Frequently Asked Questions
FAQs about Writing
Where do you get your ideas?
Ideas really come from pretty much anywhere. My core inspiration tends to come from visual media more than anything else (TV shows and movies), but I also get ideas from other books and my life.
Where did you get the idea for Crossing the Line?
I got the idea for Crossing the Line after seeing The Avengers. I talk about the details of writing the book here, but the overview is that after seeing the movie, I found myself really intrigued by the character of Black Widow. I’m not a huge comic book person, so I didn’t have much context for the stories or the characters going in. As the movie unfolded, I found it really interesting to realize that Black Widow hadn’t always worked for SHIELD, but in fact had worked for an enemy. I became fascinated with what the transition from enemy to ally must have been like and that’s what I wanted to explore in Crossing the Line.
How do you plan your stories?
I’m a huge planner. I like to break my planning down into three areas: the idea, the story elements, and the plot. In the idea stage, I’ll take time to free write, explore the new idea, and see if it’s a story I really want to write. Once I decide I like the idea enough to want to write a book about it, I’ll start looking at the story elements. Here, I’ll think about and develop the characters, the setting, and everything else that makes up the world I’m creating. Then the plot is fitting all of the story elements together. Taking notes and writing all of this down helps me organize my thoughts so this is what it looks like:
How do you plot and pace your stories?
I base my plot around this plot structure that was introduced to me in grad school.
I like this structure because it emphasizes raising and managing the tension as the story progresses. Keeping that in mind as I plan is ultimately how I pace the story and do my best to raise the stakes and keep things interesting as the story moves on.
Where do you write?
Most of my actual drafting and revising happens at Panera or in my backyard. I’m so much more productive when I work outside of my house. However I do most of my brainstorming at home with music.
Where do you get motivation to keep working?
A lot of it comes from finding a process that really works for me. I’ve played with a lot of different approaches to learn that I am at my best when I have a plan. I lose steam if I don’t know where I’m going, so I try to do my best to know what’s coming next in my story. Plus, it makes me excited to work when I look ahead and see the fun scenes I get to write next. I also have learned I am most effective when I have a balanced schedule. When I’m drafting I’ll write 3,000 words a day, six days a week. I try not to go over three thousand words because if I do that too frequently I burn out. I also take one day off a week, which I protect fiercely. I need it to recharge. But really I just love every part of the writing process and exploring my stories, and that’s ultimately what keeps me going.
Do you get writer’s block? How do you deal with it?
Writer’s block really isn’t a problem for me. I think a big reason for this is because I plan so much. However, there are definitely times where I’m writing and a scene or direction starts to feel flat. Or something pops up that I hadn’t planned on. If these issues are small and it’s an earlier draft I’ll write through them, let them be terrible, and fix them later. If their more significant or it’s a later draft, I’ll stop writing and go back to planning and brainstorming and work the problem out on paper. This is usually the key for me. Sometimes I’ll take a break and try to clear my head, but this rarely helps. For me, not working tends to prolong the issue. If I get to a point that I feel like I can’t figure out a problem on my own, I’ll ask my critique partners for help. Sometimes just talking it over with someone who had a fresh perspective is all it takes.
What advice would you give to writers?
Take the time to figure out what works for you. If it’s writing every day, then write every day. If it’s not, then don’t. See what other writers do, but don’t try to follow someone else’s process to the letter. Try different things and take bits and pieces from everywhere to create a process that you enjoy and that makes your excited to write. For more, check out my writing blog, A Well Told Story.
What was your favorite part about Crossing the Line?
I don't have anyone favorite part, but one of the big themes for Jocelyn in the book was learning to trust. I loved backing her into a corner and forcing her to trust before she was really ready.
Will there be more Raven Files books?
I have plans for more books, but unfortunately, my publisher hasn't asked me to write any more right now. :( This is mostly because of sales. The response I've gotten from readers has been overwhelmingly positive and it means SO MUCH to me that so many of you loved reading them as much as I loved writing them. ❤️
However, as someone who has seen fans resurrect shows like Firefly and Veronica Mars, I know fan power is a very real thing. So if you'd like to throw some of your power around, you can leave reviews on retail sites (like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc), tell all of your friends about the book, share it on social media, request/borrow it from your local library, and maybe even gift it to someone you think would enjoy it. That kind of stuff is great for spreading the word about any book you love! And who knows--maybe someday we'll have our own resurrection story to tell. 😘
There's cursing in your books! How dare you?!
Why yes! There is cursing in my books! I can almost guarantee there will be cursing in any book I write. I try not to make it excessive, but it will probably always be there. Why?
1) I write about people intense, emotional, and occasionally life-and-death situations. And in those situations, people often curse.
2) I write about teens. And I’ve spent enough time around teens (both as a former teen and as a high school substitute teacher) to know they, too, often curse.
3) I like it. So, I’m not going to shy away if the character and/or situation calls for a strong word or two.
It’s also worth noting that it’s not an author’s job to write a book for every reader. I place a high value on character and emotional authenticity. If this kind of authenticity isn’t your thing, then it would seem my books aren’t right for you. But one of the best things about books is that there are SO MANY of them out there, so I’m sure you’ll find something that’s a better fit.
FAQs about Me
What are your favorite TV Shows?
TV is my absolute favorite! Top shows of all time include: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Leverage, Orphan Black, Veronica Mars, Friday Night Lights, The West Wing, Gilmore Girls, The Royals, One Tree Hill, The O.C., and Grey’s Anatomy.
What are your favorite Movies?
I’m not a huge movie person, but some favorites include, Serenity, The Avengers (obviously), The Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Peter Pan, and Frozen.
What was high school like for you?
I really enjoyed high school! It was when I first started to seriously write, and I had an amazing teacher who really went out of her way to help make that happen for me. I had some good times with my friends and classmates, but I also did my own thing. I was an obsessive TV addict, and to some extent I still am, though not nearly as much as I used to be.
How much to do you relate to your characters?
I don’t think there’s any one character that’s totally and completely me, but there’s definitely a little bit of myself in all of my characters. As far as Jocelyn is concerned, I can be serious like she is, but I can also be totally ridiculous in a way that she’s not. I also tend to think before I act (like Travis), where Jocelyn dives right in. I can be as stubborn as she is, and like her, I like to think I’ve found ways to use that stubbornness as determination (because who said being stubborn had to be a bad thing;). I also have no fighting skills, but I’ve been told I have a death stare that can be quite frightening.