There’s not much to tell—I’m a grant writer by day, a fiction writer by night, living in a haunted house in New England. However, I do have a few deep, dark secrets: I love Spam (the canned meat), I have a fear of driving over bridges, I have all my “parts” (appendix, tonsils, etc.), and I have never had a broken bone or worn a cast. Hereafter is my debut novel, and it came out August 1, 2012.
When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing when I was in grade school. We had these competitions where we wrote stories and then turned them into books, complete with covers made of wallpaper-covered cardboard. The best one from the school went to a district competition, the district winner went to regionals, regional winners went to state, etc. The one I wrote in fifth grade was the regional winner and from then on I had the writing bug. In high school and college, I wrote serialized novels by the dozens. However, I never considered writing as a career, because everyone told me I couldn’t make any money at it. Then one night in 2001, I came home from work, sat down at the computer, and started writing what eventually became the novel Say It Three Times. I worked on that novel off and on for several years and somewhere in there the desire to “real” writer and to be published took root. However, for me, it has never been about making writing a career; it’s much more about simply expanding the reach of my stories and getting my work into the hands of people who would enjoy it. Seeking publication was a way for me to reach more readers.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Oh everything! If I was a Muppet, I’d be Don Music—the guy who is trying to play the piano and keeps banging his head on the keys, moaning, “I’ll never get it! Never! Never!” I struggle to get emotions on the page—to show not tell and make them vibrant, to make them real. I struggle with “crowd scenes”—where multiple characters are in a scene together. Where is everybody in relation to everybody else? How do I give a sense of chaos and movement and the idea that everybody is talking over each other? In the second book of the Hereafter series, I have a couple of fight scenes. Oh man, are they hard! How do I convey a sense of the physicality of it, without it sounding like a transcript of a role playing game: “Bam! X hit Y in the jaw.” “Kaboom! Y dives out of the way.” And in the second book of the series, I have my first real sex scene, which I’ve never written before and I blushed the entire time. You know—you’re using euphemisms, which sort of makes it feel like you’re doing something wrong/talking about something taboo, and it feels sort of voyeuristic in a weird way, plus you start sounding very cheesy, and hence the embarrassment. I’m writing stuff like “He put his man meat into her love cave” (okay, maybe not that bad, but you know what I mean) and I’m like “I can’t believe these words are coming out of my mouth—what the hell am I writing?!” I can see why so many romance writers use a pen name—all I kept thinking was, “My husband, my sister, my father, my boss, etc. are all going to read this” and then I get embarrassed all over again.
What are you currently reading?
At the moment I’m reading The New Death and Other Tales by James Hutchins (a total serendipity find that I’m LOVING), and I just finished Zero Time by T.W. Fendley (which was really good).
What would you like to tell your readers?
Thank you! My readers are AMAZING! I wasn’t sure what kind of reception Hereafter would receive—it deals with some heavy topics (death, religion, the afterlife, and alcoholism), plus the main character isn’t very likeable most of the time. However, Hereafter has garnered wonderful reviews and I’ve gotten so many incredible tweets and emails from people (I love mail in any form, btw!!) who really connected with my book. It’s been a really incredible journey and I very much appreciate these wonderful, thoughtful people who enjoyed Hereafter.
What’s next for you?
Well, the sequel to Hereafter is almost ready to submit to the publisher. I’m really excited by this next book and hope that fans of Irene and Jonah will be, too. I love working on the Hereafter books because the afterlife mythology research is so fascinating. There are just so many interesting possibilities for what Irene might encounter in The Great Beyond.
Currently, I’m working on the first draft of Book 3 of the Hereafter series and a science fiction “western/romance” kind of thing that is strange and wonderful, and I’m liking it very much. On the back burner, I also have another contemporary fantasy (this time about super heroes), and a straight historical fiction (yes, weird genre hop, but it focuses on the Bread and Roses Strike of 1912, an event that I have close ties to (I work in Lawrence, MA), so I have a lot of irons in the fire.
Where can we find you?
Facebook Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/