Who or what inspired your latest novel Love at Cooper’s Creek?
Homesickness. I think for those of us who’ve left the Deep South because of the necessities of career there’s a part of us that always longs for home. The initial idea for this book started with a brief bout of homesickness while overseas, but then, as with all character driven stories, it took on a life of its own.
Who or what inspired you to start writing?
I think I’ve always written stories. My mom has some hilarious bits of writing from all the way back when I was in second grade. My childhood was spent in rural, sometimes quite remote, areas because my father was a forester. I think I began creating characters and stories for my own entertainment, so I didn’t feel quite so lonely. Not that I had a sad childhood or anything like that, but the easiest way to have friends in a remote place was to create them on paper.
Which of your books was your favorite to write and why?
Wow… that’s a tough question. The last one I finish is always my favorite. But that’s not entirely true… it’s just that the most recent is the newest to be released into the world at large. You feel attached, protective, and basically, you’re still living in that world in your head. The release of a book always, for me, comes with an immediate brief period of sadness… Like leaving friends behind and moving on to a new place, you miss the characters.
Who is your favorite character from your books and why?
Cole from the first novel, “All Things Rise,” might be my favorite. Possibly because she was the first, possibly because there’s a lot of myself in that character. But it’s hard to choose between the rest. I try to create characters that I would fall in love with or want to be best friends with.
Where is your favorite place to write?
I have a converted shed in my backyard. It’s small, but quiet. My father lined the interior walls with heart pine and we didn’t seal them, so it smells great… literally, like a pine forest. When I’m in that space it’s easy to be transported to another place or time. I also have a great writing studio in the Blue Ridge Mountains on the back side of my parent’s property. It’s built like an old 1930s era fire tower. But I don’t get to go there as often as my backyard.
What is your writing process?
I describe my writing process as chaos.
I keep one or two notebooks of random thoughts, and about a million scraps of paper in my pocket that I eventually type into a file on my laptop… My novels don’t really take full shape until I’m about thirty percent into the book. Then I go back and rewrite everything before moving forward.
I was in Amsterdam last year and had a pocket full of notes for a story I was developing. I’d forgotten about the notes… along with the cash… and sent my jeans out to be laundered. The laundry staff very kindly returned my soggy cash along with the wet, faded, unreadable remnants of my story notes in a zip lock bag. The moral of that story? Check your pockets… always check your pockets.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I think the best part of working with a publisher for me has been working so closely with one editor. My editor, Cindy Cresap, has taught me so much… It sort of makes me wonder if I even had English composition in college… or if I did, possibly I slept through it.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Converting my backyard tool shed into a writing studio.
What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?
The sweetest thing a reader ever said to me was that reading my work, that my characters, made them feel less alone.
What book that you have read has most influenced your life?
It’s hard to narrow that down to one book… I could maybe narrow it down to one writer and that would be, James Agee. He literally paints with words. In terms of the first book I discovered that made me fall in love with reading? It was “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” by C.S. Lewis.
How do you take your coffee?
Often. Cream, no sugar.