Where did you get the inspiration for this book?
My book club read These is My Words by Nancy Turner. She graciously consented to let us call her and as she talked, I felt I really wanted to write a book. Not long afterwards I was in Las Vegas sitting around our hotel swimming pool and the plot came to me as I was lying there in the sun. I pulled out my Blackberry, the only thing I had with me, started writing, and the rest is history.
Autumn is such a multi-faceted character. Did you have a hard time getting into her head?
No, not at all. I understood Autumn from the very first page. In my early drafts she was cold and manipulative with very little redeeming qualities until the midway point when she comes back a changed woman. As I revised, I realized she had many good qualities and just wanted to be happy. She was very messed up and didn’t know what happiness was, but deep down inside she was a good person.
Autumn’s mother is a truly horrible person. How did you come up with such a villain?
She materialized in the first few pages of the book and stayed completely the same, never changing even slightly through my many revisions. You’ll notice she is never even given a name. In my mind she didn’t deserve that kind of recognition, she was too despicable. Pete didn’t show up until a couple of years and many revisions later, but he was the perfect partner in crime, a complete slimeball that I could totally picture her keeping company with.
As a matter of fact, this book contains a theme of child abuse.
Yes, it does. My editor warned me about child abuse, saying it was too overdone, but I felt compelled to leave it in, and I had to stay true to my writing. There is such a message of hope in this book. I always felt like I needed to support Autumn – even though she was only a fictional character – and you can’t help but cheer for her when you see what she went through to put her childhood behind her.
What is your writing process?
My writing process has changed since I started this book to when it finally made its way through all of the revisions. I used to be an organic writer, meaning I used no outline and just wrote and let the story wind its way to the end. Because I HATE outlines. But as much as I fought it, I realized the book needed one, and I had to go back and create an outline and plug eveything in until all the pieces fit.
So then it sounds like your writing has changed considerably, hasn’t it?
It certainly has. I had to eat quite a bit of humble pie to understand I was a really lousy writer (or as Michael Gregory puts it, “you really suck”). It was only after years of attending writer’s conferences and courses, learning story structure, tension and plot points that I felt I knew what I was doing. And painful as it was, the delete key became my best friend, because no one except my sister and a close friend know how cheesy and over the top my first draft was.
Is there any chance of a sequel?
No, Autumn and Jonathan had their happy ending, and there’s really nowhere to go from there.
What are you working on next?
My next book is about a court reporter who discovers a toxic waste cover up. Set in Utah and Nevada (the home of toxic waste, but don’t get me started) it was the perfect setting for this book. The protagonist is full of spunk and downright adorable, a kind of Erin Brockovich and Shopaholic all rolled into one. There’s both romance and suspense, but then that’s what I like to write, and I certainly wouldn’t want to disappoint my fans!