I wrote my first story when I was in high school—seventeen hand-written pages on school-ruled paper and an obvious rip-off of the last romance novel I read. I earned a degree in accounting, giving me some nice skills to earn a little money, but my passion has always been writing. I have written numerous short stories and more than a few full-length novels. My favorite pastimes when I’m not writing are spending time with my family, traveling, reading, and scrapbooking. I live in Louisiana with my husband and two children.
DWED: Have you always aspired to publish a novel?
No. When I first started writing, it was for my own amusement. I didn’t begin to seriously write for publication until about ten years ago.
DWED: Would you say the journey to publishing was easy or hard? Why?
Well, kind of a mix. It was difficult to get my first publishing contract because I didn’t know what I was doing. Most of what I’ve learned about the art and craft of writing has come through trial and error and a lot of critical feedback, some of it from publisher’s who rejected my first submissions. Once I signed my first contract, things got a bit easier. My skills have steadily improved over time, and now that I’ve been published, I know what publishers are looking for in a manuscript.
DWED: Who or what would you say inspired “Crisis of Identity”?
I was watching the coverage for Hurricane Ike that made landfall near Galveston, Texas. The news reporter said that Texas authorities had advised those who intended to ride the storm out to write their social security numbers on their arm just in case they needed to be identified after the storm. The premise jumped out of the news report at me. What if a fugitive used a hurricane as an excuse to highjack someone else’s identity?
DWED: How does “Crisis of Identity” stand out? What does it offer and more importantly what can viewers find within it pages?
Although Crisis of Identity is suspense with a romantic element, the book is also about forgiveness, personal responsibility, and redemption. The main character develops more than just a romantic relationship with a man, does more than escape her past. In the act of rescuing her niece from a horrible life, she transforms from a selfish live-for-the-moment individual into a selfless woman who wants to nurture and protect another person. She grows and realizes that not everything is always about her.
DWED: At length how would you describe the feedback for “Crisis of Identity”?
I’ve received mixed reviews. Some people love the book and some people absolutely hate it.
Most people who like the book, adore Tess. The reviewers mention the fast pace of the book, the moments of humor, and the impulse to smack Tess for her stubbornness. Obviously some readers identify with the heroine. But… The book doesn’t give the reader a nice mushy happy ever after. Tess and Trevor leave the scene with a happy for now moment. The book ends with questions unanswered. This wasn’t sloppy writing or an oversight. The open ended feel of the book was intentional. The pivotal moment in the book isn’t when Tess finds “true” love or the mystery of the murder is resolved. Those elements are intentionally left without complete and tidy resolution. Life is messy. Tess’ life was really messed up before she rescued her niece. The final scene of this book was only the beginning of her journey into a new life. Her growth comes not from finding a man or solving a murder, but from evolving as a human being.
DWED: Would you say you have a unique style of writing?
Yes. It’s taken many years to develop my own style. Each of my characters has to jump from the pages of my books with their own voice. Otherwise, all my characters would read alike. Not only is that redundant, but boring. I believe I’ve developed a narrative style than resonates in my books no matter the voice I’ve written for my characters. I hope that my faithful readers would recognize my style no matter which of my books they chose to read.
DWED: what kind of messages do you try to instill in your writing?
Forgiveness. I try to instill this message into everything I write. Life is too short and fragile to carry unforgiveness in one’s heart. Hatred, bitterness, anger. These things are the poison one sometimes swallows in an attempt to harm someone else. I want the positive effects of letting all that toxic emotion go come through by the end of the book.
DWED: Who is your favorite character in “Crisis of Identity” and why?
This is Tess’s story. She is one of my favorite characters that I’ve written. She’s smart, sassy, and strong. I wish I were as fearless as she is. She doesn’t shrink from a difficult situation, but uses her available resources to get herself out of jam. When confronted with her flaws, she resolves to change. She is no damsel in distress. She can handle just about anything.
DWED: Who is your least favorite character in “Crisis of Identity” and why?
