Thanks to Carole Foley Bellacera for this interview
What is your day job or are you lucky enough to write for a living?
I’m lucky enough to have a husband who supports me so I can write. Well, kind of. Actually, I also work as a writing instructor at Long Ridge Writers Group, a correspondence course out of Connecticut.
What books have you written so far?
I’ve written seven novels, BORDER CROSSINGS, SPOTLIGHT, EAST OF THE SUN, WEST OF THE MOON, UNDERSTUDY, CHOCOLATE ON A STICK, TANGO’S EDGE and LILY OF THE SPRINGS (forthcoming).
What works in progress do you have?
I’m working on a novel about a combat nurse in Vietnam titled INCENSE & PEPPERMINTS.
How long did it take you to write your book/s?
Oh, God. With each book, it’s taken longer. It used to take me about a year; now, with all my competing interests (jewellery making, karaoke, instructing) it takes me 2-3 years.
Do you write linear, or jump back and forth? Do you plan or write by the seat of your pants?
The only way I can write is in a linear way. To me, the story has to unfold, just like I’m watching a movie. I have a friend who jumps around from scene to scene, and I don’t know how she does it. I plan out my novels with a detailed outline. It serves as a road map for me, although I often veer off it.
Why do you write?
I write because it’s in my blood. I was born a writer, I think, or at least a born storyteller. When I was a teen, I used to put myself to sleep at night by making up a story in my head.
How long have you been writing?
I wrote my first ‘novel’ in 5th grade and illustrated it.
Where and when do you write? ¬ Do you have set times?
Mornings are my most creative time, so I try to get at least an hour in each (weekday) morning on my novel before I turn to my student assignments.
Which character from your books do you like most / are most like?
I admire Velma the most, I think ¬ my elderly woman in CHOCOLATE ON A STICK. She’s spunky, and blunt and pugnacious ¬ still a lot of life in her in her 70s. I want to BE her someday. I think I’m most like Kerry, my heroine in TANGO’S EDGE. I’m not a figure skater (although I’ve had vivid dreams that I was just that), but her personality kind of mirrors my own. She’s a bit of a rebel, not one to cleanly fit into a niche. She often feels like an outsider. She puts up a tough front to protect herself from rejection and hurt. An attack first or be attacked mentality. I understand that. She wants to trust people, but experience has made it difficult, so she kind of keeps apart to protect herself. I do think there’s a little bit of myself in all my characters though. That’s inevitable, I guess.
What/who inspired you to write and still inspires you?
No one inspired me to write. But the story does ¬ the one that needs to be told. It’s the same way now. My only inspiration is the story. Having said that, the idea for my next novel, LILY OF THE SPRINGS, due out in February, was inspired by my late mother (so I guess I just contradicted myself). She grew up in the 1940s in Kentucky and, like many young woman, married too early and didn’t have the chance to explore what she really wanted to do with her life. Thus, I’ve given Lily that chance.
What do you think is the ideal recipe for a good novel or story?
Suspense. And I’m not talking about a thriller kind of suspense, but the ordinary, everyday suspense that keeps the reader turning pages, wanting to know what’s going to happen next. That can, and should, happen in any novel, no matter what the genre.
Have you ever based a character on someone from real life?
I think there’s a lot of my mother in Lily in LILY OF THE SPRINGS. Or maybe I just turned Lily into the woman I thought my mother could’ve been if circumstances had been different for her.
Fave things: animal? food? drink? film? colour? band? song?
Favourite animal? A tie between my 13-year-old cat, Ruby, and my three-year old lab/husky mix, Cooper.
I have a LOT of favourite foods. I love to eat! But I guess when it comes right down to it, I’d have to say a big slice of gooey, cheese and pepperoni-laden New York pizza.
My favourite film for the past few years is O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? I’ve seen it probably six times, and I still laugh as hard as I did the first time.
My favourite band these days is probably David Cook. But my musical tastes are varied ¬ here’s a sample of musicians I love: Pink, Adele, U2, Carole King, Patsy Cline, Stevie Nicks, Journey, Eddie Vedder, Luka Bloom, Guns ‘N Roses, Mozart, Beethoven, Handel, Mary Fahl… oh, I could go on and on. I have a quite extensive music library.
No way I can narrow down a favourite song, but the first one that comes to mind is BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER.
You’re walking in the forest and you bump into an alien librarian from Mars. He wants five book recommendations from you…
THE RUSSIAN CONCUBINE by Kate Furnivall
THE BOLEYN INHERITANCE by Philippa Gregory
CAGE OF STARS by Jacqueline Mitchard
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee
THE JOY LUCK CLUB by Amy Tan
Who is your favourite character from any book and why?
Hands down, Scout from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.
Which book do you wish you had written?
I honestly don’t ever wish I’d written someone else’s book. I just enjoy them.
Which three authors would you like to take to the pub?
Stephen King because I bet he’d be fun, Amy Tan because I admire her so much, and Sophie Kinsella because I know she’d make me laugh.
Are you published or self-published? What is your experience?
My first four novels were published by a major New York house (Tor/Forge). After I was orphaned, my career suffered a decline, and I turned to the small press for publication. With TANGO’S EDGE, I’ve taken the reins into my own hands and self-published through Amazon’s CreateSpace. It’s nice to feel in control of my own career for once.
How do you find the marketing experience? Any advice for other writers?
For me, marketing is a necessary evil. I’d much rather be writing. But you have to do it, so I just bite the bullet and do what I can. Advice? If you want your book to sell, you have to market your ass off. No short-cuts. You just have to realise in this age of publishing that your publisher, even if it’s a major one, won’t be going out of their way to promote you. It’s all up to you, so you might as well accept it and get busy.
Do you have a blog? What do you blog about?
I guess you could call it a blog. I call it an old-fashioned newsletter, which I send out to my fans each month. I write about my life, my grandsons, my vacations, my fights with my husbands… you name it. Whatever is going on with me at the time, I spill. I just have to be me, and my life doesn’t revolve around my writing career… not any more anyway. One day I realised that there was more to life than my career, and I’ve been much happier since. So, if you join my newsletter group, know that you’ll get to know me “upfront and personal”.
What other hobbies do you have?
I sing karaoke, and have done well in some local competitions. I also sing in my church choir and at our annual talent show. Check out my videos:
I also make semi-precious stone jewellery, which I sell on Etsy and at craft fairs.
What would you like to achieve in the next five years?
All I want to achieve is to have my books available for my readers. Of course, I’d love the movie deal… but I’ve been down that road, and it didn’t work out. (Julia Roberts loved one of my scripts, but not enough to option it.) Still, it’s a dream to see one of my books come to life on the big screen.
If you won the Lotto or a major publishing contract, what would you do with that dosh?
Two different things. If I won the Lotto, I’d buy a home on a beach in Hawaii and enjoy life, travel, cruise, sit on the beach and read. If I won that major publishing contract, I’d probably majorly stress out and churn out that book. I’d rather win the Lotto.
Complete one of these stories in 100 words or less…
There was once a wee worm called Fred... who crawled out of the deep, darkest reaches of the dank forest and decided to change the world. He started by changing his name to Charlotte.
What question do you wish I’d asked and, of course, what is the answer?
What kind of wine am I drinking right now? Viura from Spain.
Author of TANGO’S EDGE