I first got the idea for “Christmas in Wine Country” while spending a December weekend in Mendocino, a tiny, remote and gorgeous town up
on the Northern California coast. In the mist and rain, with the romance of the surf pounding against the rocky coastline I thought—this would be a fantastic setting for a novel.
From there, I imagined what a perfect place it would be to retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the city, perhaps after a terrific disaster—and the idea was hatched.
2. When did you take up writing?
I’ve been writing since I was about 9 years old. I remember loving the Sweet Valley High books but thinking I could improve upon them. I
think I rewrote a chapter or two.
In high school and college my writing took on a more self-important and occasionally angry political tone. Happily, I’m back where I started, enjoying life and writing books that hopefully will make other people smile.
3. How important is setting/place in your writing?
I could answer this in two ways – in the fiction I write, place is extremely important. In some ways, it shapes the action. “Christmas in Wine Country” has the location right up there in the title.
In terms of where I do my writing, I’m not too choosy. With three little kids I basically take whatever chance I get. I’ve jotted down notes, ideas and scraps of dialogue on the backs of envelopes or preschool enrolment forms, made voice recordings on my iPhone while sitting in the grocery store parking lot. And, yes, sometimes I sit down in the midst of an insanely cluttered kitchen table, ignoring all dishes and unpaid bills, and catch some uninterrupted time with my laptop to actually write. But I’m not picky.
4. Do you have a favourite character (s) in your current novel?
I love my main character, Lila, because I feel like we’ve all been there. She’s in the late-20s phase when you think you should have everything figured out but don’t because, let’s face it, no one really does at that point. You think you’re old and wise but really you’re young and silly. I love that over the course of the year she’s able to loosen up, have some fun and, of course, fall in love. And I enjoy the scene when she stands in front of the refrigerator and makes an ice cream sundae in her mouth.
5. What’s the best piece of writing advice you were ever given?
I remember the worst piece of advice—never use the verb“to be.” Ever. It imposed this ridiculous straightjacket on my writing and for the class I was taking with this particular teacher I came up with all sorts of ill-fitting, inappropriate verbal calisthenics to avoid little old “to be.”
Best advice – I suppose to revise and then revise again. And don’t take harsh criticism personally. Still working on that
6. Do you have a schedule for writing?
I wrote this novel largely during my kids’ nap time, so 1pm-3pm (oldest is in elementary school). Then my middle child stopped napping and all hell broke loose. I’m still trying to get back into a schedule instead of writing on scraps of paper in the minivan while I wait for my kids to finish their activities/classes/sports, etc.
7. Are you a plotter or someone who tends to wing it?
PLOTTER. The mere suggestion of winging it gives me a twitch. I’m super type A, though somehow thought of myself as an artsy creative type until my late 20s. Go figure.
8. Can you name three or four of your current favourite books?
Oh goodness I’ve been on a rather dreary diet of parenting books lately. I’m reading a lot about brain development. Not that sexy, is it? And the most recent novel I read I really ended up not liking so I don’t want to say something negative. I always love re-reading Pride and Prejudice!!!! And Kristan Higgans’ novels make me laugh.
9. Can you tell me a little bit about what you are working on now?
I’m so excited about my new novel. It’s about four friends 15 years out of college. The central character is one of the two without children. She started out all ablaze about social justice and wanting to Fight the Power. 15 years into it she’s in a pointless bureaucratic job, out of a failed relationship, and tucking into pints of ice cream and glasses of red wine each
night as she obsessively visits her ex-boyfriend’s Facebook page… I’m laughing as I re-read this description because it sounds so depressing, but I’m LOVING the maudlin nature of it all. Especially with all the exciting and romantic life-changing events I have cooked up for her. So excited to tell this one!
10. What advice would you give to a fledgling writer to assist them on their journey?
Write what you love not what you think you should. Get lots of feedback but don’t feel obliged to do whatever anyone tells you. And keep at it!
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