I'm not sure there was a singular moment or event that started me writing. I have very early memories of writing poems and short stories as early as six or seven years old. I have always been a reader. I have an imagination out of this world. LOL I can create an entire narrative based on a mug, just give me a minute. LOL.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I wish I was a plotter. It sounds way more organized and professional. LOL But I write from my gut so sometimes I've written seven scenes before I know which chapter or section of the story it fits into. Total, total pantser.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
More often than not, my stories are based on small, tiny samplings of people I may have met or had conversations with. I stay away from using any one person as the entire basis for my characters. I also make conscious decisions to use very little of myself in my work. Settings and plots are mostly from my imagination. Risking it All, my most recent novel is based solely on a spark I got looking at a locale within our city. However, the characters are losely based on my college experience.
What book have you read that has most influenced your life and writing?
So, I am HEAVILY influenced by Maya Angelou. I mean I absolutely love and admire her. I think of her as a mentor in the most tangible way. However, what I draw from her is richness in the story and characters. Our subject matter is completely different. I write romances. She doesn't. I am now venturing into psych-thrillers. Maya wrote soul filled stories that fills my head and heart with everything I need to write the way I want to.
Tell us a little about your plans for the future. Where do you see yourself as a writer in five years?
I am expecting to have hit my niche in the next five years. By then, I hope to have developed a decent amount of readers who enjoy my work. Like I said earlier, I am tipping my toes into psych-thriller but my passion is romance. I'm hoping to have fans on both sides. I would also like to have developed a workshop, not as an expert per se, but a real, honest, nut and bolts type manual that gives high-school, college aged writers a real life look at what being a writer truly, truly means. If all together, I can support my family on my writing, well that's the cherry on top.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?
Gosh. That's a TOUGH question for me. I would have to say Sheridan. It's a character for a book that I will release next year. She is tough, a fighter but so jaded. She loves and gives all she can to others but has nothing left for herself, literally.
Any website or resources that have been helpful to you as a writer?
Gosh. Too many to mention. But I found a facebook group called Indie Author support that really got me going in the right direction. I also follow Hope Clark's newsletter religiously. Janet Reid has a blog, Query Shark that I keep up with for tips. There are tons of others that I frequent.
What do you love most about the writing process?
I love that it allows me to step outside myself. My real life job can be very dark and sad.. writing romance and creating world's allows me to step into a happy place. It's a freedom I don't get anywhere else. I also find it to be a gift that others can enjoy over and over. When I get emails from readers who tell me that something I wrote got them through a hard time, or reminded them of something pleasant, helped them answer a question, it fills me with joy.
If you could spend time as a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
Again, I would be Sheridan in a heartbeat! She is so smart and unafraid of life—the complete opposite of me. I would say all the things to people that I never do because of my position. I would eat whatever the heck I want because I don't gain weight. And oh boy... I would spend days making love to hunky Michael Wolfe.
What are some tips you can give other aspiring writers?
I don't know how helpful I can be but, what I've learned is that you have to hone your craft. You have to read and learn and take the time to listen to others. Writing is just a small part of what it means to be an author and you have to learn those things. I would also remind them to be patient and find your voice. You will hear that there is a thousand other writers of your genre in the marketplace, but there's only one you. It's fine to take inspiration from other's but you must find the words that comes from only your soul.
What are you working on now?
I am working on the release of my second short story (psych-thriller) SHATTERED. It's due to be released later this month. YIKES!! I am also working on I ACCEPT, the final installment of my Hard Love series.
Can you share an excerpt with us from one of your novels/projects?
CHAPTER ONE of FIFTEEN BALL GOWNS
“Are you in there?”
Silently I climb the stairs towards my office, holding on as long as possible to the quiet of the day before the insanity ensues. I know that the minute I cross the threshold to the hallway that leads to my office, my time, my quiet, my sense of peace is at the mercy of the people on the other side.
I’m experiencing the same trepidation I felt five months earlier when I accepted the job as a social worker in Colonial Rehabilitation Center. I’m dragging my feet, delaying a bit before I enter my office.
