You’ll find her books in the Women’s Fiction section, which she defines thusly: [it] is generally defined as stories about a woman solving her own life problems. No Knight in Shining Armor shows up to rescue her—she does the work herself.
She just recently released her third title, Turn Back the Clocks.
Do you have a writing routine? Where and when do you write?
I am really disorganized, and despite common advice to the contrary, I don’t write every day—life just gets in the way. I try to get in an hour in the morning, while my brain is still fresh, but that doesn’t always happen. If I do manage to write a few pages in the morning, then I can go back in and edit later in the day. I’m a very slow writer—it took me over five years from start to finish with the new one—but I tell myself it gives the project time to “mellow.” Sometimes, I almost believe myself.
Do you have any patterns or rituals associated with your writing time?
I like to warm up with a couple of handwritten pages in my journal, then re-read the last pages I wrote on the manuscript. That gets the engine running.
What do you do when you hit a wall with your writing?
I take a break! Sometimes an overlong one, I confess. I read, email my writing friends, brainstorm the next weird thing I can put in the story. Generally one or more of these techniques gets me going again.
Do you plan your book in advance (plotting and outlining) or are you a “discovery writer” (AKA “writing into the dark”)? Or are you somewhere in between?
Great question! I used the “Snowflake Method” for all three of my published novels. It eases me into the planning process, all the way from a one-sentence summary to a spreadsheet detailing each and every scene. Of course, the project goes through a zillion revisions along the way to a finished novel, but it keeps me focused.
Now, with my WIP, I am totally “pantsing” it, making it up as I go along. It’s exciting and scary, and I’ve sent some mighty disconnected pages to my critique group, but so far I’ve kept them engaged, so I guess it’s working.
What’s the last book you read that made you go “wow!”?
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, for one. Such an interesting story, with wonderful, relatable characters I rooted for all the way along. A woman scientist in America in the 1950’s faces multiple challenges, including rampant sexism (she’s mistaken for a clerical employee in one poignant scene.) I felt her angst and admired her courage. And there’s a dog! Always a plus for me.
Also Stephen King’s Fairy Tale. There’s a dog in that one too, along with multiple, sometimes camouflaged, characters from my childhood fairy tales.
What book or author do you find yourself recommending and why?
Stephen King’s On Writing for one, along with Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird.
I am also a fan of Craig Johnson’s Longmire books and have read every one, some twice. He is a master class in how to write a series without overburdening each book with backstory. The books are violent, but they’re also funny and inspiring, and darned interesting. I would love to know his plotting process, because it is seamless from one book to the next.
What’s on your To Be Read pile?
I’m in a book club, so there is always at least one book at the top of the stack. We’re on summer break, and I confess I’m still working on last month’s—but, hey, it’s 600-plus pages long: Great Circle, by Maggie Shipstead. It’s a fascinating dual storyline about a woman pilot in the early 20th century, alternating with a present-day actress portraying the pilot in a film.
After that I’m tackling Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. I loved-loved-loved Lincoln Highway, was lukewarm about Gentleman in Moscow, so I’m curious to read his earlier work.
What advice do you have for readers?
Read freely and widely. Be open to new genres, new books. Don’t follow the herd.
If you loved a book, post a review! It will sharpen your reading skills and help the author out. And if you didn’t like the book, still post a review—but be merciful.
And my 50-page rule—feel free to borrow it. If I’m not liking a book by Page 50, if I dread opening it, I give up. Life is too short, there are so many books to read, and everyone has a different set of standards. Forget what your English teacher told you! Put that one down, with zero guilt, and pick up the next one.
What author, past or present, would you wish to have a long conversation with? Why?
I would love to have a conversation with John Steinbeck. I’ve read his Working Days and read there that he, a Nobel Prize winner, had crushing doubts about the worth of his writing. How did he keep going?
Do you have early memories of reading or writing you’d like to share?
My first memories are of my mom reading the Sunday funnies to me—Brenda Starr, Nancy, L’il Abner. I yearned to be able to read for myself.
As for writing, in the fifth grade, for a class assignment, I wrote a little story about a cow that wanted to be a horse. Somewhere in those few pages was the message, “Be happy with who and what you are.” I guess. My teacher took me aside and told me I should think about being a writer when I grew up. How cool is that—to find your calling when you’re just ten years old! Her words became my North Star. I dedicated Mending Dreams to her.
What books and/or authors have most influenced you as an author?
Margaret Mitchell—what a storyteller! What characters she created! Kurt Vonnegut’s books; I find myself repeating his “So it goes” observation at so many of life’s ironies. Also Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving. Again, two phrases come to mind in so many situations: “Keep passing the open windows” and “Sorrow floats.” If you’ve read the book, you’ll understand why.
What do you most enjoy about being a writer? What do least enjoy about being a writer?
I enjoy making stuff up. I am an inveterate storyteller, and I love taking an idea and crafting it into a story. I also enjoy mingling with other writers and sharing war stories, tragedies and triumphs. And I LOVE talking to readers, answering their questions and responding to their feedback, both good and (gasp) bad.
What I least enjoy? In a word—marketing. I am not a good salesperson.
What would you tell a new writer?
Read a lot, across different genres and different eras. Read the classics—they’re classic for a reason. Figure out why you like a book, and why you do not, so you can emulate one and avoid the other. Persist—if you have a vision, a story you want to tell, go for it. Don’t let criticism stop you, and don’t try to chase a current trend just because it’s, well, current. Trust your writer’s voice and vision.