Could you please start by telling us a little about yourself?
I am a 40 year-old wife and mother of two wonderful children. We moved to Southern Louisiana a few months after Hurricane Katrina. The destruction was heartbreaking, but now Louisiana is on the mend. I've always wanted to live in the South with its beautiful live oak trees, antebellum homes and warm weather. It's like a vacation every time I step outside.
Originally I came from a small, rural community, quietly nestled along the banks of the Mississippi River. The town is located deep in ?Mark Twain? territory. The population of Louisiana, Missouri, when I lived there, was roughly 5,000. There was one stoplight and my high school class consisted of 75 graduates.
Writing was always in my blood?from the time I was a little girl making up stories to pass the time of a lonely childhood to excelling in English and Journalism classes in high school. Public sponsored writing contests earned me scholarships that helped pave the way to the University of Missouri. At that time, being a journalist was all I thought about. If only I'd listened a little more to the creative writing side of my life ? being an author would have come much sooner.
The moment I knew that being an author was the right career path was after fighting my way back from a stroke at age 33. I realized just how important my words were and that people wanted to listen to what I had to say. This was never more apparent than after I'd lectured at a high school in our hometown of Oak Grove, Missouri. A troubled teen approached me and said, ?Because of you and what you've gone through in life ? I now know that I want to be a writer too. Thank you for giving me direction.?
Now, working and writing from home enables me to take care of myself health-wise. My family also gets what they need in the way of my time. But more importantly, I have left my children a legacy. Every time someone reads the sentences I've so lovingly written, my words?memory?and soul get recaptured time after time. So instead of worrying about dying and leaving my children with only memories ? they'll have my words to comfort them as well.
I'd like to share a little bit about my family with all of you.
My husband, Bert and I have been married almost twenty years. If I could go back in time and marry him again, I would. A woman couldn't ask for a more supportive and giving husband. When it comes to my illness he is always by my side trying to help me. For example, in November, while walking into a local hospital my legs wouldn't work. I vocalized this to Bert. As he turned around, my body began to fall. The only things stopping me were the edge of the concrete sidewalk and a metal drain. Without so much as a second thought, he threw himself underneath me so that I wouldn't be injured. I'm on a very powerful blood-thinner and had my head hit either one of those objects?it could've been fatal. That's just the kind of caring person he is.
In 1996, we started a small construction based business, which we nurtured into a home-building company. In 2005, we discovered the superintendent we'd so carefully hired embezzled an astronomical sum of money from the business we began as mere kids. Our family lost everything. It took one man, eight months to ruin a life-long dream ten years in the making.
Did the embezzlement and a declining housing market get my husband down? Nope?he picked up the pieces, packed up the family and relocated us to another state where the home-building economy is strong. Together, we will rebuild another company. Bert leaves for work before dawn and comes home very late at night. Yet, no matter how tired he is, if I'm busy writing or marketing Tides of Time?he always finds the energy to make dinner or help with the kids in order to keep my dream of being an author alive.
I thank God every day for my children. I can honestly say my husband and I have raised two very happy, healthy kids and selfless individuals. The kids have bravely dealt with my illness, pitch in to help with housework or walk me into a store when it's raining so I don't fall. They are never too busy to be by my side or call me from school to make sure I'm feeling okay.
In 2000, shortly after returning home from a Florida booksigning, we were eating a late lunch at a popular restaurant. My daughter noticed that my eye was bleeding. At the urging of my family, I went to the restroom to take a look?figuring it was nothing more than a bad blood vessel break, I returned to the table.
I remember telling my husband ?Bert?I don't feel well.? It was then that I collapsed and could hear my children crying and screaming for me to wake up?yet it was if they were hundreds of miles away. I kept hearing myself saying, ?It's okay?Mommy is here kids. I'm here?.I'm okay.? Yet no sound came from me. When I awoke, my right side wouldn't work. I had suffered a stroke. My children carry those images of that day around with them. I believe the stroke made us all stronger as a family and showed my children just how precious time together really is.
Overcoming My Illnesses :
I suffer from a variety of severe, debilitating and potentially fatal illnesses. The main illnesses I deal with are Lupus and Anti-Phospholipid Syndrome. Lupus is such a difficult disease as it mimics so many others and is extremely hard for doctors to diagnose. Some days, it feels like the flu, but it's the body reacting to the effects of Lupus. A person suffering from either one of these illnesses feels tired most of the time, suffers extreme headaches, muscle pain and spasms, immune system deficiencies, limbs that often are too weak to work and weight gain.
