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What inspired you to write Winter Road?

It’s funny; I never planned to write Winter Road. It was one of those stories that came to me in a flash, and then the rest told itself. I wish all my stories did that! Winter Road started on a particularly long drive home from work in the fall of 2015. The title popped in my head first, and then I envisioned the skeleton of the story unfolding down this rural, winding, snow-covered road. A woman escaping her big city life, a relationship gone wrong, a family in crisis---all converging in an explosive holiday celebration. It was perfect, combining two of my favorite things: Christmas and thrillers.  

Is this a prequel novella? If so, tell us about this series.

Winter Road is a standalone novella; it’s not a series. Although that’s an interesting concept to consider! 

What do you hope people take away from this story?

Some mantras that ring true in life: Family is everything. Trust your gut. Never give up!  

What are you working on now?

I’m currently writing a paranormal thriller, Unleash the Wicked. It follows a former NYC socialite forced to move back to her mysterious hometown where she faces her tragic past and, unwittingly, unleashes a deadly curse. 

What is the best advice about writing you have ever received?

Be willing to write a terrible first draft. The first draft gets the story down; the second (and beyond) drafts polish it like a diamond.

Could you describe your writing process? (Tell us about your writing process. Do you have a specific routine, time, or place where you write? Do you rely more on inspiration or steady work? What is revision like for you? How do you know when a piece is finished?)

When I’m in a writing groove, it’s typically super early in the morning before anyone rises (think 5 a.m.). When my right brain (the creator) is awake and my left brain (the editor) is asleep. Lately, with a 9 month old, however, it’s whenever I have time. There’s no routine anymore. It’s less about inspiration and more about finding time to devote. Revision for me is going over the story, as many times as necessary until I think it’s right. It could be one, two, or ten times. I know it’s done when I’ve done all I can do, when my expertise has reached it’s cap, when I have nothing more to give the story…and, of course, when it sounds great read aloud!   

What writers inspire you? (What author most inspires you? Who do you go back to again and again? What artists/writers/thinkers inspire you?)

Too many to name! However, if I had to pick just one, I’d say, Jodi Picoult. Her writing inspires me to be a better writer. Meeting her in person in 2018 made me love her even more---she was such an inspiring speaker and down-to-earth person. As an author, she weaves fabulous stories, with multiple points of view, that explore compelling topics. I’ve been entertained by her, as well as learned so much from her. She tackles difficult issues so many authors shy away from, and she does it with objectivity and class, all through fiction. Brilliant!  

What is the first story you remember writing?

My love for thrillers began early! It was a scary (what we’d now call horror) story I wrote in fifth grade called The Medallion. It followed a boy who possessed a cursed medallion that brought misfortune to all who touched it. The story won a writing award from my elementary school, even though it was written on construction paper with my terrible artwork. I guess it really is all about the story…advice that’s still useful for authors today.

How do you get to know your characters?

My characters come to life as I’m writing. I have an idea of who they are when I start the story, but they show me their true colors through their words and actions, bringing the story to life alongside them.  

How has the process been for you of turning this novella, published in 2015, into a critically acclaimed audiobook?

A blast! I had an opportunity to work with the seasoned narrator, Chris Ciulla who was featured in my 2018 ACX University educational video taped at Audible Studios. Chris breathed life into my characters, making each scene feel so real it was like you were there in the thick of it with Amelia. I was thrilled with the final product…a fast-paced, holiday thriller that will make your breath catch in your throat. 

Thank you so much for joining us for this Author Interview at TopShelf Magazine!

Thank you Kathrin Hutson for the terrific interview!