>Pitch your latest novel.
Fire Study is my latest novel. Fire Study continues Yelena Zaltana’s adventures. When word that Yelena is a Soulfinder—able to capture and release souls—spreads like wildfire, people grow uneasy. As the Council debates Yelena’s fate, she receives a disturbing message: a plot is rising, led by a murderous sorcerer she has defeated before.
Drawing on untested skills, Yelena becomes embroiled in the desperate fight to stop the Daviian Clan from unleashing a Fire Warper. Unfortunately, fire is one element she can’t control even if her life depended on it. And there is more at stake than just her life.
Yelena’s journey is fraught with allies, enemies, lovers and would-be assassins, each of questionable loyalty. She will have one chance to prove herself—and save the land she holds dear.
>What are your favourite three books (not by you, either in the field or out of it)?
The Gate to Women’s Country by Sheri S. Tepper
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
The Ladies of Mandrigyn by Barbara Hambly
>In the books you've written, who is you favourite character and why?
Valek is my favourite character because he is very confident and cocky. I love his sarcastic humour. He has worked hard to excel in sword and knife fighting and his loyalty is without question. He’s a fun character to write and has a lot of hidden depth to him which is revealed as the story continues.
>If you could, would you change places with any of your characters?
Yes – I wouldn’t mind being Valek for a day.
>If you could live in your fantasy/sf world, would you? Would you live in somebody else's?
I wouldn’t want to live in my fantasy world forever, but I would like to be able to visit from time to time. The same goes for other worlds. If I could spend a few months or even years, it would be a blast, but I wouldn’t want to live there – I enjoy the modern conveniences too much.
>What was the first novel (published or unpublished) that you wrote and how long did it take to write it?
Poison Study was my first novel written and published. It took me over three years to write the first draft and another two years to revise and polish the manuscript. My son was only two years old when I started the book, and I was pregnant with my daughter.
>What was the hardest scene for you to write?
The scene in Poison Study near the end of the book when Yelena and Valek are in the dungeon. I don’t want to give anything away, but working through what they needed to say to each other and what happened while they were there was very hard for me to balance. I didn’t want to get too sappy or graphic, yet I wanted the emotion to come through.
>Share an interesting fan story.
One time a reader emailed me that he was an “expiring” writer. I didn’t know if I should send him my condolences or some writing advice.
>What was the most fun book signing, convention, etc. you've attended and why?
Balticon 40 – a science fiction/fantasy convention near Baltimore, Maryland was a blast. I had the honor of winning their Compton Crook Award for best first novel in the sf/f/h genre for Poison Study. My family and parents were there to see me win, and my writing friends from Seton Hill University were there to cheer me on and help me celebrate. The whole weekend was a wonderful mix of talking to other authors in the field, meeting readers, and being with my friends and family.
>If you still have one, what's your day job? If you don't, how long did it take before you could support yourself only on your writing?
I write full time now, and I’ve been able to support myself with my writing income for the last two years.
>What is your university degree in?
I have a Bachelors of Science in Meteorology from the Pennsylvania State University and a Master of Arts in Writing Fiction from Seton Hill University.
>Do you think it is easier to write fantasy or science fiction?
All writing is hard. Each genre has its quirks and conventions, and each presents challenges to a writer. To me, characters are the most important aspect of writing, and, as long as the readers care about the characters, the genre is set dressing. I wish I could say it gets easier with each book, but I haven’t found the magic formula yet.
>When and where do you write?
I sit down at my computer in my home office as soon as my kids leave for school and I try and write until they come home. Some days, I spend my days answering emails and doing promotion for the books. Summers are harder for me to write, so I try and spend my summers updating my website and revising.
>What's the best/worst thing about writing?
The best thing is when I’m surprised while I’m writing. Surprise as in, I think I have a scene or a character all figured out, then when I’m writing, something happens that is completely unplanned and unexpected. For example, in Poison Study, when Yelena explores Valek’s rooms and discovers he carves statues from stones and is an artist, I was as shocked as she was.
The worst things are the details! Setting details, descriptive details, details about the fantasy world, details about the magic – Yikes! If it was up to me, my stories would be all action and dialogue!
>What is something you didn't know about the publishing industry before you had your first book published?
I didn’t know how the publisher decides how many books to print. After I met some of the sales staff for my publisher, I learned how advance orders determine the print run. I also learned if the sales staff is enthusiastic about a certain book title, it will drive the orders up.
>Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?
Persistence is my biggest advice. I’d been writing for ten years and submitting for eight before I sold anything. Learn the craft of writing as well as the business of writing and attend writer’s conferences and classes if you can. Consider that time an apprenticeship. Be wary of predators, if someone is asking you for money proceed with the utmost caution. Get feedback on your stories from fellow writers before submitting. Joining a critique group is very helpful. I also find that if I let a story sit on my desk for a few weeks I can pick out all the problems, typos and inconsistencies easier. And I agree whole heartily with Stephen King’s advice in his book, On Writing. He wrote, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” And don’t give up! Ever!
>Any tips against writers block?
Take a break! When the words won’t flow, take a walk or a shower or just do something else for a while. It helps recharge the creative batteries. And if you’re truly stuck, have a writing partner read what you have written and then talk with them about the story. Brainstorming sessions are wonderful for untangling the knots.
>How many rejection letters did you get for your fist novel or story?
Poison Study was rejected by 40 literary agents and 17 publishers before being bought by LUNA Books. I took my own advice and didn’t give up.