For myself, it is hard to function as a person with any sense of normalcy. Some days the pain in my leg bones is so bad it can only be described as someone taking a dull butter knife and scrapping the bones. The headaches are horrible and can last for weeks. A simple case of a sore throat or minor cold turns into bronchitis or pneumonia because the immune system is compromised. Then there are the days wherein I'm too tired to function or speak. Lifting my legs is hard so I shuffle my feet on bad days. As I'm trying to wash my hair, it's like my limbs are dead and won't work. Oh, weight gain?I eat less than anyone in my family, yet gain weight at the drop of a hat.
The nickname for Lupus is, ?The Wolf.? How appropriate that is, as the disease sneaks in and overtakes your life like a hungry wolf hunting prey. The amount of medication I take on a deadly basis to keep the wolf at bay is expensive and astounding.
There is one other point I'd like to share with all of you. Seven years ago a doctor told me, ?You have seven ?good' years left.? At that time, I didn't ask him to elaborate on whether that meant ?left' here on this earth or quality of life. To me it doesn't matter. Each day is a gift and is what we make of it. For me, there is nothing more important than beating these illnesses for my husband, children and most importantly myself. If I sit down and allow these afflictions to overtake my life ? then they win and I will not become a victim.
Anti-Phospholipid Disease merged with Lupus is a dangerous combination. As mentioned before, I suffered a stroke. APS causes my blood to thicken and ?throw? clots for no apparent reason. These clots cause strokes, mini-strokes and a host of other problems. The doctors have me taking blood-thinners to help combat the problem. I go in about once a month for blood tests. It's like living with a time bomb?you never know if or when a clot will develop, possibly resulting in another stroke. The question always looms?will this one be worst than the last?
Finally, I'd like to talk about my charitable organizations. SOS AMERICA
September 11 th , the invasion of Afghanistan and the Iraqi War all have had a profound impact on me, as with millions of other Americans. The images of our soldiers and families left behind are heart- wrenching. It is my belief that no matter how one feels about the war?as an American you should support our soldiers. They don't want to be away from home any more than we want them to be away.
Weeks after the war started, our family adopted a soldier. We wrote to him, mailed care packages and organized a letter drive from school children for nearly a year. I can honestly say this was one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives, resulting in a life-long friendship with his family. Our soldier made it home safely, but for countless others the outcome is not as positive. These folks desperately need our help.
You can pick up any newspaper or turn to various news channels and see the plight of our soldiers and their families. As I've stated many times in speeches and interviews?it does not matter what your opinion of the war is ? we, as Americans should do our part of help our service personnel and their families because they are a part of us ? no matter what our political views may be. Our soldiers don't want to be away from their loved ones any more than we want them to be away.
When I was in college my roommate and I went to visit a wheelchair bound, Vietnam Vet. She was writing a paper on the War and he'd agreed to be interviewed. I listened to him talk for hours about the war and seeing his buddies injured. Not once did he shed a tear while talking about his experiences until he got to the part where he came home. When he spoke of the treatment from his fellow Americans as he got off the plane, how he was spit on and called names?he cried. I've never forgotten this soldier.
Last Christmas my husband and I were having dinner out. It was a particular hard time financially for our family. We were conversing on our plight when we looked over and saw a soldier home on leave. It was then that we focused not on us, but the soldier and what, if any, time he had left to spend with his family. On our way out we stopped, shook his hand and bought his dinner. Seeing this soldier's smile was far better than the tears from the Vietnam Vet I had witnessed almost twenty years earlier.
Therefore, when Kathryn Falk, Founder of Romantic Times Magazine approached me with her idea for Support Our Soldiers America, Inc., I jumped at the chance to volunteer. Our family has donated bulletproof vests and sent books and supplies overseas. We have taken part in Kathryn's many benefits including the soldier retreat house and spa in Alvin, Texas.
If your readers would like to help a service person like the ones I've mentioned here today?the easiest way would be to hook up with groups such as Support Our Soldiers America, Inc. You can visit RomanticTimes.com for more information. Even something as simple as letters from school children puts a smile on some very worthy faces that miss home terribly.
