Exclusive Interview with
When did you start writing?
I always wanted to be a writer. At the age of eleven, I applied to a writing school. They politely told me to reapply when I turned eighteen. I was crushed. After that, I wrote in my closet. In high school, I braved exposing my dark, emotional poetry and short articles for the school newspaper. Later, as an adult and while raising my kids, I scribed a community column for the local rag. But overall, I felt unqualified to pursue my passion.
Professionally, my job as paralegal after high school and my later career in social work both required strong writing skills and I excelled at both. After I retired I wrote for personal pleasure. Now, I entertain with published story.
Practice makes perfect as the saying goes. Over the years, I've grown more skilled with words and I enjoy it more now than ever.
What makes writing your passion?
I love seeing my words come to life. My brain is constantly bubbling with story. I want to share my view of life, explore the depths of human emotion, and examine the past and present together with readers who truly want to see the world from a different perspective.
How long have you been writing?
As I said earlier, I've been writing forever. But professionally, I published my first Christian non-fiction book at 60. At 65, I began to publish fiction. Now, I wish I'd started much younger.
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
Surreal. I pinched myself. I couldn't believe it was actually happening. I think I was in a daze for months.
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
My current series: Russian Mennonite Chronicles is based on the true story of my grandparents flight from Russian Ukraine during the Russian civil war in the early twentieth century. Katarina and Anna were the names of my two grandmothers, but the characters don't represent them — only the women from that era. Obviously, I didn't know my grandmothers when they were young women or much about their journey to freedom. But I was curious about their early life. So, as I studied the history behind the politics, I created the story of two sisters who struggled through the ugliness and terror of war as women without men. All the while, I imagine my grandmothers living the story of my written world.
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
Marketing. It takes so much time away from writing.
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
What's that? Lol. I have too many ideas and not enough time to write. On the rare occasion when I stare at a blank screen, I write something down even if it's garbage. There are days when I need to go for a walk, visit a friend or take a vacation. The best thing for a tired writer's brain is a chance of pace or a brief rest. Words are always waiting when I wake up.
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
My motivation is to finish these stories before I'm too old or memory loss robs me of the stories still waiting to be told. My greatest fear is running out of time. I want to leave a legacy of words and ideas for the next generation.
My advice to new authors is to stop worrying that you're not good enough. That type of thinking will destroy opportunities. Face the fear and do it anyway.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
Write. Stop procrastinating. Submit queries. Learn from the negatives and embrace the positives. Believe in yourself. You can do this.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
EVERY SINGLE ONE. I learn what I can from the bad ones and analyze their validity. I can always do better next time.
Sometimes neither my writing or my story is a match for that reader. I'm a micro-niche writer. I don't write for the masses. Not everyone will like my work. The few that do will follow me.
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
I pinch myself. I still have difficulty accepting praise. I love bragging about it, though.
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
Yes. I've suffered much trauma and overcome insurmountable circumstances. So, it only makes sense that my characters must fight to survive, too. Accidents, illness, family conflicts, and sexual assault are all themes that flow through my novels. That's why war-time makes such a perfect setting for my stories.
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
I'm a combination of Katarina and Anna. I teased apart my own personality characteristics based both on how others see me and how I see myself. In real world, the negative and critical people in my life frequently remind me of my flaws, so it's easy to paint those characteristics into both my main characters. The rest are more of a combination of who I wish I was and who I really am. The sisters are firmly entrenched personalities in the storyline, though. Katarina is feisty and determined, and willing to fight tradition on principal. She's quite willing to take on a new challenge, but her inexperience shines through as an insecure vulnerability. Katarina sees the world through a global lens and rejects the traditional and classic stereotypes. She can be both sarcastic and flighty.
Anna is confident and unwavering with strong traditional and religious views. She leads with a serious and humorless demeanour, but is also thoughtful and caring.
Both women are passionate about helping the less fortunate, but approach these tasks and responsibilities from very different perspectives.
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
For marketing purposes, a picture speaks a thousand words. It needs to convey the story. But I feel one shouldn't discount a book content because of a bad cover. Covers can be trendy and they can be changed. The story should be timeless.
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
I prefer to write, but I'm thrilled when a reader lets me know that I've touched them. I love to receive personal emails from readers. I read every one and always take the time to answer.
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
People are only remembered for their best or worst moments. I hope I'm being recognized for my better ones. I'm proud that I've come so far and finally accomplished something worthwhile. Writing is a lonely profession, so it's incredible to be noticed. Being appreciated is a honorable reward for hard work.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
I'm an eclectic reader. So I can't say that I really have a favorite. I've read all of Brock and Bodie Thoene's books and enjoyed them immensely. I love the writings of the Biblical prophets. There's so much depth in ancient history and the captivating nuances in the words of those men never grow old.
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?
Margaret Atwood. But she's practically my age and she's been writing forever. I've only just begun. If I could achieve one percent of what's she accomplished, I'll die happy. I'd like to win at least one major award that I can pin to my tombstone.