Q: Tell us about yourself.
I grew up on a farm in a tiny town in eastern Kentucky. I have one brother and one sister, both of whom I adore and remain very close to. My childhood was carefree and instilled in me a love of nature, along with a resourceful personality. My parents are wonderful human beings who were hugely influential on my life, nurturing my different interests and talents. I grew up running around the farm, gardening, sewing, quilting, painting and, of course–reading! Reading everything I could get my hands on, from Progressive Farmer to the local newspaper. The library in my grade school was a closet, so I exhausted it fairly quickly. At the time, my hometown didn’t have a public library, so the highlight of my year was when my aunt visited from Ohio and brought with her bags full of paperback novels–most of them Harlequin Romances and romantic suspense novels by Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt. I was in heaven!
Q: Skip ahead to high school–did you always want to be a writer?
No. (Laughing.) I was very much the egghead, scholarly and into a business curriculum, with art classes as electives. I do, however, remember my sophomore English teacher spending some time on creative writing. I enjoyed writing stories, but never considered it as a career. I went to work part-time for a shoe store during my senior year. I really enjoyed learning all about running a small business–and I was convinced that my future was in big business. I still read as often as I could, and I think I absorbed most of my world history through historical romance novels!
Q: What happened after high school?
I attended Morehead State University on an academic scholarship and studied computer programming. My sophomore year of college, I bought the shoe store in Olive Hill where I still worked and changed the name to ‘Boots & Britches.’ I specialized in selling handmade boots, saddles, tack, and jeans. I went to school full-time and ran the business (with the help of my mother) every spare minute I had outside of classes. Needless to say, I wasn’t a social butterfly!
Q: So, after college, the writing bug bit you?
Nope! The week after I graduated MSU in 1987, I went to work for a then Fortune 50 petroleum company in Lexington, Kentucky as a programmer. I sold my retail business and settled into corporate life, which I found to be very exciting and rewarding.
Q: So, THEN the writing bug bit you?
Nope! I had every intention of rising through the ranks of corporate America. Two years later, I decided to pursue an MBA at night. FIVE years later, with a couple of promotions under my belt, I was taking my last night class and an instructor remarked that I seemed to have a flair for writing. He suggested that I submit to academic journals, but all I could think was, “I wonder if I could write a romance novel?”
Q: Aha–so THEN you started writing!
Yes, once I received my graduate degree, I began to write in my newfound spare time, just to see if I could do it. My first attempt was a historical romance, but five chapters in, I discovered I was doing more research than writing. To prove to myself I could actually finish a book, I switched to contemporary romance and pounded my way through my first manuscript. I’ve been writing contemporary romance ever since.
Q: How long did it take to make your first sale?
After two years of writing on my lunch hour, during evenings, and on weekends, I sold a manuscript to Harlequin Books for a new romantic comedy line they were starting (Irresistible?, Harlequin Love & Laughter). That was November 1995. I was still working full-time, but by that time, I had transferred within my company to their Atlanta division.
Q: So you quit your computer job?
(Laughing again.) Nope! I worked full-time and wrote part-time until I had sold five books to both Harlequin Books and Bantam Books. Then I dropped back to part-time at my computer job until I sold five additional projects. Finally, I left my ‘day’ job in 1997 to become a full-time fiction writer.
Q: Have you ever regretted your career move?
Absolutely not, although I know my business background and training (and computer skills) have helped me immensely in getting my writing career off the ground.
Q: Where do you get your story ideas?
Almost anything can start an idea snowballing–an overheard conversation, for instance. Most writers are very observant and key in on details that other people might overlook. Often, one simple scene will spark an idea that leads to an entire story. I have so many more ideas in my head than I could ever get down on paper!
Q: How do you research your ideas?
My research varies, depending on the story. At parties I make it a point to find out what everyone does for a living–sooner or later I’m bound to find someone who does something completely fascinating and I’ll add them to my Rolodex. In preparation for writing stories with more intrigue, I took the private investigation certification class for the state of Georgia. THAT was quite an experience. I’m even certified on a .38!
Q: What does the future hold for you?
I’m flexible, and open to whatever opportunities come my way. For now, I’m very busy and happy writing, writing, writing to continue stories in all my different series. And I still have time to squeeze in a few of my favorite pastimes, like reading! I’m a very lucky woman.