(Photo Courtesy of Brenda Hardwick)
1 - What is the secret to holding and maintaining suspense throughout your novels?
I believe that holding and maintaining suspense in my novels is easy because I let you see and hear what the main characters are thinking. The suspense starts at the beginning and then builds to a climactic end in each book. The first two end in a cliffhanger that leads into the next novel. In the third novel, the end is full of finality but leaves the reader with a teaser for the next trilogy in the series. Freedom Rings will satisfy readers of the first two books in the series, make a first-time reader who starts with it go and pick up the other two books, and I also hope it whets the appetite for more.
2 - What excites you most while writing your novels?
What excites me most while writing is learning where the characters are taking the story. I’m a Pantser, which means I write by the seat-of-my-pants. So other than my character outlines, the words are driven by what happens in the story. It’s always exciting to me to discover where the main characters are going by the words that flow. I have a general idea for the direction and story arc, but how we get there is sometimes a surprise even to me.
3 - Are there any films that have inspired your work?
There aren’t any certain films in particular that have inspired my work, but there are many that I’ve enjoyed which add to the possibilities in my stories. From all of the Lord of The Rings movies to Black Panther and Doctor Strange, the possibility of the existence of magic has been a great influence.
4 - What can readers look forward to in your upcoming novel?
In Freedom Rings: Book 3 of The Circle, readers can expect answers to all the questions raised in the first two books. The bad guy gets his, but there’s even a twist to that which sets up a teaser for the next trilogy in the series.
5 - What are the key literary elements needed to create a great fantasy novel?
To create a great fantasy novel you need a good imagination, and be able to create the world in which your characters do things and go on whatever mission you want them to do and explore. Even if your ideas are totally alien to our life here on Earth, they still have to make sense. If they don’t make sense, then you have to be able to explain why within the story.
6 - How important is pacing to your writing style and when did you get comfortable with your pacing?
Pacing is definitely important. The story needs to flow, like a river moves. In some places, it’s fast, furious and full of action crashing against the rocks. In other places it lazily moves through calm, open miles of quiet contemplation and reflection of the worlds observations. The story can’t move so fast that your reader is guessing about the details, or so slow that they’re bored to tears and ready to skip pages to get to the next ‘something’ that happens. I believe that every story has its own pacing. There is no magic formula, and for a Pantser like me, there’s no outline to follow either.
The characters drive the pace and the cadence of the words making the story push or pull the reader through the rough spots. What they say, how they say it and what they do and how they do it, is what equates to the pace. I have more issue with the calm flat places than the wild and rough ones. When I’m writing, if I catch myself thinking “what’s going to happen…” while I’m writing, then I know I’ve got to go back and pick up the pace so that the story continues to move.
7 - At what point in your life did you realize that you wanted to be an author?
I started writing when I was in third grade. I began writing poetry then I realized that poems weren’t long enough for me to say what I needed to say. Short stories didn’t work either. I was in high school when I realized that it was books that I wanted to write. It wasn’t until college that I gave it a try, and the first attempt was terrible! Then it took me twenty-five years to get the first manuscript finished. I met my favorite author, Anne McCaffrey, at the World Science Fiction Conference in Winnipeg, Canada, in 1994 and learned that she published her first novel at the age of 50. That's when I knew I could get it done.
8 - Where does the inspiration for your stories come from?
My story inspiration comes from real life. I look at what is happening around me, us, and wonder “What if…?” Then the characters take over and I just have to write!
9 - What’s your best advice for getting over writer’s block?
I am really not the person to ask this question! Writer's block stopped the forward progress on Harlem Angel, my first novel, for ten years. And then one morning I woke up and realized that just because a character had to die didn’t mean they couldn’t still be part of the story. The second book in the trilogy went well. I finished it and published it in 2020, which was right at a year from when I started it.
I thought I was over all that writer's block stuff until trying to finish the third book in the series, Freedom Rings this year. I have trouble killing off characters. Even the bad guys. (Spoiler alert!) This time the block hasn’t lasted nearly as long, but it still put me behind schedule, so Freedom Rings: Book 3 of The Circle is going to be a bit later than planned, but it’s still coming this year. Best advice for getting over writer’s block? Write anyway. Even if it’s not words for your work in progress, write something. Also, having a critique group read over what you’ve already written can help immensely. They will see things that you’ve missed because you’re in the forest looking at the trees, while they’re standing on the edge looking at the whole forest.
10 - What’s the best book you have read this year so far?
I recently finished “Hexes & Hot Flashes” by Lisa Manifold and really enjoyed it. I also read “Tangled in Tinsel” by Joy Bussu over the last holiday season. I highly recommend both! I also just added three books from Robin D. Owens to my e-reader, so they’re up next!
11 - What’s the best advice you have ever received on happiness?
The best advice on happiness that I've received is that it already lives inside you. It’s up to you to wake it up and let it out. I know that it’s something people will see, and feel when they’re in your presence. You don’t have to tell people when you’re happy because they will be able to see it. Sharing your happiness is a trigger for others to find and share theirs, and gives them permission to carry it where everybody can see it and share their 'happy' everywhere they go.
12 - Do you plan on writing more books in the future?
Oh, absolutely!! I got started on writing my books kinda late in my life, so I’ve got to keep writing to get them all out! The Circle series has the potential for twelve books. My plan is to release them in trilogies, so that means that one set is almost done, and the next one is already forming in my head!
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