Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
On a farm in northwest rural Iowa near a small town. My first novel, Inhabited, is set in a similar town and the beloved characters are recognizably Midwestern.
When did you first start writing?
In high school, I wrote a gossip column for the school section of the hometown weekly. Town folks say it was their favorite part of the paper.
You retired from teaching mathematics at a university. Isn’t writing a far cry from mathematics?
Not really. Higher mathematics requires creativity, perhaps of a different sort, but proofs are prized if they are beautifully elegant as opposed to the result of lots of computation.
What’s the story behind your latest book?
Lower World is my second novel, a dystopian fantasy in a world beneath the sea floor, the first in a trilogy. The sequel, Lost Sea should be out in April 2019. A group of activists escapes from Lower World escapes their repressive government and their struggle to survive in a primitive environment is further threat when they find evidence they are not alone.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I was motivated to become an author because I wanted to write for change and I like writing. I went indie with my first novel because I was discouraged by how hard it is to get an agent and traditionally publish. I would carefully tailor a few letters to individuals and in return receive too-much-on-my desk form letters. I will continue as indie because I like the control and it seems one has to sell oneself no matter what you do.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
When I feel I’ve done good work.
What do your fans mean to you?
They verify what I’m doing makes a difference and inspire me to continue.
What will you work on next?
A sequel to my work in progress. Readers who liked my first novel were disappointed I tied things up so well that a sequel doesn’t make sense. I didn’t make that mistake with my current project. In the third book of the trilogy, the tetrapeds living in the deep sea meet up with humans.
Who are your favorite authors?
John Steinbeck—everything he’s written, Stephen King—most of what I’ve read along with Robin Cook and Stephen Coontz. I no longer remember Asimov and Herbert’s stories who were favorites when I was young. I like Hugh Howey and Andy Weir’s The Martian. Also Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte from my youth. I enjoyed the sagas of Michener and Irving Stone. Can’t forget Laura Ingalls Wilder and Mark Twain, all in the past. Now, I seem to move from author to author.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Being wide-awake and longing for my first cup of coffee. Writing comes when the coffee hits.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
Hiking, gardening, reading, trying to stay out of political activism.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Good question. I belong to a book club so the club chooses some. Word of mouth, NY Times, Goodreads, and Bookbub probably account for the others. I used to choose hard copies via library browsing, but now it’s me , my iPad, and two propped pillows.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Hmm, good question. I do remember making up a horror story on the spot at my sister’s slumber party. They liked it so much it became one of their campfire-type classics to tell. I vaguely remember writing a play in elementary school—in a one-room country school. The teacher had us perform it in a Christmas program. I didn’t think it was that good.
What is your writing process?
I’m a pantser, short for writing by the seat of my pants. I usually have a beginning, a thread, and an end in mind, then see how it goes. I like Stephen King’s comment in his book On Writing: he invents his characters and then watches what they get up to. In addition when I think of an event that seems interesting, I’ll include it, and more often than not it becomes a tool for my characters to reach their goals.
I write in early morning when my brain is at its best. I allow myself a pass if I’m not in the mood.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
No, unless you mean Kim and Wendy stories with their dog, Tike, in which case the impact was on my gag reflex. Early exposure to fairy tales may have piqued my interest in fantasy. In fact, I’ve written a fairy tale titled The Foster Princess when I volunteered in the Foster Care system and noticed a dearth of literature for children involved.
How do you approach cover design?
I independently published my deceased son’s book and contracted a publisher to do it all. I discovered I had strong feelings about the cover’s look. I don’t like books with an image of the main character on the front. I want the character’s appearance to be left to the reader’s imagination. (I realize that I’m in the minority on this as pictures of people evidently sell books.) The title of the book is Brad Pitt Won’t Leave Me Alone and the proposed cover displayed a woman running along the beach with the face of a Brad Pitt look-alike in the clouds. I asked for the woman’s hair to cover her face, which didn’t happen so the cover became solely clouds with Brad Pitt, a nice metaphor for where the mind of the protagonist lives.
In my first novel, Inhabited, fog pervades the town in the dead of winter. The small town cop spends much time patrolling so I envisioned a police car in the fog near a bare stark tree. Since the novel involves native American lore I requested the “A” in the title to be designed like a teepee. I was very pleased with the result. I learned the hard way to make sure the cover looks good in thumbnail as the font for the Brad Pitt book got lost in the clouds.