When I started writing with real intention in 2006, I imagined great heights. I wanted to be published and write full-time for a living. I’m so grateful every day that I have accomplished these goals, but there are still more that I have in my sights. After all, I want to touch the hearts of millions with my books, entertain, inspire, and empower. There’s more work to do. 😊 Now, whether you’re just starting out in your writing journey or you’re a reader and curious about the process, I hope you the find the following interview with me interesting and enlightening. I’ve also talk about my latest Detective Madison Knight novel, What We Bury, and have included an excerpt.
Tell us about your writing career.
I started as a teenager as a way of dealing with my emotions, and from there I wrote novella-length romantic suspense. It had been a dream of mine to write a full-length novel! I even wrote into Harlequin for their submission guidelines without my parents’ knowledge. I remember hunkering down in the furnace room reading their response. However, it wasn’t until I was thirty that I wrote my first full-length novel. In fact, I’d been away from writing for thirteen years. Since 2006, though, my life changed, and writing’s been a part of my daily life since then.
It so happened that I worked for a fairly large corporation and my department knew that a layoff was coming because they were moving it to the Toronto area. Needless to say, myself and my fellow employees weren’t exactly motivated. One day the receptionist—who I had become friends with—emailed me toward the end of the day and said randomly, Tell me a story. I responded with a few paragraphs off the top of my head. My co-worker loved it and asked for more. This is how we spent the rest of the day—going back and forth. She then told me I had to finish the story. Hmph. Well… I accepted the challenge. It took me a full year to write that novel, but I did it!
Now don’t ask me the year, but probably around 2013, I cut back my hours at the day job from five days a week to four. Then I went to three. But see, I promised myself that if I ever got to the point I was going to ask to work two days, I would quit instead. That made complete sense to me. Why divide my time if I didn’t have to, and if I could afford to cut back to a couple of days a week, I’d get by without the money for those days. So that’s what I did. In summer of 2014, I quit my day job! And I’ll tell you, as sure as I was about my choice, I was also terrified! But I’m so very happy that I made that decision! It was the perfect time!
Further blessings came when my husband, who is a graphic designer, was also able to quit his day job in 2016 and join me full-time! He does a fantastic job with my covers and formatting my book interiors and making them not only gorgeous but providing a great reading experience. (And this is only a bit of what he does for me!)
But note that none of this just came about. I worked hard. I wrote before I left for the day job, I wrote on my lunch break, I wrote when I came home, and I wrote on weekends. Any spare moment I had I wrote. But I was driven and motivated by passion. Writing and editing was never a burden, but rather an honor. I love entertaining and inspiring people! In fact, an insider bit… I have two beagles and when I’m getting ready to go to my office, I say to them, Let’s go entertain and inspire. Often they’re a few steps ahead! My oldest beagle will often start toward my office when I’m stirring my coffee. 😊
How long does it take to write the first draft of a book?
My first book, as I said, took a full year. My second six months, then three months. Now I can write a first draft in three-four weeks.
What does your writing schedule look like?
Wow, there’s a good question. It’s packed. LOL But it’s the editing stages that occupy most of the time. I find it hard to be editing one book and writing another. Maybe some day I’ll get that down.
Please describe your work ethic as an author.
I have always viewed writing as something important. Even before I made a dime with my writing, it was never a hobby. When I decided to publish, I approached the industry with the respect and professionalism it deserves, and I have emulated the traditionally published market to the best of my ability. There have been some little bumps along the way, and I’m constantly learning—but that’s life!
You’ve probably heard write drunk, edit sober. Not this girl! I’m ALWAYS completely sober all stages of the writing process—even final read throughs! Just think, would you show up to your day job with a flask? And if you did, how would you be received?
How do you balance your work as an author with the other aspects of your life?
I have goals and deadlines but try to go with the flow of life. If I’m stressed or get feeling overwhelmed, I make myself step back and take just a few minutes out to reboot and refresh. If my schedule allows, I’ll move projects around. If my schedule is tight, I’ve been known to wake up at four in the morning and work until five at night. If I find that I’m very stressed by my workload, I look forward and see how I could improve my schedule in the future. Could I allow myself more time between projects and more time with a book that comes back from the editor…that type of thing. I’ve learned that handling two rewrites back to back are too much for me! Once in a period of seven weeks, I reworked two novels and added seventy thousand new words between them! Needless to say, I was feeling a little burnt for a few days after that. But I learned that in the future, I won’t book rewrites one after the other.
Is there a special program you use to write, or do you write in Word?
I write the first draft in Scrivener and rewrite and edit in Word.
What is your writing process? Do you outline diligently or write more in the flow, organically?
I wish I could outline meticulously like some of my fellow authors, but I’m an organic writer. The most of an outline I can hope for is a bullet-point synopsis, but even then, my characters are usually far too impatient to wait for me to lay much of anything out in advance. I love writing in the flow, though, because I really find that’s where the magic happens! For example, I know Madison needs to question someone. I might not have a clue what they’re going to tell me, but after I write the scene Madison often walks away with amazing revelations and leads in the case.
Do you ever find yourself afraid of your manuscript? If so, how do you overcome that?