St. Jude Children's Hospital:
St. Jude Children's Hospital was an easy choice for our family because of my personal struggles with Lupus, Anti-Phospholipid Disease, Raynaud's, Fibromyalgia and strokes.
I'm now 40, but having had these illnesses since early childhood, I've really only been plagued with the harshest stages since age 30. When I look into the eyes of sick children at St. Jude?I can't imagine being their age having to endure the pain I go through on a daily basis.
I've experienced a great deal of what life has to offer like my first date, going to prom, getting married, having children, traveling, writing books and meeting wonderful fans?but really how much of that can you do when you are a sick child? Sick children miss out on so many pleasures we as adults take for granted.
Finally, while St. Jude does wonderful work at an operation cost of $1 million per day, with children plagued with cancer?I was surprised to learn they also conduct research on auto-immune diseases. It would be my dream to raise enough awareness and money to aid additional support to this area of the facility.
I pray that someday my story will be told to Montel Williams. His show garners enormous media attention, especially with his personal story of living with MS and the prescription drug crisis in America. If everything works out the way I hope, maybe in the future, Lupus, MS, Anti-Phospholipid Disease and other illnesses will become a thing of the past.
If you could be one of your characters - Who would you be? And why?
Although we share the same quick and humorous personalities?I would be the supporting character of Whitney Harmon just because she is relentless, a free spirit who says whatever's on her mind and goes with the flow. She doesn't worry about housework or being responsible. It's live for the moment. Me on the other hand?I'm very clean, moderately conservative and care what people think. Whitney is the total opposite of that?she could care less what people think and has had many interludes with men.
What's your favorite genre to read?
Historical and Contemporary.
Who or what influences you when you write?
My creativity stays fulfilled by watching every day events, people and circumstances. Traveling to different states, countries and environments also helps keep my reflection on reality genuine.
I believe this is why I connect so well with country music, its artists and fans. This entire genre of music was founded on the simplicities of life mostly derived from rural or small-town America ? these are places I take comfort in most.
Probably the most important factor is the diagnoses of Lupus, Anti-Phospholipid Disease, suffered a stroke and was told six years ago that seven to ten ?good? years was about all I had left. I didn't ask the doctors whether that terminology meant ?here on this earth? or ?quality of life.? Therefore, not one person, amount of time or situation in my existence is taken for granted. Each day is truly lived to its fullest and considered a gift.
When someone is diagnosed with something so horrible, they tend to notice the smaller or simpler things and be thankful for the little favors that God allows them to experience. Therefore, my creative cup is replenished daily.
What do you do on a typical writing day?
There is no set schedule for writing at my home. First, because of my health issues, that's the first factor taken into consideration on whether or not I can write on any particular day.
Marketing for Tides of Time needs to be done daily. I'm a one woman show so all promotions, scheduling events and answering fan mail is done by me. Most mornings I'm working the sites on MySpace.com, Amazon and other reader groups and links around the web.
Writing is usually done in the afternoon and evenings, after the kids get home from school. I do my best work on my laptop surrounded by the noise of my two children fighting, television set blaring, dogs barking and general chatter in the room. If it's too quiet?I can't write.
When you have writer's block how do you break free?
I usually put the computer away and either watch a movie, listen to Country Music or take a nice walk outside around our property. This clears my head and allows me to focus on what I want to accomplish with a particular, word, phrase or chapter. It's not long that I find something to inspire me?and I'm off to the races again.
Can you please give us a sneak peek at any of your upcoming books?
I have several books in the works and would love to share the newest manuscript with all of you, but I'm very secretive about my writing. Not one person sees it until the novel is ready for editing. My husband isn't even privy to my work, no matter how much he pesters me for a peek.
What I can tell you is that the next book (which is soon to be ready) is also a contemporary women's fiction novel, set in both the South and Los Angeles. People in the industry have dubbed me the ?Queen of Angst.? I can assure you the next book will be filled with more of the same.
As the popularity of TIDES OF TIME grows many readers having been asking about a sequel. Surprisingly, a majority of readers have asked me to do a spin-off based on Rick and Whitney's life together. There are a few ?new? stories ideas screaming from my unconscious to be told. After I write those?I'm proud to say a sequel will definitely be in the works.
