What's the story behind your latest book?
The Outcasts of Eden tells the story of the environmental movement’s 30-year struggle (1963 – 1996) to become recognized as a legitimate and valid concern for businesses around the world. The story grew out of an experience I had working at a high-powered public relations firm in Washington, D.C. in the 1990’s, whose public persona was one of environmental support, but behind the scenes, was actually representing some of the most egregious polluters on the planet, and secretly waging war on the environmental movement. From that kernel of truth, I constructed a story where the protagonist, an environmental activist, suddenly inherits her father’s environmental public relations firm, and vows to change the way the world of business views its environmental responsibility. The setbacks and discouragement she encounters fuels the extensively researched story, and presents the truth of the movement’s history in a compelling way.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
A number of influential writers started their careers late in life. Daniel Defoe, Bram Stoker, Anna Sewell and Laura Ingalls Wilder all started their writing careers after the age of 50. I am honored to be one of these literary late bloomers, and pray that I am blessed with another thirty years to hone my skills in my second career.
Writing is a lonely and demanding profession requiring hours of uninterrupted time to think and imagine, and edit, edit, edit like the Dickens! That may be why so many writers don’t begin their careers until well after the demands of family and workplace are behind them. I am well suited to it, and have no trouble sitting for hours at my computer dreaming up the stories of the characters I create and their complicated, imperfect lives. I love the act of writing, and I love the craft of it. I love the research, and I love the discovery. I love the characters, and I love the storytelling. I love everything about it.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
If it is a day that I am writing, it is the next chapter, the next page, the next step in character development and story line. If it’s a day I have to worry about marketing – I’d rather stay in bed.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I love to cook, I garden, I hike in the mountains of Western North Carolina, and I read.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I do – I wish I still had a copy of it. I lived in Largo, Florida, it was sometime around 1966 or 1967, and I was outside doing yard work in the middle of the summer for my mother, I was about 10 or 11, and I remember throwing down the rake and running into the house to write it down. I was just COMPELLED to write it. It was as if I had no will of my own, but was drawn by a force greater than myself, ignoring even the threat of getting into trouble with my mother, who was furious that I was shirking my chores.
What is your writing process?
My first step, after I have the kernel of truth that the book is centered around, is to develop a detailed outline. I flesh out the characters names, their personality traits, and the basic outlines of the story. As the story moves along, that outline may change and it will certainly become longer and more detailed, because I continually update it and add to it as I am writing the book. For each of my novels, I do a great deal of research. For The Outcasts of Eden, which literally spans the globe of environmental activism, from Washington D.C., to Berlin, to France and even the break up of the Soviet Union and the satellite countries and the deals the US struck with the oil companies to help them develop a market economy, I had to do a lot of research. So the kernel of the idea was: how would an activist handle suddenly having to take over a company that she was diametrically opposed to – and from that kernel, I expanded the story line to include real facts and new characters to show all the sides of the issue.
Who are your favorite authors?
I am a reader of classic literature, and I am madly in love with Charles Dickens – I have read everything he has written. Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann,for which he won the Nobel Prize in Literature, has been a longtime favorite, and I re-read it every few years. I also love Ken Follett and Philippa Gregory and French author Regine Deforges.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I have been writing books and stories since I was eleven or twelve years old. I was not a high-achiever in school, but I loved to write, and despite terrible grades in math and science, I excelled in English, history and composition. My first book, The Broker, came out of an unfortunate career choice, which led to a devastatingly horrible experience, and the book just poured out of me. I didn’t have the patience to query agents and look for a publisher, nor could I have handled the rejection, so I went the indie route.
What are you working on next?
My next book, The Heritage, is an in-depth historical novel that explores the lives of an English family in mid-17th century during the upheaval of dissent and rebellion that leads to the temporary end of the monarchy by the beheading of a king, and the rise of Oliver Cromwell and the rule of law during the period of the Interregnum. The proliferation of the printing press caused an explosion of new books and pamphlets, and free discourse about the future of the Commonwealth and the right to worship freely. The modern indie publishing world is not unlike that world in some ways, for it has freed writers from the tyranny of the traditional publishing world, and allows anyone with the desire to write books to publish them without having to know the right people, or beg and grovel for an agent to take you on and peddle your work to a publisher.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in Lansing, Michigan, and lived there until I was 9, when my family moved to Florida. My father had contracted Hodgkins disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system, and he died 6 months after we moved to Florida. His death haunts me still, and my life in Florida holds very bad memories for me.
Describe your desk
My desk is on the second floor of my home in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Out my window I see trees, birds, squirrels, and a lake. I have early 20th century photos of my French grandparents; my Grand’mère, corseted and slim, about age 19, in a white lace blouse and holding a hairbrush to her face, and my grand-père, mustachioed and smiling, his eyes soft and looking right at me from the past, a man who, though I never knew him, looks like such a merry prankster! At the moment, my desk is piled with papers and files, and it is in perpetual need of cleaning!