What books have most influenced your life?
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien definitely take first place. I fell in love with these epic stories before I could even read. When I was about five years old, my big brother Tom read them to me each night just before I drifted off to sleep. After losing him in 2012, these precious memories and fantastical stories inspire my writing more than ever.
Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés is another book that continues to inspire. Estés so eloquently explores the psychology behind classic fairytales, and exposes the beautiful roots of the beloved archetypes that infuse all story. We all connect with these archetypes, whether consciously or not. They are in our DNA, and they inspire us to feel the most fundamental, powerful human emotions. I still pick up this book every so often to read a quick fairytale and Estés unpacking of it for inspiration.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
I love captivating, fast-paced, grand stories. I love strong, courageous characters. I love epic, against-all-odds love stories. And, of course, I love paranormal, supernatural, mythological flair. I also love when compelling bits of history give strong roots to a story, and make me feel like I learned a little something in the end. I am planning and writing my first novel of a series with all of these things in mind. I have to love my own book the way I love my favorite reads. I am inspired by my beloved protagonist. I am terrified by her antagonists. And I am head-over-heels in love with every supporting character that adds depth and charm to the story. I have to feel all these things before I can call my first novel “done” and ready to be shared with the world.
My characters are often inspired by aspects of people that have crossed my path. My plots are often launched or influenced by obscure fragments of history that fascinate me. As I plan and develop elements of a story, one idea often inspires the next. I let things simmer in my subconscious and patiently wait for compelling ideas to pop out, or good ideas to evolve into even better ones. Usually ideas emerge while I’m driving, while I’m trying to sleep, or during important meetings—I have piles of sticky notes in my car, my purse, and all over my house to prove it.
Tell us about your book?
My book is a fast-paced paranormal thriller with a strong female protagonist; a modern heroine that is forced on an arduous journey of self-exploration. She is faced with many obstacles, and is forced to dig deep to find her inner power and right the wrongs of her past.
The story also brings to life the richness of ancient Italy’s anthropological and supernatural history.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Getting it just right. I want my writing to be like a musical symphony that gives me (and therefore my readers) chills. Until a paragraph, a page, a chapter resonates perfectly and makes me say “holy [expletive]” out loud, it’s not done. Sometimes I hit the perfect note right away, and other times it takes many drafts and edits. But I can’t move on until I’m erupting with emotion.
What professional motivations led you to write your first novel?
Right around Y2K, just after graduating from University of Massachusetts Amherst with my English degree, I got my first job at a financial company (and my degree lazed out at home). I started paying off my student loans, learned a lot about 401ks and investing, and I did very well in my budding career in the staffing department. People noticed, and within six months, I was promoted from staffing representative to recruiter, and I was on my way to greatness. Except it wasn’t the greatness I desired. After about a year, I felt the soul-crushing effects of not chasing my dream (a dream that I only discovered because I’d begun to travel in the wrong direction), so I abandoned ship to pursue becoming a professional writer.
Back then, the flavor of writing didn’t matter, as long as I found a job that involved writing. Manipulating words, crafting sentences, shaping ideas and conjuring thoughts and feelings. I wanted it bad. I wanted it more than anything. I threw my resume in every direction possible: publishing companies, newspapers, editing firms, you name it. And after a seemingly-fictional sequence of events which involved boldly applying with zero experience for a job as a beat reporter; getting an unexpected call back from the executive editor who challenged me to pack up, move across the state, and take his journalism class at the local community college to prove myself; and sleeping in a Motel 6 that smelled like sour milk until I figured out if this whim substantiated finding an apartment, I’d landed one of the coolest jobs I’ve ever had: newspaper journalist. After just a month in his class, I was asked to join his professional team at the regional newspaper. I learned so much, met so many interesting people, and most importantly I began building my writing chops. The experience became an absolute treasure in my stash. Unfortunately, being a local reporter does not pay the bills (boo! student loans and adulting), and though I admired and respected the big city reporters who earned a bit more than me, I knew that pace and lifestyle was not for me. So I was off to chase my next writing adventure; and I landed as an editor at an educational publishing house (another all-time favorite gig!). Conducting compelling and perspective-shifting historical research, developing educational content, and working with such fun, creative people further rounded out my writing chops, and gave me another treasure to stash away when the time came to set sail on my next adventure: technical writing. This move from right-brain to left was prompted by my friend/co-worker encouraging me to enroll in a technical writing certification program with her. After my nerd side got a taste of html, xml, and structured writing (and my practical side a more desirable paycheck), I jumped in feet first and have been here ever since (irony: my friend ended up hating it and dropping the course). Being on the driest, least creative end of the writing spectrum, tech writing has further developed my writing chops with the invaluable skills of structuring and organization; furthermore, the essence of this style of writing is in such opposition to my creative longings that it could only urge me forward to the next logical step in my whirlwind adventure as a writer: shaping my wild thoughts into a novel!
