1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I retired in 2003 from a large educational institution after years of working with graduate students, staff, and faculty. The experience was priceless, and I truly loved what I did. I was born and raised in California, so moving to TN was a real cultural shock. I came here in 2004 so I could be close to my grandson. He was diagnosed with Autism and I intend to make a difference in his life. I’ve been married for 14 1/2 (now fifteen) years to my second husband, Kelly, who is also my biggest fan.
2. How did you become a writer? Did you always want to be an author when you grew up?
I’ve always like writing…poems, crazy family Christmas letters, even redesigning forms and publications where I worked, but I never dreamed I’d be an author. I started writing by accident. One weekend I brought home a laptop from work to complete a project, and when I finished, I felt as though my body has been taken over by Cecile Palmer. She started typing her story, using my fingers, and I couldn’t stop because I wanted to see how it ended. That’s how my debut novel, Prairie Peace, came to be.
3. In your own words, what is First Degree Innocence about?
FDI is about a naïve and innocent young woman who finds herself in a terrible situation. She’s home sick from work when two uniformed police officers and a guy in a suit barge their way into her apartment, searching for cash from a bank robbery. Someone has fingered her as the driver of the “getaway” car. My heroine Carrie Lang is tried and convicted of a crime she didn’t commit, and no one believes in her innocence.
My goal in writing this story was to put people behind bars along with her and have them sense what lock-up feels like. I think I pulled it off. (Notice I’m speaking convict…fingered, getaway, pulled it off.) See if this works for you:
The corridor seemed endless. Beneath overhead lights, the tiled floor glistened with a freshly waxed sheen. Painted block walls displayed the same dismal gray as the holding cell, and the distinct smell of bleach hung in the air. The chlorine did little to mask the odor of unwashed bodies and co-mingled with the aroma of the most recently-served meal. Bile rose in her throat and she struggled not to retch. The same question kept echoing in her head. How could this have happened? She didn’t belong in this place.
Ogden unlocked yet another steel door and, holding it, motioned for Carrie to enter. Foggy disbelief clouded her mind, but she did as instructed, waiting for the guard and staring down yet another endless passageway. The slamming door sliced the silence and made her jump. At once, the desolate area came to life with a cacophony of catcalls and lewd comments directed at her. Reaching hands stretched through the bars from the confinement of the cells, grabbing at the air as she passed. She gulped and tried to keep her eyes forward, but found it difficult to ignore the myriad of strange faces that peered between the bars and vied for her attention. She hunched her shoulders and gripped her prison issue, trying to draw into a ball to avoid being touched. She had nothing in common with these women.
Run away, run away. The voice in her head drowned out all other noises and encouraged her to do something she knew wasn’t possible. Cement, steel doors, and endless hallways stood between her and freedom. Not one person had believed her when she’d proclaimed her innocence.
With the turn of a key, a single cell swung open, and Ogden shoved Carrie inside. “Sweet dreams. If you need anything, just call room service.” Again, the woman’s taunting guffaw pierced Carrie like a knife.
4. Falling in love while in prison can’t be easy, and is definitely different. What motivated you to toss your main character, Carrie, in jail? What was the most challenging part of using prison as the setting?
I worked as a Correctional Officer for a year after moving here, and everyone in the place claimed to be innocent. My interactions with inmates provided the impetus for this book, and when Carrie showed up and suggested I tell her story, I couldn’t deny her. It was easy to write about how prison felt, how the food was served, the smells, the chain of command, etc. Of course in romance, you need a hero, and being naïve and inexperienced, it only made sense that she would fall for the first handsome guy who paid her attention. Oh, and romance in jail flourishes. The most popular request was, "please, please give so and so this note." Of course, passing anything between inmates is taboo, so I always politely refused. I agreed to pass verbal "love notes," but that was it.
5. Jet and Ogden make quite the nasty duo. What was your motivation for these two antagonists? Are they based on anyone you know in real life?
Again, this nasty duo came from all the animosity displayed between guards, inmates and one another during my tenure. It’s not a happy environment, and as much as it pains me to say this, law enforcement attracts a lot of jerks. I was married for thirty-two years to a policeman, and thankfully, he wasn’t like the majority of his peers. (Sadly, my ex-hero died in April of this year...I miss him.) I witnessed the same type of bad behavior displayed by the majority of those I worked with.. People with low self esteem make themselves feel better by beating up on those who can’t run away from them. I’d like to think I’m much more fair minded, and I believe I showed compassion and kindness to those who showed respect to me. I never viewed the job as a way to take advantage of people, but there were guards who did. I worked with someone just like Ogden, and if you’ve ever watched movies or TV shows about inmates, you know that every jail has a bully.
6. Carrie learns to stand up for herself in prison. Tell us about a time in your life where you had to develop a thick skin.
Strangely enough, I learned to develop a thick skin when I became an author. Every book I write is my “baby,” and disparaging words can cut deep if you let them. It takes time and effort to convince yourself that your work is never going to be everyone’s cup of tea. I’ve been fortunate…I’ve only been raked over the coals once, and even then, I reminded myself that somewhere in the reviewer’s expectations were positive remarks I could use.
7. Let’s talk about the hero, Seth. If you and Seth went on a date, where would he take you? What would you do or talk about?
Well, that’s a far stretch. I can’t see handsome Seth with an old bag like me. I imagine if I twisted his arm enough and played on his sympathy, he might pity me and take me to Taco Bell. Since he is one of the “good guys,” I imagine we would talk about work and share thoughts on what we think we could contribute to improve the environment. I definitely wouldn’t be his best date ever.
8. I heard you have eleven titles coming out in 2011, is this true? How do you juggle writing and promoting so many stories at once?
I’ll let you know once I master it. What happened was I wrote several short stories, never expecting to contract them. Muse It Up Publishing liked what they read, and all of a sudden I have almost a book a month coming out. I’m doing a blog tour and presenting a different release on each site. I’m hoping to garner enough interest that people will visit my website, see my videos and admire my beautiful covers and tantalizing blurbs. (NOTE: This month marked the final release from Muse It Up).
9. What’s your writing process like? Do you plot and outline or are you a pantser?
Totally a pantser. Can’t plot to save my life. If I could, I would be able to finish my current WIP and move on, but as a pantser, I have to wait until my characters speak. Everything except one book I’ve written is character-driven. Sometimes it sucks. And that one book...The Locket was the hardest thing I've ever written because I had no "tour guide."
10. Tell us a little bit about what’s in store for the future (upcoming releases, etc).
So far, Hurricane Warning, A Wing and a Prayer, White Heart, Lakota Spirit, and Odessa have released along with First Degree Innocence. March 1, I look forward to Shortcomings, my first attempt at a YA. Oh, and I can’t forget Beside Myself, which is a re-release in an improved format…using all the things I’ve learned over the years to make it better. Then comes:
May 2011 – The Forget-Me-Nots
July 2011 – Masked Love
Sep 2011 – Joy’s Revelation
Nov 2011 – Just The Right Fit
11. Where can our readers find you (website, facebook, etc)?
12. Finally, where can we buy a copy of First Degree Innocence?
FDI is offered on Amazon, at Smashwords, by Books We Love , and in print via Createspace.
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/28751 or https://www.createspace.com/3496548
I also have print copies if anyone wants one personalized. Yes, people still like autographs and that always amazes me. Unless my signature is on a check, it's never been considered valuable. For those who are interest in personalized ebooks, you might want to check out http://www.kindlegraph.com