After being snowbirds for five or six years, we finally made the move full time to Florida. We kept our condo in St. Pete but bought a house (with gardens!) in a little town called Rotonda West. It’s lovely here and far less crowded than St. Pete. Al and I have moved only a handful of times in our 37 years of marriage, but each time we moved to quiet, tiny towns that sooner or later got very populated. We expect that to happen here as well, eventually.
We are making delightful new friends, and enjoying Al’s retirement, which I wrote about in the “Retirement Diaries” category on the blog. Lots of photos of the new house. The short version: all is bliss. I sent in a manuscript the same week Al retired so we could take beach walks and watch sunsets for two or three months before edits began. I wanted to see how our rhythm went and if I’d be able to write the new series that was spinning itself in my head. Good news! Golf, NASCAR and the gym keep Al amused while I write, and Jane in St Pete, first in a series by the same title, was published in 2020.
In my Blue Lake series, I wrote a book a year for four or five years. Crime novels require more time due to researching the murders, police procedures and FBI agent protocol. Then there was Covid, which has become something we just live with, but very much played havoc with my writing life for a few years. Well, Covid, Al’s retirement, and moving twice. But I’m still writing, just a little slower. Once I started the Jane in St Pete series, I made friends with and got to interview a former FBI agent, so that’s exciting and quite helpful!
Jane in St. Pete follows the misadventures of former art lecturer and recent widow Jane as she quits her job, moves from Detroit to Florida, and meets an artist she admires. When he is murdered, her new neighbor, a charming reformed criminal, also from Detroit, becomes a suspect. Jane vows to prove his innocence. I have a free short story on the website, the first glimmer of that series, called The Charming Criminal.
Jane in St Pete, the first book in the series, was published in 2020. I’ve finished the second book, at long last, and expect it to be published sometime in 2023. Below is a pre-Covid interview about all sorts of things with my pal Nicci, who also writes for The Wild Rose Press, my publisher since 2012. Ten years! That is amazing to me as I only dreamed about having a publishing team for such a very long time.
What is your favorite project that you have completed? Why?
That has to be the three books in three months project I did in 2015. I had a new book coming out (Love and Death in Blue Lake), a print version finally of my first novel, only an e-book for so long (Sister Issues), and Amazon Encore re-issued the first in my Blue Lake series (Blue Heaven). I called in Woodward Press to help me get organized and having a team put together a publicity strategy was the most fun ever of my writing life.
If you had to pick one book to read while you were stranded for a long time on a desert island, what would it be?
I’d choose something fictional, contemporary, long and complicated with a woman protagonist and a genius female author that I haven’t yet read.
What do you do when you get stuck with a story or article to get unstuck about the story or article and going all the way to the end?
I’m a pretty organic writer, I just put pen to paper and the story flows. If it doesn’t, I read over what I’ve got so far, and deliberately plan out what needs to happen next, paying attention to character arc and conflict. I brainstorm scene ideas to get me where I need to go. With crime novels, I make sure to write the shadow book early on, the book of the criminal and what is happening before, during, and after the crime is committed. The reader will never see this shadow story, not in full, but I need to know it before I can get too far. Everything fits together much better after the shadow story is in place. Also, I can plant false clues and things.
Do you ever write with pen and paper? If so, why? If not, why not? What do you like more about writing on the computer or about writing longhand?
I write morning pages in a spiral notebook every morning. It’s not necessarily about the work in progress, but just venting about everything going on with me, like a diary. I love my time with my tea and notebook curled up in a cozy chair.
Who is your favorite character in literature?
Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice). I am totally looking forward to Curtis Sittenfeld’s update (Eligible). *Later: Eligible was divine!
Do you believe in “muses” or inspiration? If so, how do you cultivate the inspiration?
My inspiration is my life. It’s been crazy, like a lot of other people’s lives. But, I am not a memoirist, so I twist the truth of my life into new fictional shapes. Early inspirations were other writers, from Jane Austen to Jennifer Crusie.
What made you want to write?
I started with diaries as a young girl; it just sort of happened. I always loved to read though, which I think was a big influence. But really, back to the muses, I do think the goddess put her hand upon me (to paraphrase Barbara Samuel) when I was born and said “you will be a writer.” I’ve just always done it and can’t imagine ever stopping.
Do you prefer reading or writing fiction or nonfiction? Why?
I read a fair amount of non-fiction. I’m a fan of memoir and popular psychology of the self-help sort. But for sure prefer writing fiction. There’s a reason for this. I have had a troubled life–probably up to about age 30 things were not very smooth for me. There were some bright notes–my kids! Meeting my husband, Al! Until Al, life was not an easy go. I have often wanted to write about the things that have happened to me but I always come back to the people I love. I can’t hurt them by telling those stories. Most of my loved ones (except for my husband) have no idea of what I’ve gone through, and I don’t want them to know. I’ve written about some of my early trauma here on the blog, but mostly I’ve fictionalized my life. I like the challenge of starting with the seed of something real and developing it into something that is so far from my life but that still has that essential idea of a woman struggling against forces that would take her down.
What book, author (including blogger and journalist) has most influenced or inspired you?
So many. I’ve mentioned Jane Austen and Jennifer Cruise and Barbara Samuel, but also Geneen Roth and Sara Lewis, Alice Hoffman and Erica Jong. I adore Carol Shields and Margaret Atwood, Louise Erdrich and Anne Tyler. Marianne Williamson. Lorrie Moore. My favorite blogger is the Bloggess, Jenny Lawson. She writes memoirs, too.
What would be your favorite place to write if you could write anywhere in the world?
I like writing at home, so I’d have to have a home with a comfy chair and lovely desk and shelves of books in an office that looks out to the Atlantic or the Pacific or the Gulf of Mexico in a spot on the map where snow doesn’t go. I may get there yet.