Where do you hail from and what do you love most about your hometown?
I was born and grew up in Dallas, Texas. One of the things I truly appreciate now after living in Russia were the winters. We didn’t get a lot of snow, but when it did, they would shut everything down. We’d get the day off from school and get to play in the snow. It rarely lasted more than a day, so it didn’t tie up the city too much.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was always fascinated by history and ancient worlds and wanted to be an archeologist. Then I read about all the classes you needed to take and ancient languages to learn and decided against it. Of course, in the end, I did get a PhD—but in Sociology. I’m still studying cultures.
Tell us about your latest book.
My debut novel Saving Hope from Musa Publishing came out in May. The book follows Alexandra Pavlova, a talented but unemployed microbiologist, who is struggling to save her daughter’s life. She turns to her oldest friend for help and is drawn into Russia’s underworld. His business dealings with the Iranians come to the attention of Sergei Borisov, an FSB (formerly the KGB) agent, and Alexandra finds herself joining forces with Sergei to stop the export of a deadly virus in a race to save both her daughter and the world.
I have also just released a collection of award-winning literary short stories as an ebook on Kindle and Nook. Corazones explores the impact of love. “A Stranger in the Village,” nominated for the 2007 Pushcart Prize, describes how the arrival of a young woman into a Mexican mountain village changed sixteen-year-old Hector forever. “Sacrifice” offers an Aztec tale of political intrigue and love. Doña Rosa, a market-place curandera, assists the lovelorn through the heartache of love and infidelity.
Do you have anything new in the works and can you tell us a bit about it?
I have a Christmas novella that’s looking for a home and am writing a political thriller set in Mexico and loosely based on the Lori Berenson story. A young American woman is arrested after a raid on a terrorist camp. She turns out to be a US Senator’s daughter.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?
Probably the hardest is balancing all the demands in my life with time for writing. My children aren’t at home (all grown-up), but I am still involved in their lives, have a full-time job, and other social responsibilities. I’ve learned to carve out time and be productive when I can.
What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
Through the many ups and downs of my twenty-year writer’s journey, I learned the following basic tenets for anyone traveling the same path.
- Perseverance is key. Of all those who start a novel, only 20% ever finish that first manuscript. Finishing the first draft will put you ahead of 80% of other potential writers.
- Read. Especially in the genre you are writing to help hone your voice.
- Take classes—online, credit, non-credit—where you can learn the basic skills
- Join a writers’ group where works are critiqued. Not only will you learn from each other, you will develop the thick skin needed to endure rejections.
- You can’t edit what you don’t have written down. Getting it written (no matter how bad you think it at the time) provides something to be edited and improved later (see the first bullet).
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
No, thank goodness. I have another problem—finding the time to write down all the ideas and stories floating about in my head.
How did you deal with rejection letters?
I have received so many, they don’t affect me any more. I’ve actually had some good ones that have made my day. When shopping Saving Hope, an editor sent a note back saying “this doesn’t fit our requirements, but you are a phenomenal writer.” That letter encouraged me to continue submitting the book until I found it a home. I’m very grateful to Musa Publishing for their support of both my manuscript and me.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
As I mentioned above, perseverance is key. Additional tools include the ability to listen to others’ criticisms and suggestions, willingness to hone your craft, and developing a thick skin.
Where do you as an author draw the line on gory descriptions and/or erotic content?
I’d go as far as needed for the story. Anything that smacks of gratuitous violence or sex doesn’t appeal to me as a reader—or a writer.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done in the name of research?
I don’t know if it’s the weirdest, but one of the most interesting was a visit to the KGB museum. To learn the history of the organization and see some of the examples of spy wares they uncovered (like recorders in fake tree limbs near Soviet airfields) and souvenirs from famous cases (like the cyanide injector pen that Gary Powers, the American U2 pilot who crashed over the Soviet Union, didn’t use) was a visit I’ll never forget.
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