How do you start your day (a routine of sorts?)
I’m boring. I get up, grab a giant cup of coffee, feed the critters, and read for at least a half hour. Then I open my manuscript-in-progress and dive in.
Finish this: “I can’t write without…” Caffeine, sad to say.
If I had to spend a week on a deserted island, I would need….
Books, chocolate, my husband, and my critters (I have five poorly behaved ones).
What career did you think you’d have as an adult?
I wanted to be a jockey until I hit 5 foot 7 inches, which killed that dream. Then I thought I’d be a psychologist. Social worker: Close enough!
What is something about you that would surprise people?
I was a singing extra in the TV miniseries, North and South. Also, my brother is a professional mime.
Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?
I’m a clinical social worker. Right now, I serve as a SW intern supervisor for Communities in Schools (part-time).
What was the original title of this book? Girl For Sale
Where do you get your ideas?
My work (current and historical) gives me TONS of material. I never write about specific clients, but social justice issues I see every day make their way into my writing.
Do you have a manuscript(s) in your drawer? If so, will it ever see the light of day?
Yes and I don’t know. I hope to pull it out and give it another try soon.
If I wasn’t an author, I might be…? Richer.
If you have written more than one book, which story would you choose to live?
None. I’m hard on my characters!!
Do you have a go-to first reader after you feel your manuscript is ready?
My first reader is my brother. He’s always supportive: “This is the best you’ve ever written.” I need that when I finish a draft (actually, I need a parade!). Then I send it to someone who’ll tell me the truth.
Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?
As a child, I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou. I have clear memories of devouring it, of the power of those characters to move me. That book stays with me, even now. I wanted to write books that would impact readers the way I was impacted.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published (or this book?)
The Orchid Tattoo had a rough road to publication. My agent loved it, but big publishers shied away because of the content (human trafficking). I kept working on the manuscript, toning it down so there was very little graphic material, but I had to preserve the horrible truth of this crime. After multiple revisions, Koehler Books loved it and offered a traditional contract.
How do you market your work?
I’m working with a publicist. I’m very active on social media. A colleague put together a book trailer that’s quite powerful, and we made that into a Facebook ad. I’m learning every day about new ways to promote my book.
What are you working on now?
I have a mystery series out that features Caleb Knowles, a clinical social worker. A few months ago, I dreamed a scene of a Caleb book, and that led to completing a draft on Caleb number four. Working on the rewrite now!
What is a bestselling book you’ve been itching to read?
ANYTHING by Elizabeth Strout or Louise Penny.
Is anything in your book based on real-life experiences?
When I was the state director for the National Assn. of Social Workers, I got involved in advocacy for more progressive anti-human trafficking legislation. I met some survivors. I heard stories that stunned me. The Orchid Tattoo was born of that work.
Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?
I love the scenes that introduce my three POV characters, Georgia, Kitten, and Lillian.
Do you have a favorite character? Georgia. No, Kitten. No… Lillian.
What would your dream job be if you didn’t write books? (assuming this is your dream job!)
I’d be a philanthropist with VERY deep pockets. As a social worker, I see so much need. I’d love to have the resources to address them.
What was some unique research you had to do for a book?
For one of the Caleb Knowles mysteries, I researched surviving frostbite after I locked Caleb in a freezer. It proved helpful when my husband saved a hypothermic baby rabbit from a pool. I knew how to warm him without shocking him too much, and the baby lived!
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? DON’T. GIVE. UP.
What are the downfalls of your writing career? The best parts?
I’ve had a publisher go bankrupt and had to buy my rights back.
The best part: my last book, The Stone Necklace, won the WFWA Star Award and was selected the 'One Book, One Community' read for my town of Columbia SC.
Favorite band or music? BIG Bonnie Raitt fan.
Favorite book and/or movie? Too many to say.
Place you’d like to travel? Hawaii. Iceland. Costa Rica.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you for taking the time to read my work. It means the world to me.