I loved my high school English teacher, Mrs. McCosh. She was always happy. She was passionate about literature and writing and grammar and teaching and she made me want to be a better person. I was lucky enough to have her for freshman English and as soon as I had the opportunity, I found my way back through her doors my senior year for an elective. I didn’t care what she was teaching. Whatever it was, I was taking it.
I lost my English book my senior year in October. I think someone took it because one day it was just gone. I didn’t want to upset her, so I just grabbed another one off the back counter and used it for the rest of the year. Two days before graduation, when we turned in our texts, she came to me and told me that my book was missing. I told her I’d turned it in. I knew I turned in the substitute book but I loved her (and assumed she loved me) and I thought for sure she would let it slide. Boy was I wrong. She made me pay the $28 for that book and she threatened to hold my diploma until she got it! She taught me a lesson I will never forget about trying to take advantage of a friendship. I’ve never done it again. That’s the kind of person she was. The stuff she taught us, the life stuff, she didn’t learn that in her education classes. The fact that she forced me to come clean about that book… I’ll never forget it. She could have let it slide. She could have written it off. But she didn’t. She held me accountable. She made me hold myself accountable. That’s a life lesson that will stick with me forever. I became a teacher and a better person because of her.
The world lost Mrs. Jacqueline McCosh in 2010 to a spinal cord injury caused by a car accident. A tragic ending to an amazing life.
I read a lot as a writer and I’m often drawn to world news and current events. I remember reading an article about slavery and thinking, “slavery was abolished 150 years ago!” I think a lot of well-intentioned, well-read people are in the dark about what is going on to millions of women and children around the world. We live in our first world bubbles and think that third world issues never cross our borders. It’s egocentric, but I think we do it because life is easier to live everyday if you just don’t know. I’m drawn to the parts of our society that we sweep under the rug and don’t like to think about. The parts that make most people uncomfortable. That’s why I wanted to write about it. Because once you know, you can’t not know.
And so I started out to write a suspense novel about human trafficking. And then the whole thing just kind of took on a life of its own. When it was time for publication, there was a huge discussion about what genre to place the book under. I’m still not sure we found the right one! Paranormal was tossed around. Thriller. Crime drama. It’s all of those I guess. I kind of like that it isn’t pigeonholed!
There was no specific inspiration for the characters in Among the Shrouded. I knew I wanted to write about human trafficking and I wanted characters that were going to be tough enough but vulnerable enough to take us on that journey. Initially, I just had the idea for Mia to be able to see whether people were good or bad. I thought that ability would be an amazing gift for a police officer to have and would be helpful especially in hunting down human traffickers. I also knew that she wasn’t going to be able to see Thomas’ aura since would be the catalyst for their eventual connection. But once she couldn’t see his, I knew that he needed to have something special about him which kept her in the dark. I also knew that I wanted Kate to have some way to overcome what I knew I was going to have to do to her with regard to the trafficking. In the initial manuscript, neither Thomas nor Kate were aware of their abilities and they were much less pronounced. After the manuscript went through the first round of edits, it was suggested that I “beef up” their abilities. I decided to make them aware, just as Mia was, and I believe that led to a better cohesive story line in the end.
Sadly, I don't have any of the vision or intuition Mia possesses. In fact, I don’t have a single superpower. Unless lightning fast sock folding counts. In that case, I’ll make myself a cape to wear on laundry day!
I used to have a little hardbound journal when I was in about second or third grade. I’d write little stories but mostly about stuff going on in my life. In fifth grade I wrote an autobiography. It was short. : )
Since then I’ve written a lot more. You remember school and all the writing? The essays? The forced short stories? I went to college and made a lot of stuff up. I was pretty good at writing around a subject. I became a teacher and wrote lesson plans. And report card comments. Those are fun. How many different ways can you tell someone their kid’s a genius? Or not living up to their potential? Or crazy? I’m most famous for my to-do lists. I have at least six going at all times. I will add something I’ve already done to the list to make myself feel better.
For a long time I tried to write "a novel." I have lots of half-finished manuscripts scattered on hard drives throughout my house, but it wasn't until The Clay Lion that I was finally able to complete an entire full-length manuscript.
These days I spend a lot of time answering interview questions, writing marketing blurbs, and occasionally, when I have the time, I work on writing another actual manuscript. ;)
I spent a lot of time researching the publication path I wanted to take and knew without a doubt that at least initially, I wanted my work independently published. I learned pretty quickly that unless you are an “A list” author at a Big 6 house, there isn’t a lot of money in anyone’s budget for marketing. I knew there was a very good chance I was going to be pounding the pavement to establish my brand, regardless of where I ended up and decided to maintain my copyrights, control, and royalties instead of handing them over to an agency. I’ve never regretted my decision for a minute and am proud to say that I’ve found great success in the path I’ve chosen. However, I am always open to negotiation should the right deal come along.
