided me toward a career in science. But I've found my way back.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Answer: It took me 5 years to complete POISON STUDY (including revisions), but I was only writing a chapter a month and raising little kids. Now I write full time and it takes me 7-9 months to complete a book.
What is easiest and hardest part of writing?
Answer: Dialogue is the easiest and the most fun to write. I struggle with details. I tend to go light on details, preferring to focus on action and dialogue. Also describing emotions without using cliches is very difficult for me, finding something fresh is hard, but when I do-it's like hitting the lottery.
What is the worst part of being a published writer?
Answer: Nasty reviews. I can handle mixed reviews where the reviewer didn't like the book, but the ones that are outright nasty and are intended to hurt are the worst. It's funny, I can read a dozen good reviews and one nasty one and that's the one that sticks in my head and can depress me enough to have a difficult time writing. Now, I avoid reading any bad reviews.
What is your favorite thing about being a published writer?
Answer: Interacting with my readers is the best aspect of being a published author. I love getting emails from readers and enjoy meeting them at events and signings. It surprised me just how important they are to me and I make sure I answer all my emails...eventually :)
Where can I find the most up to date information about you and your books?
Answer: I'm the most active on my Author Facebook page. Here's the link: MVS I also have a free email newsletter that I send out three to four times a year. I try to send special content just for my subscribers and I never send spam. You can use the form below to sign up.
What about the other social media sites? Are you on Twitter?
Answer: No. Since I only have a limited amount of time to spend on social media, I decided to concentrate on a few sites rather than trying to be everywhere. I'm most active on Facebook, then Goodreads and there's a few posts on my blog.
What books would you recommend?
Answer: This is always a hard question to answer since I read so many different genres and I have favorites in all of them. The best way to see what books I loved is to check out my Goodreads.com page and see my reviews. I really enjoy being on Goodreads and talking with others about books. Here's my page: MVS