Please tell us what you have planned next?
I would love to write a screenplay.
I would love to see TIDES OF TIME made into a movie.
I would love to see a music video performed by Steve Azar for TIDES OF TIME. It would be the first ever music video inspired by a book.
In 5 years, where do you see yourself? - In general and in you're writting career
I see myself still living in the South (this time right on the Gulf), planning my daughter's wedding ? she'll be old enough then. My son will be going off to college on a football scholarship and my husband and I can enjoy our remaining years together. I will have many peaceful days to do nothing but write more wonderful novels.
Also, in five years?hopefully, I'll make ?The Times List? by then, have a few movies under my belt and appear on the cover of Romantic Times Magazine again.
Who is your perfect hero?
Kathryn Falk, Founder & Owner Romantic Times Magazine
And why? Kathryn Falk, Founder and Owner of Romantic Times Magazine in New York, has been a huge inspiration in my life. Not only has she been my mentor, she's become my best friend. For someone as important and busy as she is with charitable events such as Support Our Soldiers America, Inc and day- to-day operations of a thriving magazine, Kathryn somehow found the time to navigate this publishing newbie through the uncertain waters of the industry. If you are looking for someone to inspire you ? look no further than Kathryn.
I first met her at a booksigning in Boca Raton, Florida in the late 90's. At that time, I had no idea who she was, but she walked up to me, introduced herself and gave me an autographed copy of her magazine complete with e-mail address. We struck up an e-mail friendship from there. I've come to know her well over the years and believe me when I say that she doesn't know a stranger. Although there are many legends as to her life and times, the part I enjoy best is that she arrived in New York with very little, lived modestly and started Romantic Times Magazine in a closet. Yes, a closet. I've seen it. Now, that magazine is referred to as ?The Holy Bible? of the Romance Industry. If tackling New York and the publishing industry isn't inspiration to countless women thinking they can't do it, then I don't know what is. I'm proud to call her my friend!
What do you do for inspiration?
First, Country Music is a huge inspiration in my writing. Whether it's the lyrics from a jilted woman or the ballad of a heartbroken man?I develop my characters' personal issues and characteristics from some of the fictional people sung about in my favorite songs. How many times have you listened to a song and wondered: What happened to those two people? Where did they go from there? Did they get back together? Fall apart again? In my novels?I answer those questions.
Have you seen the men of Country Music lately? Just take a look at Keith Urban, Steve Azar, George Strait, Tim McGraw and many others. If you need to model a look for your hero ? look no further than these men in their tight Levi's and Wranglers, cowboy hats, mysterious eyes and sexy vulnerability. It's not all about men going out and getting drunk like that of yester-year. It's more about the sexy side of how a man loves a woman, caring for his children and loving life.
The women of Country have also played a part in my writing. Today's women of Country Music have more positive roles and subject matter to sing about than that of days long ago. Entertainers like Reba, Shania and Martina McBride paved the way for women to be strong, smart and sassy. So when molding the look and characteristics of my heroine, I don't have to look any further than the television screen while a great music video is playing.
The second inspiration I used in my writing is drawn from the subtle stories of rural America. I was raised in a small town and like most teenagers didn't appreciate the experiences and values I was taught there. I've drawn so much from little towns, everyday people, traumatic circumstances and hard work ethic. This too has inspired the way I write and why Country Music and I mesh so well together.
Is there a genre of book you would like to write but haven't yet?
Murder Mystery Novel.
What type of book would you like to write but haven't yet?
Someday I hope to write a book about my life. I have been through so much. My home life growing up was less than desirable, I was disowned and homeless, miscarried my first child, suffered a stroke and diagnosed with four potentially fatal and debilitating diseases. If a book on my life could inspire someone else to follow their dreams?I'd love to write it all down for them.
What kind of research do you do for your books? Do you enjoy the research process?
Travel to places I write about and Internet research. Yes, especially when I'm able to travel.
Do deadlines help or hinder your muse?
I tend to work better under pressure so I believe that deadlines do help me.
When did you first decide to submit your work? Please, tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step.