Chasing my dreams within the confines of making a living has ultimately led me to this magical place where I get to create my own world, fill it with my own characters, and live vicariously through their epic adventures. On my journey thus far as a writer, this path is my absolute favorite place to be!
What personal motivations led you to write your first novel?
Just before I began writing my first novel, I lost my Dad. Three years later, I lost my brother Tom, and I also became a mother. I was 36 weeks pregnant with my first child when I lost Tom. Writing helped me to process these vastly different experiences of such devastating tragedy and such profound joy by expressing my emotions through my characters. The emotional pendulum has not stopped swinging. Since then, I’ve lost my Mom and I’ve given birth to my second child. If not for my writing, I would have crumbled.
My husband and two children are my world. I love exploring nature with my children and seeing the world through their eyes. Music (guitars, keyboards, drums fill our basement), dance (nightly groove parties), art (every medium imaginable), and imagination (boundless) is always abundant in our home, and we live for our adventures together. Our little ones are magical miracles, and our family is my safe harbor and my most beloved treasure. My love for them inspires my writing profoundly, and provokes my ever-deepening empathy for others.
My gratitude for what I have, for what I’ve had and lost, and my appreciation of every valuable step of this journey through life (the good, the bad, and the ugly), shapes me constantly, and encourages me to evolve as a person and consequently as a writer.
When did you become a writer?
The moment I could hold a pen in my hand! I have vague memories of run-on sentences written in pencil, and floating above my body in a world of fantasy, followed by my teacher pulling me back to earth by circling excessive ands and inserting carets where periods should have been. I’ve been a sponge for good stories my whole life. My big brother introduced me to Tolkien’s epic stories before I could even read. That’s when I first got hooked. Then, high school was a pivotal time when exposure to the classics opened me up to the world of literature. Inspiring stories poured in, and just as quickly began to flow out.
What made you want to be an author?
My way of dealing with the real-life demons and various apocalypses that have stormed my life is to throw myself into other worlds (via reading or writing). Creating my own world, with my own characters, is magical because they are with me all the time, growing and evolving in my mind every single day, and they help me to bear the pain and the joy that I experience in my journey through life, and process it all in such a beautiful way.
When will your first novel be available?
I am currently working with an editor/literary consultant; after completing final edits, I will be seeking representation for my first novel in a planned series.
Where did you come up with the idea for your novel?
I was driving an alternate route to work one morning and found myself on a charming country road with cows on one side, an open field on the other, and trees arching overhead. The sun caught one solitary tree in the middle of the field and it shimmered with ethereal light. This 30 second experience took me out of my reality and sparked the very first thought of waking from a dream that wasn’t just a dream. I thought about this idea the whole way to work, and all day. That night when I drove home, I stopped in that very spot and started scribbling down my first thoughts on a piece of scrap paper. That idea became the tiny spark at the heart of what is now a raging inferno.
How much research have you done for your novel?
A ton. I love history, and researching cool and fascinating subjects. After reading The New Penguin History of the World (from dinosaurs to the Gulf War), my fascination with the Roman Empire (especially its dark side) emerged. I’ve always loved stories of ancient Greece and Rome, and a world run by gods, but I wanted to know more. I really started digging deep until I entered Etruscan territory. It was in this world of Rome’s predecessor that I uncovered serious, magical treasure. Ever since, I’ve used my Audible subscription to tackle countless Great Courses audiobooks on the ancient Mediterranean and various other historical subjects.
What are some of your favorite authors?
Anita Diamant, Dan Brown, Elizabeth Kostova, Jhumpa Lahiri, Audrey Niffenegger, J.K. Rowling, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, J.R.R. Tolkien, Anne Rice, and of course my old college buddies Shakespeare, Chaucer, Marlowe, Virgil, and Ovid.
What’s your favorite book?
I enjoy so many different genres and writing styles, and cannot choose a single book. My affinity for a book also depends on my emotional needs at a given moment. If I am drowning in real-life tragedy or grief, I prefer an escape into fantasy. I always love historical fiction, and any adventure with supernatural forces at play. A few all-time favorites are The Red Tent, The Da Vinci Code, Women Who Run with the Wolves, The Lord of the Rings, and Interview with the Vampire.
Where can I find out more information about you?
Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, Pinterest.