Updated: Jan 8

Have you always been a writer?

No, but I have always loved reading. I have my mom’s ability to read fast, which makes reading an immersive experience. However, there were times in school that my writing was singled out. My elementary school English teacher asked me to read a paper at an assembly. I have a picture of me at the podium somewhere around my house.

My first career was in horticulture and floral design. It morphed into accounting, which is where I’ve stayed for over a decade. Adding romance author to the mix feels like finding the missing piece to a large puzzle!

What inspired you to start writing?

I was in a relationship that lacked a heart. From the outside, everything was there; from the inside, nothing. It took almost a decade of questioning myself, giving up, and telling myself I wasn’t allowed to do that before I accepted I was on the wrong path. It was a relief—to both of us— when I walked away for good. While I was still in it, I did everything I could to surround myself with the romance and comfort I was craving. After bingeing on romance novels and movies, I decided to write my own happily-ever-after. Enter, The Raven’s Call.

So, it would be accurate to say that there is a bit of you in the heroine, Victoria McKinley?

Yes. This is my first book and I can’t speak definitively for my future self, but I foresee writing female characters that have some part of me or my life experiences woven into their fabric.

What is the hardest part of writing a novel?

The writing part isn’t as hard as letting go of the finished project. I had no idea how vulnerable I would feel releasing something I created into the world. I had been on a roller coaster ride of starting and stopping projects over many years due to several major life events. They led to growth and internal development but caused a ton of external delays. I felt it made me look less credible as a person every time I began another project/job/relationship. So, finishing my book became a “See, I did it!” moment. It also created an instance on the couch where I couldn’t stop the tears. I realized then how important and how valuable a life skill it was to be able to drown out the voices of other people and do what was important to me.

Do you think the pandemic played a part in completing The Raven’s Call?

Without a doubt! I had already planned to finish my bachelor’s degree while staying home with my two-year-old when the pandemic hit, but the decision to finish my book sprung from needing a creative outlet. Instead of fighting the mandated time to stay inside, I used it to help me focus. When my twelve-year-old started online learning, it was a win-win. I got more time with my children while completing my goals!

What is one surprising thing about you that you wouldn’t mind sharing?

I almost dropped out of high school. My teen years weren’t the easiest and I transferred to a new school where I felt like an anomaly. I found my group of people and stopped going to class. My mom enrolled me in a school that turned everything around. I became a model student; senior class president (my school had two) and a member of several clubs. It also helped to have some fantastic teachers—shout out to you, Mrs. O’Dell!

What are some of your favorite movies, authors, and novels?

The movie adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (with Keira Knightly and Matthew Macfadyen) and the television series (with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth) were my first obsessions. Sense and Sensibility came next, followed by Emma, and Mansfield Park. I put them on repeat for days, weeks, and months. Nicholas Sparks movies were also a favorite. Those were the stories that kept me believing in love.

As school is winding down, I have more time to read. E-readers are my new(ish) friends. L.J. Shen is a writer I’ve picked up recently, as is Elyse Kelly. I’m a big fan of Jude Deveraux, Julie Garwood, and grew up reading: the late Dame Mary Barbara Hamilton Cartland (Barbara Cartland), Stephen King, Anne Rice, Joseph Conrad, Henry David Thoreau, the Brontë sisters, and Dame Daphne du Maurier.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Back up your work onto something you can access from any device. I went through two computers while writing and both times were due to unexpected physical damage (moisture, being one.) Fortunately, I had backed up my work and didn’t have to start over.

Also, don’t sweat the process. I don’t mean just the physical writing process; I mean all of it. Deadlines, expectations, motivation (or lack of it), and just everyday life will come and go. The life events that “interrupt” can add so much to your story and how you tell it. At the same time, listen to your inner voice when it nudges you to jot down an idea, thought, or character. You never know when you’ll need it!

Updated: Jan 8

#1. Proceed with caution when involving children.

You would think this one would be obvious. However, I’ve recently read novels with very awkward scenes involving kids. Anyone up for characters having sex with a baby sleeping between them? How about toddlers interrupting adults in the middle of the act? No? As a parent, I mean—I get it. Kids happen. As a romance author—it’s my job to show you how or when they happened. As a reader—I don’t know how to say this, except…eww. One might even say yuck. We know these scenarios happen in real life, but we read novels to get away from real life. Of course, if you think your readers enjoy the relatability of this more than they’ll cringe from it; then, feel free to disregard this one.

#2. Consider your characters’ perspective.

We all know people who don’t fit the social norms. Maybe you have a girlfriend who cusses like a sailor, farts in public, or picks her nose with zero f’s to give. Perhaps a man in your life reads romance novels and prefers a good rom-com over the latest action film. However, if your goal is to appeal to the masses, you don’t want to venture too far away from those norms. Most people at least toe the line and your characters should reflect that in what they say and do. If you have a very specific audience, make sure you don’t alienate them by doing the opposite of things that caused them to fall in love with that genre or style of writing.

#3. Use your environment.

Are your characters in an area where some privacy is expected? Yes? Then it’s fair game for a good old-fashioned Romp Fest. You may not want to use the term Romp Fest—unless you’re going for a “cute and campy” vibe. Don’t be afraid to use everyday things in a new way. In my book, The Raven’s Call, my leading man, Mitch, takes advantage of his lady's collection of throw pillows by having her hold one between her hands until he locates something to tie them together with. His restraint of choice? Well, let’s just say as a 20-year veteran of the CIA, he’s learned the fine art of using what’s in easy reach. Yes, that scene really exists and no, I’m not making that up. Ok, technically I DID make that up since I’m the author.

#4. Don’t be afraid to go vanilla but consider a twist.

I know I said it’s best if you don’t rock the boat on what your readers are expecting, but when it comes to love scenes—you want to make sure you aren’t putting them to sleep. I’m not sure you’re gonna be able to keep the interest of every one of your reader’s because a lot of us have read hundreds—even thousands—of them. As a reader, I’ve been guilty in recent years of skipping completely over the “money scenes.” As a writer though, it’s important to know not every love scene has to be the most creative thing you’ve likely never done. Ok, or would admit you’ve done. This one ties into #3 because one way to spice things up is by making the place where the magic happens be the unique part about it. (In the middle of a lake, anyone? Oh, right—me neither.)

#5. Terminology is important!

The best way to determine how to write about something that can be—let’s face it—a bit awkward to describe, is to figure out the heat level you are comfortable with and your readers will be expecting. Let me start by stating no one wants to see terms like “no-no spot” or “trouser snake.” Just sayin’. But if you blush at words that rhyme with “rock” and “the china,” you can probably knock off Level 4 (Sizzling Hot) and Level 5 (Explicit Heat). If clean, wholesome fun is more your cup of tea, that is perfectly fine. Focus more on hearts and flowers and less on birds and bees. Done. My writing tends to end up in the middle—appendages and orifices will be mentioned, or at least heavily alluded to. I let the nature of my characters determine the exact verbiage, even if I’m squirming uncomfortably while typing it (I’m lookin’ at you, word that rhymes with rock).