With that being said, I wish I would have known how dynamic the industry is, always changing the rules just when you get the hang of it. I wish I’d been told how much time and effort I would need to spend on marketing outside the hours I spend writing. And I also wish I’d known from the beginning how isolating it was going to be.
So to new authors I say:
Trust your gut. Be true to yourself not only in your writing but in your marketing as well. Surround yourself with great authors who understand what it’s like in the trenches and will help pull you up by your bootstraps. Know that your books won’t be liked by everyone and that’s okay. Just because a few people don’t like meatloaf doesn’t mean others won’t think it’s delicious. Find an editor who isn’t afraid to be brutally honest. And above all else, keep reading and keep writing.
I was recently asked to discuss which books I would save if a fascist regime was burning the world’s libraries.
I’m not a literary fiction girl, so I probably would let a lot of the great works of the western world go up in flames!
But I would save The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman. It’s my absolute favorite children’s picture book. I’d save Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz because it’s the book that made me want to become a legitimate author. I’d keep the complete boxed set of Harry Potter and a couple Dean Koontz. Also, a copy of Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson because you never know when you might need a good cry, even with the evil takeover of a fascist regime.
50 Shades of Grey author EL James was reported to make around £100k a day at the book's height, and the upcoming film will make her millions. Some are outspoken about the fact that one of the most lucrative and famous book franchise of the moment is one so widely derided for its lack of literary value. But I tend to disagree.
You know, I never, ever snub my nose at other people’s tastes. There is room enough in this world for every type of literature for every type of reader. Reading should bring pleasure. It should make you laugh and cry and feel things that are bigger than yourself. A story doesn’t necessarily need to be refined literature to be enjoyable and satisfying. So do I think the 50 Shades series is the most well-written trilogy on the market? Probably not. (And yes, I read all three.) But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have worth.
I’ve been told that my character development is one of my greatest strengths as an author. People have connected with my characters and can’t stop reading because they need to find out what happens to them. I think it’s a good thing that my readers take a vested interest in what happens to my characters. So I guess what I like most about my characters is that people seem to like and relate to them.
My favorite character is Thomas from Among the Shrouded. When I first started writing I didn’t connect with him. I had trouble writing from his point of view and I think it was mainly because he was the first male character I’d attempted to convey. I kept asking men, “what do you think Thomas would think about this?” to which the men would respond, “Nothing, men don’t think!” Thomas eventually found his voice once I got to really know him and he became my absolute favorite. He grew as a character and yet remained true to himself. I love that about him. And he’s cute in my head, so there’s that.
So far, the genre of both of my published works chose me more than I chose them. The Clay Lion ended up being YA simply because of the age of the characters and the way the story needed to be told. Among the Shrouded is probably older YA or perhaps NA because of some of the more adult issues the story addresses. I think I’d like to do more YA, but I also like to tackle real world topics that are sometime considered controversial. I like feeling like I’m leaving my readers a little wise than I found them, both young and old alike.
What I love most about YA is that the young are impressionable. They’re not jaded yet. You can reach them and make them feel important things. And you can make them fall in love with the written word. It’s what I set out to do.
I also love that YA is not just for the young. It’s also for anyone who’s ever been young. And we all have been. We remember all those firsts and how wonderful they were, even if they didn’t feel so wonderful at the time. It’s fun as an adult to go back to those times when life was… simpler. Reading (and writing) YA allows us to do that.
As far as reading goes, although I'm partial to YA, I love all types of literature. I’m a huge Dean Koontz fan. I’ve read every book he’s ever written. And my writing is nothing like his which is hysterical to me since you would think he would be a greater influence! I like historic fiction. I love Barbara Kingsolver because I feel smarter for having read her works. I’ve read the Twilight Saga. And of course, Harry Potter! Loved them all. I don’t think there is any genre I won’t read, but I’m not a big fan of tragedies. Is anyone? The House of Sand and Fog destroyed me. So did The Pilot’s Wife. Please don’t write books with horrible endings. There’s enough of that in real life, don’t you think!?
Some say the publishing industry is in decline across the board and although things like the Kindle are bridging the gap, is there still the same love for the written word, or is it being diluted by the modern obsession with tech and gadgets?
I believe there will always be readers as long as there are stories to be told. Reading provides an escape, allowing people to do things and experience facets of life that are unattainable and unfathomable. This is never going to go away. How we communicate those stories might change and that’s okay. People watch stories, listen to stories, and read stories printed on trees and tablets and phones. Is the publishing industry going to continue to change? Of course. Am I going to have to stop sharing my stories? Never.
Writing is my passion. So is eating baked goods. I'll keep you posted on what I'm up to next with the writing, not the cookies.