Every time. I don’t really know why. I’ve written over thirty novels, and I’ve just come to accept that fear and doubt are part of the process. But, yes, I normally think do I have another book in me and do I have enough to say to write a full-length novel? The secret is I start writing anyway. Then the characters and the plot take over and it comes together. And I wish I could say the fear and doubt disappears for the remainder of writing the first draft, but it swells up again.
Usually by the midway point, I start doubting myself, wondering if it’s boring or moving at a good pace. By the time I reach two-thirds, I think I have so much to say the book will be forever long. (Shakes head. Lots of ups and downs.) But the most important thing is to just keep writing. You have time to beautify the manuscript during the editing process—of which there are several stages.
You write several series, but what inspired you to write Detective Madison Knight?
Detective Madison Knight needed to be heard, and the world was in need of more tough, female protagonists. That’s where it all started. Well, that and the fact that I loved watching crime dramas and reading the same, so it was a natural transition from romantic suspense.
Is Madison based on anyone in real life and what about other characters in the book like her partner Terry?
Madison Knight is a lot like me—just more outspoken. She’ll say the things I’ll often think but hold back. She’s tough on the outside but has a vulnerability to her. That’s how my husband described me when we first got together.
As for Terry, he’s a bit like my husband. The banter between him and Madison is definitely how conversations could go between us.
Where did the name Stiles come from?
Stiles is a fictional city that’s named after my husband’s maternal grandmother.
Why did you decide to go with a fictional city and is it based on a real city? What are the advantages for an author?
Stiles is sort of based on a blend of Toronto and London, Ontario. But with a fictional city, there’s a lot more freedom! I adhere to basic US police procedures and forensics, but what goes on within the city is my decision. Of course, I base it on logic. But, say, for instance I want a body shop that’s open twenty-four seven, I can have that! (Which I do in What We Bury.)
If you had any advice for new authors what would it be?
Often you’ll hear write X per day. I say write for a set amount of time and schedule it as an appointment with yourself that you won’t miss. Focusing on the number brings a lot more pressure. You don’t want to be constantly thinking, oh, did I hit the number yet? Writing is a magical—and spiritual—process and is so much better when you just allow yourself to sink into it. I’d also say focus on the outcome. Visualize how exciting it would be to announce on social media that you wrote that day, maybe how many words, and this will only encourage other writers too! 😊
Please tell us about What We Bury and where can we buy the book?
The body of a forty-something woman is found stabbed in a shed—no ID, no personal belongings, no sign of the murder weapon, but there are the letters GB written in blood. AND the actual scene of the crime is unknown because it quickly becomes evident the woman didn’t get attacked where she was found. So Madison needs to find her identity, the initial crime scene, unravel the mystery of “GB,” and find means, motive, and opportunity. But while she’s doing all that, she’s also determined to ferret out corrupt cops in the Stiles Police Department and bring the Mafia down. (Wish her luck! She’ll need it!)
Enjoy this little teaser from Chapter 1:
Those two words brought Madison Knight to 982 Hillcrest Drive in the middle of a Saturday afternoon in March. It was a quiet neighborhood in the south end of Stiles, a city of about three hundred sixty thousand, and it had been her real estate agent, Estelle Robins, who’d called. When Madison saw the name on caller ID, she’d assumed Estelle had found the perfect place for Madison and her boyfriend, Troy Matthews. Boy, had she been mistaken.
Madison parked in the driveway, admiring the raised bungalow with its grayish-brown brick and beige siding. It couldn’t be older than fifteen years. The front door was under a small overhang, and that’s where Estelle was standing, her arms wrapped around herself as if she were cold, but the temperature today was unusually warm. Some of the more northern states would envy their spring-like weather in early March.
Madison got out of the car and approached Estelle. She was normally the picture of calm and put-togetherness, but her hair was frizzed around her heart-shaped face, and her eyes were wet and wide. Her brown eyeshadow was smudged beneath her right eye, but her mascara had stayed in place.
“Omigod, Madison. I didn’t know who else to call, but you’ll know what to do.”
“You did the right thing.” Madison was a Major Crimes detective with the Stiles Police Department. Troy could have tagged along, as he was also a detective for the department, but his primary role was leader of a SWAT team. Solving murders was her thing. “Where is she?”
“In the shed. I’ll take you there.” Estelle led the way to a side gate next to the garage. Her hand was shaking as she worked the latch.
Madison followed Estelle down a concrete sidewalk toward the backyard. “How did you find her?”
“There’s supposed to be an open house.” Estelle spoke over her shoulder. “I was making sure the property looked good.” Estelle stopped and hoisted a chain-link gate at the end of the walk that was hinged on the fence and wedged against the brick of the garage.
To the right was a deck, and ahead was a manageable yard. The rear of the lot was framed by mature cedars and a chain-link fence. There was another gate back there, and it appeared open.
Estelle pointed to a shed with a concrete foundation and beige siding. It was about twelve feet wide and twenty feet long.
“She’s in there.” Estelle shivered. “I can’t believe this is happening.”
Where can readers get a copy of What We Bury?
What We Bury is available from popular retailers in ebook, paperback, hardcover, and large print edition.
All excerpts in this post are from What We Bury and protected by copyright.