Let’s chew on my office for a bit. It’s the size of a closet and sits in the corner of the physical therapy department. I know you are thinking that it’s probably just a small space that I wish was bigger. And you are right, except, it is literally a windowless broom closet that was cleaned out to house me, the new college graduate with her first professional job. The desk barely fits the tiny space, leaving nothing but standing room for one. My claustrophobia kicked in immediately when the human resource manager swung the door open. And every day since then, I dread that the four walls will close in and suffocate me.
“Good Morning,” I say back to the therapist who wheels a resident past me, into the room to begin her session. She glances at me weirdly. I understand. I am standing at the doorway peering in like I had not seen the place before.
I suck it up and head across the room and into my office, closing the door behind me. Eeek. The tight fit of the space is even more poignant after the weekend. Eyes closed, I release a breath. I’ve already expended half my day’s worth of energy getting my uncooperative three-year-old dressed and delivered to daycare before commuting forty-five minutes in bumper to bumper traffic across town. But nonetheless, I have to pull it together and put on my game face.
You see, the life of a social worker consists of two major things: caring about everyone else’s shit and fixing everyone’s shit. This often means faking it. Because… can I be honest? Some days, I don’t give a shit about your shit. I have my own shit that’s consuming me.
“Hey, Auna. You in there?” I hear the shrill, adenoidal voice outside my office door—Sherry, the admissions manager has sensed my presence. She and I have a semi-friendship. I can tolerate her in small doses because she helps the eight hours go by.
“I’m here, Sherry.” I reluctantly open the door. She is standing with one hip poked out, a stack of papers cradled in her arms, smiling as usual. Her makeup is expertly applied with purple lipstick the star of today’s show. She wears it in support of her mother who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. Her pressed pantsuit is slightly too big, but that’s her goal. She is on a radical diet to “re-train her mind to love her body with food.” Sure. Whatever. I am planning to love the hell out of a Philly cheese-steak sandwich as soon as lunchtime rolls around.
“Good morning Sunshine.”
I smile back at her. It’s hard to maintain my funky attitude when she hits me with all her kindness. It’s like a high-powered laser zapping my coal heart back to flesh and blood. “Let me be moody and bitchy please,” I want to beg of her. Of course, I don’t. We are semi-friends, and I am a professional social worker and all.
“We have three new residents, my dear. Hallelujah. I think I will actually earn a bonus this quarter. Credit card bills are getting the Ric Flair smackdown.” Her face lights up.
Yeah. That’s the other thing about Sherry. She is a wrestling fanatic. Never misses an episode. Whenever the live show comes to Georgia, she’s there. If it ventures to a neighboring state, she packs up her three kids and her husband and she’s there. Many a conversation begins or ends with some type of wrestling reference. I will my eyes not to roll.
“Good.” That’s the best I can come up with.
“And by the way, the new resident in room 116 is someone you will recognize. Don’t get star struck and gaze at him. But it’s tough not to. You’ll see when you go in there. His wife is with him. Very pleasant and devoted to her man. I can tell they have been ultimate tag team partners. He is her champ. I can’t lie, I was a deer in the headlights when I saw him. Wow.”
“Okay.” Sherry needs to use her laser on me again. The effects of the first blast are fading.
“Alright lovely. I’ll leave you to it.”
“Lunch at 12:45?”
“Toodles.” She walks away, spreading sunshine in her wake.
The rehabilitation center is privately owned. Individuals are admitted for therapy services after a hospital stay. Some arrive after a planned surgery, like knees or hip replacement, others after catastrophic illnesses like strokes, heart attacks, etc. The goal is to restore residents, as they are known after admission, to their previous level of function or at least to a level where they have some independence at home or wherever they decide to move on to.
My job is to work with the residents and their families to create a discharge plan from the moment they are admitted to the center. Residents leaving after therapy are wins. Residents staying? Not so much. The cruel reality of healthcare is that no matter how we pretty it up and try to apply our hearts to policies, healthcare is a business. Residents who stay, become long-term patients. Long-term patients cost more to care for than the center receives to care for them.
Which is why I was hired—to Shepard them gently out the door, while Sherry is tasked with bringing them in. There are times when my job really sucks.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us before you go?
Thank you for this opportunity!
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