Oh, no doubt, my least favorite character is Mark Padget. If there is anything worthwhile about this character, I failed to write it into him. What he tries to do to Tess is heinous. He is the ultimate in selfishness and greed. I wrote him with as ugly a heart as I possibly could.
DWED: What can we look forward to seeing from you throughout 2013?
The Wild Rose Press just rereleased two of my books, Deceptions of the Heart and An Impostor in Town. Deceptions of the Heart is about a woman who wakes up in someone else’s body. An Impostor in Town is the first book in the Colorado series. It’s about a woman who is hiding from her past by using her dead sister’s identity.
5 Prince Publishing will release my next book entitled The End in September 2013. The End is Ellie’s story. She discovers her husband’s nearly finished manuscript on his computer after his death. The suspense builds as she realizes his final manuscript was a true crime story.
I also have an upcoming release with The Wild Rose Press entitled Purgatory, the second book in the Colorado series. This book is a man who discovers his missing wife after five years. Unfortunately, the woman can’t remember him.
I just finished a manuscript entitled The Memory Catcher about a woman who can see other people’s guilty memories and I’m in the process of submitting this to publishers for consideration. My current work in progress is a ghost story set in south Louisiana with the working title The Unmistakable Scent of Gardenias. Yeah, this will be a busy summer and fall for me.
DWED: What would you say to all aspiring authors like yourself?
Don’t give up. Every rejection is one step closer to that first publishing contract. The first publisher who rejected my work gave me some solid advice. He suggested I attend a writer’s conference to sharpen my writing skills. Study the craft of writing. Read writing blogs and books. Attend seminars. One of the things that helped me was joining a writer’s critique site. Some of the reviewers on those sites can be vicious, but the feedback helps sharpen writing skills. You develop a base of knowledge about what readers don’t like. When you’re through with your manuscript, first hire an editor to polish it until it shines, then ask other writers to read it with both the eye of a writer and reader.
DWED: Is there anything we haven’t covered that you would like your readers and potential readers to know about both your work and yourself?
I’ve only just begun to write. Over the last ten years, my writing has developed and evolved. I truly believe my best work is yet to come.
Synopsis: Tess Copeland is an operator. Her motto? Necessity is the mother of a good a con. When Hurricane Irving slams into the Texas Gulf coast, Tess seizes the opportunity to escape her past by hijacking a dead woman’s life, but Shelby Coleman’s was the wrong identity to steal. And the cop that trails her? He’s a U.S. Marshall with the Fugitive Task Force for the northern district of Illinois. Tess left Chicago because the criminal justice system gave her no choice. Now she’s on the run from ghosts of misdeeds past—both hers and Shelby’s.
Enter Trevor Smith, a pseudo-cowboy from Houston, Texas, with good looks, a quick tongue, and testosterone poisoning. Will Tess succumb to his questionable charms and become his damsel in distress? She doesn’t have to faint at his feet—she’s capable of handling just about anything. But will she choose to let Trevor be the man? When Tess kidnaps her niece, her life changes. She must make some hard decisions. Does she trust the lawman that promises her redemption, or does she trust the cowboy that promises her nothing but himself?
I dropped onto the cot at the far end of the locker room, struggling to remove the stained smock the state so generously provided. Forget about sleep; it wouldn’t come. I had too many memories that begged to become nightmares. I closed my eyes anyway.
The springs in the cot next to mine creaked. “I’m Jake.” Why had it taken him so long to introduce himself?
I released an internal sigh. “Tess.” I told the truth, because I had to say something and I was out of lies.
“Yeah.” I wanted him to shut up and leave me alone.
“Why would someone like you volunteer for this?”
I opened one eye and glared at him. “I didn’t volunteer. I was strongly encouraged to help. Why are you here?”
He hesitated. “I’m a U.S. Marshal. It’s my job. Part of the oath and all that.”
