I am currently a high school English teacher in the town where I grew up, and I truly fit the English teacher clichés—I’m obsessed with cats and love reading. I live in my hometown with my junior high sweetheart, our four cats, and our mastiff Henry. When I’m not reading or writing, I love taking Henry for walks and shopping.
Tell us about your latest book.
Voice of Innocence is a project I began when I was still in college. I was taking a summer course called “The Literature of Health and Healing.” The class really focused on the concept that you never know how much time you have left to pursue your dreams. I decided to take this message and run with it; I started writing a novel, which was something on my “bucket list.”
I had always been fascinated by the plight of the wrongly accused, but I often focused my thoughts on the loved ones of the accused. I found myself wondering what it would be like to be in love with someone who was wrongfully convicted. From this concept, the characters of Emma and Corbin emerged. The title for the novel came to me first. Once I started writing their story, I just couldn’t stop. I imagined two high school sweethearts torn apart by a tragic event. I also started to explore the feelings of regret and sadness that would plague them later in life and the power of first love. Over several years, all of these concepts came together into the novel Voice of Innocence, released February 26, 2015, by Melange Books, LLC.
What genre do you enjoy writing the most and why?
I have always loved the romance genre; it’s my favorite to read and write. I think that no matter how cheesy it sounds, love is truly a powerful, beautiful emotion. It’s something that connects us all, yet it’s also something that distinguishes us all. Readers can connect to the universal theme of love, but they can’t always predict its twists and turns due to its complexities. For me, this is the equation for a perfect, engaging story.
From where do you draw your inspiration?
As a teacher, I always talk to my students about the fact that you have to write what you know. I think every writer is inspired, to an extent, by his or her background and experiences. Thus, my own experiences, emotions, and encounters certainly play a role in my writing. My real life, though, is just a springboard. I’m finding that as my writing ability and confidence continues to develop, I am stretching myself away from what I know into more imaginative territory.
Do you ever base your characters on real people in your life?
One of my characters is completely based off of real life—Henry, my mastiff. He is Corbin’s dog in Voice of Innocence. I can’t say there is a rhyme or reason for this other than the fact that I am unabashedly obsessed with Henry.
As I said earlier, there are certainly bits and pieces of my real life experiences used as a foundation for my writing. Those who know me well probably see similarities between my personality and Emma’s. Nonetheless, as a whole, my characters are distinct entities from real life. They are purely fictitious and only exist in my novels, but my goal is to write realistically enough so that readers will be able to believe they truly exist.
What authors inspire your writing?
I have always been an avid Nicholas Sparks fan. I love his writing style, and I love that he can make characters both relatable and unique. I know when I pick up one of his books I will be able to count on a beautifully crafted tale about two people falling in love. However, I don’t know what the path will look like to their love and how they will be tested. I love that about his writing.
I have recently become very intrigued by Liane Moriarty’s writing as well. One of my close friends recommended her book What Alice Forgot. I fell in love with the way Moriarty combines deep, emotional conflicts with lighthearted humor. I find myself laughing out loud when I’m reading her work, which I think speaks to her talent as a writer. Humor isn’t always an easy element to incorporate, but she does it gracefully.
What kind of books do you like to read?
I love reading romance but also am somewhat of a science fiction fan as well. I read a substantial amount of young adult material just to stay in touch with the books my students are reading. Classics are also a major part of my reading list since I teach many of them.
I was born, raised, and still live in the same town. Our town is relatively small, so I think that plays a role in the type of characters and setting I write about.
In addition, I met my husband in seventh grade at the art table. He was my first and only love, which has significantly impacted my views of the romance genre. I think our relationship has allowed me to believe in the power of first love while also helping me to see the conflicts that can arise when you are with the same person for a long time. We’ve changed and grown since we first met, so our relationship has undergone many transformations as well. This has given me a unique perspective of relationships, love, and the impact of first loves.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I must admit that I am a bit of a shopaholic. I love fashion, cosmetics, and the thrill of finding a good bargain. Shoes are also a big weakness for me, as evidenced by the overflowing shoe racks in my closet. Other than that, I like spending time with my family, taking Henry to the dog park, or just relaxing on our deck with a great read.
What was your road to publishing like? Tell us about it.
Publishing a book is something I’ve always dreamed about. When I was in elementary school, I used to write poems and stories in my journals all of the time. In sixth grade, I started writing a novel. It wasn’t until college, though, that I decided to really pursue my writing.
I never truly expected to get a book published because I knew that it was a tough business to break into as a new author. I worked on Voice of Innocence because I just felt a need to write the story, not because I felt like it would be published. I would work on writing it over the summers when I had extra time, putting it away when classes started in the fall. It was during the summer of 2013 that I finished the novel. Thanks to my husband’s encouragement, I decided to see if any publishers would be interested. Luckily, Melange Books, LLC, read the book and gave me the opportunity to see it shared with the world, even though I was a new author.
How did you come up with the title of your book?
Honestly, it just came to me. I know that’s a terrible answer and seems implausible, but it just literally came to mind before I had even started writing. I’ve recently finished the first draft of a second novel, and it was the same thing—the title came to me first.
Is your book a stand alone or a series?
Voice of Innocence is a stand alone novel. I have outlined a sequel but haven’t started writing it. I just finished the first draft of a second stand alone novel but am focusing on Voice of Innocence right now.
Who or what are your inspirations/influences?
My mom and dad incited my appreciation for literature and writing. Before I was old enough to attend school, my mom would sit with me every day and read books with me. In elementary school, my dad helped me refine my writing style and helped me develop one that was unique. My parents really established the foundation for me to grow and learn as a reader and writer.
I also had many influential teachers along the way who helped me build confidence in my writing. Mrs. Vella was my teacher in sixth grade; she helped me realize that I could write works that people would want to read and even got me started writing a novel. Mrs. Gunsallus, my twelfth grade AP Literature teacher, taught me to appreciate and dissect the writing styles of the greats through classics. She also helped me fine-tune my writing abilities.
What is your preferred writing environment?
I usually write on my laptop while sitting on my couch with a few cats. I tend to write best in the evenings, so I usually work then. In the summer months, I sometimes handwrite scenes while sitting on my deck.
How would you describe your writing style?
I’ve been told that my writing style is very descriptive, which makes sense because I really focus on visualizing the scenes as I’m writing. I try to paint the images I’m seeing in my mind with my words so that readers can vividly see the environment, the characters, and the events.