I’m a born and bred Texan, but I haven’t lived in Texas since my college days at Trinity University in San Antonio. Oh, San Antonio, how I love your delicious Mexican food and rich culture.
Where was I? Oh, yes. After college, I moved to Nashville where I earned a Master of Divinity degree from Vanderbilt University and met my wonderful husband. Our careers took us to Jackson, Tennessee, and then to Kansas City, Missouri, where my son was born. I started my first novel while in KC but didn’t sell a book until after we moved back to Nashville and had a second child, my darling daughter.
Now, I wear a lot of hats — mom, wife, writer, daughter, friend — just like so many other women. I’m lucky that I love being all of these things. The challenge is keeping up with all the demands!
I’ve had the opportunity to write historical romance, chick lit, mystery, and women’s fiction. All my books do have two things in common — heroines and humor! I love a strong female character and lots of laughter.
Did you always want to be a writer?
I knew I wanted to be a writer in the third grade. My neighbor, a novelist by the name of Jane Gilmore Rushing, encouraged me by giving me journals to record my thoughts. My aunt, Betty Brooks, was also an early reader and encourager of my work. By high school, I was focusing on journalism, but in college I rediscovered that early desire to be a “real” published author. I took two creative writing classes but then opted to go to divinity school rather than pursue an MFA. It wasn’t until a number of years later that I decided to seriously pursue publication.
Where do you get your ideas?
Ideas are everywhere — my problem is that I have too many of them! Magazines, television shows, movies, travel — I find them all inspiring. I recently visited Ellis Island in New York City for the first time and came away with half a dozen book ideas. I find the stories of those brave immigrants fascinating and inspiring.
Do you write every day?
I’d like to say that I do, but unfortunately I don’t. I find deadlines very inspiring, though, so when one approaches, I work morning, noon and night. I do believe that writing every day, even a little bit, really pays off. I try to practice what I preach but am not always successful. But this idea of writing a little every day is what inspired me to start the Club 100 for Writers e-mail loop.
What three pieces of advice would you give to a writer just starting out with the goal of becoming a published novelist?
My three best pieces of advice are perseverance, perseverance, and perseverance. Some lucky writers hit a homerun on their first try, but for most of us, it’s a learning process. Attend workshops and conferences if you can. Make use of all the resources online as well as the public library. And then write, write, and write some more.
What do you wish you had known before you started trying to get published?
I wish I had known that publication, while fabulous and exciting, can’t be the main reason that I write. I have to write for the sake of the writing itself.
Your most recent books have ties to Jane Austen’s works. What fascinates you about Austen and her stories?
Jane Austen is a master at creating believable, engaging characters. Top that with her wit, irony, and sure hand with a hero, and I’m a goner. I also admire her perseverance as an author. (Have I mentioned yet that I think that’s really important?)
You’re also quite the Anglophile. What attracts you to England and English things?
I have no idea where my obsession with all things English came from, unless I can tie it to growing up in Lubbock, Texas, which is about as far from England as a girl can get. I love the history, the greenery, and the accent.
If you were able to have a home in England, what type would it be and where?
If I could live in England, I would have two houses: a townhouse in London, preferably in Hampstead, and a cottage in Hampshire or the Cotswolds. I would have the best of both worlds – city and country!
If you could have lunch with three modern-day people of note, who would they be and why?
Hmmm… that’s a tough one. Probably Anne Lamott (I recommend her book Bird by Bird to everyone); my favorite composer, Rachel Portman (she wrote the score for the Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma, among many other excellent works); and Colin Firth (for obvious reasons).