I opened the other eye and assessed him. “Why would you move here—” He smiled, cutting off my question. “I can tell from your accent you’re not from Texas.”
“I followed a fugitive here from Illinois.” He leaned forward, his knees not quite brushing mine. “She’s accused of murder.”
“Stabbed her boyfriend…in the back…in cold blood.”
My reaction gushed from my mouth. “How can you be sure it was cold blood?” I sucked back a gasp at my gaffe. My question probably seemed strangely timed and oddly constructed. “I mean…it could have been self defense.”
He offered me a cold, hard stare with unblinking eyes. “I just know.”
“I guess I followed my lead at the wrong time. I got trapped riding out the storm…just like you.”
“What makes you think I got trapped?”
“If you’d had any choice, you would have left.”
My brother Tony forced me to stay, but he left me. A storm surge so strong it pulled the house out from under us knocked him into the sea. The Gulf of Mexico spit me back onto the beach as if the ocean didn’t like the way I tasted.
I survived, but I had no time to grieve. The realization impaled my heart.
Jake stretched out on his cot. “There’s a boat out of here tomorrow. It’s taking volunteers back to the mainland.” Galveston was in ruins. The thin strips of concrete that once connected the island to civilization lay scattered on the beach looking somewhat like a child's building blocks.
“There is?” I tried not to appear too interested.
“You didn’t know?” A different question danced in his eyes—a challenge of sorts. “So how long have you lived in Galveston?”
“Not long. My brother found a job. So I moved here a few months ago to be with him.”
“Where’s your brother now?”
I blinked at him. “He’s gone.”
His stern countenance wavered, but before I could embrace his presumed compassion, his expression settled into severity once again. “Now you’ll have to start your life over…again.” His eyes captured mine. A shiver of dread slithered down my spine. It was as if he knew me, even though he didn’t seem to know me. “Are you going to sleep?” He nodded toward my pillow as if he didn’t think my conscience would allow rest.
“I never sleep.”
Within minutes, he emitted soft puffs of breath, in and out, obviously lacking any guilt to keep him awake.
The shadows lengthened and receded over the locker room, drifting in and out of the grimy, shattered windows as if the world was still revolving around its axis on schedule. But I was sure it had stopped turning. I was the fugitive he sought.
The unrepentant sunshine streamed through the cracks, jubilant in its victory over the storm. Only five days since the devastation of Hurricane Irving and the sun acted as if nothing had ever happened. I turned away from the brightness with an ill-tempered snort.
Jake caught up with me on the gym floor. “Did you get any sleep?” His question hit me as a trifle vindictive.
“No. But you did.”
“I snore.” He grinned. Then his smile faded. “I thought you’d be gone this morning.”
“Why? I have to finish the job.”
The thought that pestered me all night erupted from my mouth. “What happens to that woman when you catch her?”
“She’ll go back to jail.” He stopped by the double doors and folded his arms over his chest, blocking my path. “Then she’ll go to trial.”
“What if she did what she had to do?”
“There was no evidence it was self defense.”
I stared hard at his implacable façade. How could the man be alternately warm and cold, compassionate and hard, flexible and unyielding? I stepped around him and entered the gym. There were already bodies lined up waiting for our initial inspection, so I began the task of collecting information from my column of the dead. The hours passed as I searched pockets and noted identifying characteristics on those with no papers or markings. I glanced toward the open door as two men begin loading the last group onto a waiting truck.
One more victim to notate. I squatted next to her. Even in partial decay, her features were enough like mine it pushed me back on my heels. I lifted her arm. My breath hitched. Her Social Security number was so nearly like mine. I scanned the gym. Jake, the one man who might care if she became me or I became her, was absent. With a few strokes of the pen, I could die and live again.
My heart pounded with the possibility I might get a chance to start over without the baggage of my past dragging me down. I changed her identity with a few swipes of a permanent marker. The number went onto my log with an unshaken hand, and I was free to escape the woman I used to be…the woman I didn’t want to be any longer.