If you had to title your own life, what would it be, and why?
This honestly made me laugh. “And Then She Moved” would be the title of my autobiography. I married an ambitious man, and we have moved 12 times in the last 15 years, and that doesn’t include the college years. I’ve had three children: one in Illinois, one in California, and one in Singapore. While all that travel and relocating takes effort, it has brought amazing people and experiences into my life. I wouldn’t trade them for the world. And hey, I can write anywhere, right?
Have you ever come up with content on vacation?
All the time. With all of that moving and traveling, we have seen amazing places and things. I always travel with a small journal to take notes of sights, sounds, and scents because inevitably my characters end up there some day. Each book in the Girls’ Night Out series is set in a place I’ve either lived or visited. “Someone Special” is in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I wrote it the year we moved here from Chicago. I was essentially a tourist in my new hometown. “Second Chances” is set in Yolo County, CA and is based on the organic farm my veggies come from and a festival I attended. “Three Strikes” is set in Bali, where my husband surprised me with the best birthday trip ever during our Singapore years. “Forever Nights” takes place in Las Vegas, because I was so inspired by RT 2016 and my meeting with Cherry Adair that it all just fell into place.
Are any of your characters based on people in your real life?
My characters always have a healthy dose of me in them, but they are also made up of borrowed traits from people I love. While my best friend from college was reading “Three Strikes”, she called me at 3 am from the other side of the world to ask, “Am I Stella? Because I am TOTALLY Stella!”
How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?
When I began the Girls’ Night Out Series, I wanted my heroes and heroines to find love, obviously, but I also wanted to celebrate female friendships. I would be lost without my girlfriends. By the time I got to Jamie’s story in book 4, I had a pretty good idea who she was. She’s the girlfriend who tells you what you need to hear, even if it’s not what you want to hear. She’s also an empath, so she feels things more deeply than most. I knew she was going to fall for a guy who absolutely did NOT want to share his feelings with anyone. To get motivated, I joined Cherry Adair’s Finish The Damn Book Contest. She graciously spent a half an hour with me in a darkened Las Vegas Starbucks helping me talk through my plot and subplot and conflict and EVERY LAST THING! It was amazing. The energy I took away from that meeting spun into Forever Nights. When it actually ended up winning the contest, I was floored. Literally. I sat on the floor of my bedroom trying to breathe with my cell phone clutched in my hand. Life has been a whirlwind ever since.
What do you like to do when you aren't writing?
When I am not writing, my three darling daughters keep me running! I am a former third grade teacher who is now a stay-at-home mom. They are all off school for summer break, and my days are full of swim lessons, play dates, and marathons of MasterChef Junior and Great British Bakeoff. If I have any spare time (hah), I am reading either the tattered old school romance in my purse or one of my many impulsive additions to my digital TBR. I also spend far too much time on Facebook with the ladies in the Old School Romance Book Club.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Don’t quit. Keep writing, and keep moving forward. I had a few false starts, including a historical romance set in Venice that ran into history issues (Darn you, Napoleon) and a contemporary about an elementary school teacher (a real stretch for me) that fizzled near the end. I turned to writing again when I was home with a three year old and an infant. I was slowly going insane not speaking to other adults, and I was too tired to escape into a book by the end of the night. Solution: start talking to characters in my head. They eventually got so mouthy, I had to put pen to paper just to shut them up. I wrote “Someone Special” over the course of a year, one morning a week at Peet’s coffee shop, while my oldest was in preschool and the then baby was with a sitter. I haven’t looked back. I highly recommend joining the RWA just to have access to their online classes and local chapters. I have learned so much in the last 5 years, and my writing has changed so much. If I were still beating my head against the plot wall in that historical disaster, none of my girls would’ve seen the light of day. Instead, I let it go and moved on, and now I have published four books. In four months.
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
You all are fantastic. Your enthusiasm is such an amazing gift, and I am delighted to be a part of Romancelandia. I am one of you. When I find a book I love, I gush and share it everywhere and stalk the author on Facebook just to say, “Thanks for breaking my heart and putting it back together again!” The fact that people I don’t know are leaving reviews for my books is still a bit surreal, but every time someone tells me how much they loved it, I just light up inside. And then I funnel that joy into the next one…
Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
I am working on a Christmas novella featuring two secondary characters from “Someone Special”, Seth and Brandy, in an “It’s A Wonderful Life” adaptation. The novella also sets up my next series, which centers on Seth’s cousins in a next-generation Fixer Upper spin-off set in the crazy Silicon Valley real estate market. I can’t wait to share it with you.