Who or what inspired your latest novel Trail Magic?
Trail Magiccame together from two different inspirations. The first was my long-standing fascination with the Appalachian Trail, and the second was a small side character in a previous novel. Raven, one of the main characters in Trail Magic, popped up unexpectedly in A Cut Above as a breast cancer patient who seemed to have an interesting story to tell. I wanted to give her a book of her own, and I thought the AT would be a good place for her to do some self-discovery.
What kind of research did Trail Magic require? Did you know anything about the Appalachian Trail and backpacking beforehand?
I started reading about the AT several years ago (I started with Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods) and had a chance to hike a portion of the trail while on vacation in Tennessee. I was stunned at how primitive it was and intrigued by the people that hike the whole 2,190 miles. From there, it was a lot of internet research and trips to the library for guidebooks!
Who or what inspired you to start writing?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember so it’s hard to pin down an inspiration. Some of the earliest things I wrote were dramatized versions of my day-to-day life and I was pretty into Laura Ingalls Wilder at the time, so maybe I can credit Little House on the Prairie for getting me started.
Which of your books was your favorite to write and why?
I really enjoyed writing Fixer Upper because I got to talk about one of my favorite things (showing an old house some love), the side story involving Hannah’s grandmother let me dip my toe into historical fiction, and Hannah and Avery’s chemistry developed very easily.
Who is your favorite character from your books and why?
That’s got to be Max from the Rulebookseries. She’s near to my own heart, but I’ve also heard from so many readers who are either on the autism spectrum themselves or who have people on the spectrum that they care about. I’m honored to write a character who resonates so much with people.
How do you approach writing a new storyline?
I usually start with a small idea – like, “I want to write about the AT,” or “I want to utilize this side character from a previous book,” as I did for Trail Magic. I spend a few days brainstorming, getting to know the characters and their world, and that helps me figure out the conflict and their relationship.
Where do your inspirations for characters and their lives come from?
Everywhere! I pull inspiration from as many people and situations as possible and I’ve got a notes folder on my phone for when something catches my attention.
Where is your favorite place to write?
From a secluded cabin nestled in the Smoky Mountains… but until I find that cabin with my name on it, I’ll take any quiet space with a window nearby and a decent view.
What is your writing process?
I’ve written 12 novels so far and I can safely say that it changes every single time, but I’m okay with that because I’m constantly tweaking and improving. In general, the first draft is just for getting the idea out of my head and into tangible form. I do a lot of relationship-building and side story development during the editing phase, and that’s when things really start to shape up.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I love this question! Prior to April 2017, when I published my first novel, I had one partially completed manuscript on my hard drive and I thought I was incapable of writing anything longer than a short novella. When I published that first book, I worried that it was the only book I had in me for a lifetime. I’ve continually proved myself wrong and I’ve only grown stronger as a writer from the massive amount of practice I’ve gotten over the past year. When I published my first book, I started a journey to learn that nitpicking the same manuscript over and over does not a good writer make – repetition is the key to success in anything.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
The two things that have made the biggest impact for me – specifically in my confidence and persistence – are NaNoWriMo.org and 4thewords.com. I never would have written that first manuscript if I didn’t have the National Novel Writing Month community pushing me to do it (the site is free to use but accepts donations), and 4thewords (which costs $4 per month) gamifies the writing process to help people establish a daily writing habit.
What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?
I don’t want to put anyone on the spot individually, but I read and save everything people send me. I’m continually amazed and humbled when someone takes the time to write me a message about how much they liked one of my books, and I’m grateful to be a part of the incredible lesfic community.
What book that you have read has most influenced your life?
Can I do a politician swerve on this one and answer a related question instead? I don’t think I could ever narrow it down to just one book, but the authors who have influenced me most are Vladimir Nabokov for his writing style, JK Rowling for her ability to create a page-turner, Harper Bliss for her strong character relationships, and Anne Lamott for her outlook on life.
How do you take your coffee?
By the gallon!