Who or what inspired Holme for the Holidays?
There were two things that inspired this book. One was a trip I took through the real village of Holme in Yorkshire, and the other was the movie “The Holiday” with Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz. This story is nothing like the movie, but I loved the idea of a house swap that leads to romance.
Who or what inspired you to start writing?
I’ve always enjoyed writing, ever since I was a kid. I used to make up plays during recess and make my friends take roles in them. But it was as my 40thbirthday was approaching a few years back that I realized that if I didn’t do something to turn “I want to write a book someday” into an actual book soon, I never would.
Who is your favorite character from your books and why?
My very favorite character is Amanda, the office temp turned international spy, from Stockholm Syndrome. I think I like her because she reminds me of all the years I spent as an office temp while I was in graduate school. Often, when you’re in that type of setting, you don’t really know anyone and you can feel a little invisible and underappreciated, so it’s a great environment for letting your imagination run wild. Amanda daydreams about being a spy, only unlike most of us, she gets the chance one night to make her dream come true!
How do you approach writing a new storyline?
I write down ideas whenever they come to me, often along the lines of “wouldn’t it be funny if…” Most of the time, the initial thing that draws me to a story is something funny, like a celebrity chef on a gluten-free diet who gets stuck in a tiny Italian village where the only things to do are eat pasta and flirt with the local chocolate maker. After the initial idea, I always write an outline, even if some of the scenes are a little vague at first. I have to have a plan before I can write, even if sometimes I change the plan halfway through.
Where do your inspirations for characters and their lives come from?
Sometimes I base my characters and their occupations either on things I know myself, or on people I have encountered. For example, my Love’s Encoretrilogy is set in the theater, where I worked for several years. Other times, I ask myself what type of extraordinary life an ordinary person might like to drop in on for a few hours—perhaps a celebrity singer or spy. But it’s important to me that even the characters with the most unusual and exciting occupations need to be real and relatable.
Where is your favorite place to write?
During the warmer weather, I have a desk on my three-season porch, but when the New England winter gets too cold, there’s a local coffee shop I like, and the library is also a good choice. I find it helpful to get away from home, where there’s always a load of laundry to distract me from writing.
What is your writing process?
Ideally, I spend a week or so creating an outline and then launch into my first draft, which usually takes a few months. When that’s done I get editorial input, revise, and send for final editing and proofreading.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Getting through the whole process, from idea to final product, for the first time helped me to start building a series of steps that I refine with each new work. I found, for example, that I tend to get tired in the middle of the book, where it seems like the end will never arrive, and so it can help me to send it at that stage to a beta reader to get some feedback. Even if all the reader says is “Finish this so I can read the rest,” it helps to rekindle my energy to push through to the end.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
For me, it was buying a Mac and loading it up with the Scrivener and Vellum programs. That gives me everything I need to go from outline to published e-book and paperback.
What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?
The comments that stick with me the most are when a reader reaches out to say that my story gave them hope in a dark time. My books are romantic comedies on the surface, but I try to deal with the emotions and challenges that real people face, and intfuse them with hope and humor. When I know that’s brightened someone’s day and made something difficult easier, that’s the best feeling in the world.
What book that you have read has most influenced your life?
In 4thgrade, my friend Jenny gave me a copy of Emily of New Moonby L.M. Montgomery. That series is not as well-known as her Anne of Green Gables series, but it’s all about a little girl who dreams of being a writer, and who has great adventures along the way to achieving her dream, with a lot of embarrassing challenges thrown in for good measure. Even as an adult, I still go back and read it sometimes, and love it every time.
Do you have any new books coming out? If so, what are they about?
Yes! 2018 proved to be a difficult year for writing because of various things that came up in my family and personal life, but I’m pleased to say that I will be publishing London Holiday, the 5thbook in the Americans Abroad series, this coming spring. It’s a modern retelling of the 1950s classic Roman Holiday, which is probably my favorite movie of all time. In my version, a struggling journalist meets a runaway princess in London and has to choose between the tabloid story of a lifetime, or the possibility that she’s found true love.
How do you take your coffee?
Whole milk, and no flavored creamers or heaven forbid, anything sweet in it.