1) Where are you right now (LVR, DR, Bathroom) and what are you wearing? You have to tell the truth.
Since I’m NOT in the bathroom I’ll tell the truth. I’m at my kitchen table where my laptop mostly resides, facing my often-lovely-but-now-rather-burned-out backyard (little rain this summer here in Colorado), wearing my loose-fitting purple shirt and gray shorts for coolness and comfort. Barefoot, of course.
2) Who's your one biggest fan/supporter of your writing?
God. But humanly speaking, I’ve been blessed with many supporters and honestly couldn’t name one in particular. All the members of my critique group are right up there among the top, though. Their encouragement (read: pushiness) transformed Refining Fires from the short story I had intended it to be into a novel. They wouldn’t settle for anything less than my telling Peter and Clare’s far-reaching love story.
3) What inspired you to write this story?
Since Refining Fires is actually three shorter stories that make up one larger one, the inspiration came over time and from different sources. The first story in the book, “Refining Fire,” came from a combination of personal experience as a nurse, Mel Gibson’s 1993 movie The Man Without a Face, and the fact that the Korean War is unfortunately sometimes referred to as the Forgotten War—a tragedy in my eyes. It’s for that reason I set the stories in the late 1950s. Peter Cochran, the 35-year-old male protagonist, is a bitter, disfigured Korean War veteran, and Clare is the tenacious nurse who enters his employ. The second story, “Blind Courage,” is the rewriting of an English class assignment I had in the eighth grade. The only criteria we were given was that the protagonist had to be the same age and gender as we were, and it had to be written in the first person. I honestly don’t know what inspired me to write about the frightened little girl who had to trek beyond the walls of her safe mountain cabin to save her mama’s life. Of course, I changed and lengthened the story, tying it into Peter and Clare’s tale. I can only say that “Kept Woman” was given to me by God. Her story is not based on anyone or anything I’ve ever seen or heard about.
4) Are you or any close family members in the characters personalities?
I have a tee shirt that reads: CAREFUL, OR YOU’LL END UP IN MY NOVEL. So be forewarned. But seriously, I really don’t have family members or friends in mind when I write a story. The characters are fresh and unique from anyone I know. Some of my life experiences show up in my stories, but my heroines are more the way I wish I was but am not. They’re braver than me, more outspoken and confident. That said, I do admit that once the main characters are drawn, everything and everyone around me becomes fodder for supplying additional plot lines and characterizations.
5) Do you have a favorite scene in the book?
Oh, it’s so hard to choose. But if I have to narrow it down to one, I’d go with the scene in Peter’s library where he approaches his nurse Clare, who is obviously troubled over something. As someone who has never know what it is to love sacrificially, he struggles with his motives, challenging himself to prove whether he merely wants her or truly loves her.
6) Are you working on another book right now and if so what time period is it?
I’m not working on a new book at the moment. I’m working on collaborating with a theater producer in Pittsburgh who is translating some scenes from one of my self-published books, True Colors, onto the stage. I’m extremely excited about the prospect of seeing my characters “alive” on the stage, complete with Civil War costumes and scenery and all that goes with it. My favorite time period to both read and write is America’s past eras. I’ve always had a passion for history. I think the reason some people don’t like history all that much is because they see it as a boring record of wars and dates and outdated societies. I’ve always seen it as people, how they lived their lives, and how they reacted to and were shaped by the world into which they were assigned. Good storytelling places the reader in the moment, making them feel the danger, the meaning of consequences. With historical fiction you get all of that plus a telescopic view of a time and place with the customs, culture, dress, vernacular, attitudes, prejudices, and beliefs (including false beliefs) of a different time. Yet you still experience those timeless issues, like dealing with a traumatically-acquired handicap, or separation from loved ones.
7) Can you tell us some of the differences you see between self-pub and traditional?
Not very long ago there was a huge difference, but the gap is narrowing, I believe. The stigma of self-publishing is slowly disappearing as more accomplished authors who have studied the craft choose that route for publication. The up side is that the author controls all of the content, retains all the rights so there’s no seeking permission to do things with it (like having it turned into a play), and the title and cover they’ve chosen won’t be changed by some editor. As POD (print on demand), the book never goes out of print. The publisher I chose pays royalties monthly, which is practically unheard of. There are obvious down sides, including the fact the author pays to have the work published, although it doesn’t have to be nearly as expensive as you may have heard. The author has to do all of his/her own marketing and promoting. However, traditional houses are requiring more of that from their authors these days, so I’m not sure there’s much difference there. But with self-published books, it really is harder to get your foot in the door of bookstores, libraries, and other venues. Not impossible, just harder.
8) Can you tell us a little about your writing journey?
Many authors will tell you they knew from the time they could read “See Spot run,” or hold one of those fat pencils in their fingers, that they wanted to be a writer when they grew up. But I wasn’t particularly fond of writing when I was young. I was pretty good at it, though, and earned good grades in writing—and this was at schools that placed heavy emphasis on writing. But it wasn’t until I was in my thirties that the desire to write came over me, and it stemmed mostly from reading. Once my kids were all in school I began to read a lot more again, and was disappointed that stories didn’t move me the way they seemed to when I was a young reader. With the exception of Louis L’Amour and a few others, I felt let down by authors who I had hoped would take me away to other times and other worlds. So I thought I’d give it a go myself, and only then found out how very, very difficult it is to actually write a good story. Plus, I was living in Hawaii, married with four young children, and was working part time as an ICU nurse. I guess I figured, “No time like the present to start writing a novel!” So I studied the craft informally, and eventually decided to write with the goal of one day being published. It took about two decades for that to happen, although for some of that time my writing was placed on hold for one reason or another. I self-published my two historical love stories, True Colors and The Arrow That Flieth By Day, in 2006. And now Torn Veil Books published Refining Fires in July. I’m excited that it is out in both print and eBook formats, so both traditional, have-to-have-the-feel-of-the-book-in-my-hands readers and the more tech-minded, love-the-feel-of-an-electronic-device-in-my-hands readers will be satisfied.
A disfigured veteran. A ruined nurse. A tormented child. A kept woman. Strangers whose paths cross, bringing redemption into each other’s lives in ways none of them could have predicted.
Her career in ruins, a desperate nurse answers an ad to care for a disabled veteran.
Disfigured in the war, the antisocial businessman can’t get his mind off the nurse he
had tossed out of his home.
A young child who never leaves the confines of her mountain home must make a
treacherous journey alone to save her mother’s life.
A woman kept by men all her life learns through an old love that she has been kept
all along by Someone else.
Three parts. One amazing story.