Actually, this is a cute story. It was a rainy Mother's Day 1996. My husband and I both had totally forgotten the big day. We were lying on the living room floor watching a movie when my husband jumped up and said, ?Where's the checkbook?I'm going mushroom hunting?? For those of you who don't know what that is?it's where you go out into the woods to look for giant morel mushrooms to bring home and fry up. Puzzled I said to Bert, ?It's raining and why do you need the checkbook to do that?? He gave me a funny look and demanded the checkbook yet again. Then it dawned on me that we both had forgotten Mother's Day and he was going to make a quick trip into town to make it right.
Bert went to a nearby town in search of the perfect gift, but it was late in the afternoon and on a Sunday to boot?so he found nothing. He was coming home empty-handed when he came upon a person huddled alongside the Interstate. But this wasn't your average hitchhiker?it was ABC's PrimeTime Live Correspondent Jay Schadler filming Part II of his Hitchhiking Across America Documentary. Bert picked Jay up, brought him to the house and we ended up not only driving Mr. Schadler two hours away from our town, but appeared on the documentary. It was during this drive that Jay and I got to talking and found we had many similarities. At that time, I had gone to school for Journalism, but was working as a legal secretary. Jay started out as a lawyer and ended up in Journalism. He asked me, ?If you could do anything, what would it be?? I thought for a moment and said, ?Write a novel.? Jay smiled and said, ?Then you should. It's not too late. Look at me.? We've been friends ever since. Jay gave me back my fire and desire to write.
What would you like to tell your readers?
If there is that one true thing in life that they enjoy doing ? don't waste time thinking about it ? do it. From the time I was small, writing came easy to me. While I went to college for Journalism, that wasn't my true calling?writing was. I wasted years being a legal secretary (although a wonderful job ? not MY true calling). That time could have been utilized better by writing novels.
Don't waste time ? believe in yourself and make those dreams happen. There are so many doors open for women today -- all they need to do is walk through one of them.
I've always felt very strongly that if you give up and sit in a corner ? you'll never better your life. When something negative happens like a stroke, it takes awhile to overcome it and to get well, but life goes on. What keeps me going is that I remain focused and work through the pain as if the Lupus and Anti-Phospholipid Disorders are not present. My motto is, ?Every time you let your abusers or negative circumstances in life win ? you become a victim time and time again.? Well, today?I'm nobody's victim. If there's a negative issue in my life whether it be a particularly bad pain day, negative financial situation or someone tailgating my car?I stop, meditate and regroup ? figure out a better way to handle the problem with as little pain or stress as possible.
What is the best and advice you have ever received?
The best advice I've gotten is NEVER give up. Always stay focused and positive on your goals and ambitions. Whether it's a parent, abusive spouse or boyfriend, lack of education or experience, don't let anything stand in your way of being all you can be. Don't waste time, believe in yourself and make those dreams happen.
Also, don't keep constant company with people that bring you down emotionally. If you surround yourself with happy, successful people ? that atmosphere will create enough positive energy and courage to help you follow your dreams. Chronically unhappy individuals tend to drag other people down with them. You can be a good friend and humanitarian to most and an enabler to others.
The worst advice I've ever gotten was from an agent in New York. I met her at a convention in Florida years ago when my first book was out. She was excited by my marketing plan and took a packet back to the city with her. After weeks of not receiving a phone call, I telephoned her only to be told that, ?You will never be a writer. I couldn't get through the first page. You should go back to your day job, whatever that is.? Granted, that book needed some serious editing, but the writing potential was certainly there?it just needed to be finely tuned. I've often wondered how many GREAT writers have been turned away in that fashion.
Do you outline your books or just start writing?
I just start writing?sometimes I'll write the ending first and then figure out where I need to start. Other times I just take off from the first page and write the whole thing through.
Do you belong to a critique group? If so, how does this help or hinder you?
What was your first published work and when was it published?
Although at the time, I thought my first book was unbeatable and it was well received, I'm a little shy in uncovering my first attempt. With my first book, I went through a small vanity press. The book is entitled, A SLICE OF PIE, which was published in 1999. Please read TIDES OF TIME before searching for that novel. I have come so far as a writer since those days and learned ?point of view,? ?purple prose? and ?show not tell.? That's where the editor came in handy.
How can readers find out more about you and your books?
By going to any of the websites listed above. Also, these fine retailers, Borders, WaldenBooks, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com and everywhere books are sold.
Thank you for this opportunity!