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Can you tell us about how you started writing fiction? Was it something you always wanted to do?

Writing and creating stories is something I've always loved. Probably the first time I realized there could be a benefit to it, other than entertaining myself and getting good English grades, was in American history class. A teacher said we could use any medium we wanted to do a report on a specific time period—including live presentation, movie, audio, or a traditional term paper. I wrote a fifty page fictional story focused on the woman's suffrage movement and a young woman taking on her first teaching position at an academy in Upstate New York. My teacher loved it. And, from that point on, I added a fictional slant to school projects whenever I could—in all subjects.

Unfortunately, my desire to be a published author was dampened in college when I wasn't encouraged to write fantasy or category romance. But writing remained a creative outlet and something I knew I'd come back to.

Tell us about how you balance writing with the rest of your life?

I've been self-employed for many years and am good at organizing and sticking to a work schedule. I write or work on some aspect of writing every morning and most every evening. Those are the times when my brain is the most creative. Afternoons are devoted to my husband and our antique business—and life in general. Sometimes one thing requires more time and I swap, but I try to return to the same pattern as soon as possible.

What books or authors have been the biggest influences on you? What is your all time favorite book?

Actually, I was a slow reader in the early grades. That changed in fifth grade when a teacher gave me the Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. It took my love of poetry and fairytales and showed me how they could be united in a novel. Basically, it spoke to my heart. Then I discovered gothic novels and historical romance, and fell in love with brooding men and windswept manor houses. In high school, I devoured pretty much all the classics—and closet-read romance and paranormal fantasy. But the Last Unicorn remains my favorite.

The paranormal aspect of your novel is unique. Where did you come up with the idea?

I wanted to write a story about the worst possible thing that could happen to a girl who was devoted to her father (and, yes, I was a Daddy's girl). While I was thinking about how to break my main character's heart and soul, I visualized a scene where she was standing in the ocean with an urn full of cremains (a scene which does appear in the novel). These two things became the core of A Hold on Me. After that, I came up with a possible paranormal aspect. But I wanted to take that element deeper, twist it in an unexpected direction, and that's when I started to research both dementia and beliefs from other cultures. From there, the story took on a life of its own.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I'm a plotter. I begin with a story's turning points, and then fill in the rest of the plot details. In the end, I have a fairly complete chapter-by-chapter outline. I also write a detailed synopsis before I start writing.

What's the hardest part of writing for you?

The hardest part is writing the last third of the first draft. The beginning of the first draft is all about exploring the world and characters. It's fun. The next third is about action building toward the climax. But when I hit the last third, I have a hard time pushing forward instead of going back to revise the earlier sections. Revision and later drafts are the part I love the most.

What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?

I have different 'trinkets' for every book, things that remind me of the story and give me luck. For the Dark Heart series, I have an ancient coin with a bee on it and a small clay lamp from a dig site in Greece, and a seagull statue that I inherited when one of my sisters passed away.

What's the weirdest thing you've googled?

This is a hard one. I've Google a lot of strange things. For Reach for You, it probably would be 'intimate massages during pregnancy.' I probably shouldn't have used the word 'intimate'. I got the information I wanted for the novel, but I also saw a few things I wish I could un-see.

Finish this sentence: If I'm not writing, I'm probably ... an auction, museum, out somewhere exploring something new, meeting new people, or crashed on the couch. Yeah, sometimes I just need to zone out and refill the creative well.