When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I am a writer. I have always been a story-teller. It’s a family tradition. I remember my grandmother as
the queen of pithy comments who served putdowns at her Sunday dinners, along with her pot roast.
Grandma never swore. It wasn’t ladylike, but insulting someone’s intelligence, morality, behavior,
manners and children or mate was an art form. Grandma ran the Pine Tree Tavern below First Avenue
in downtown Seattle, a very unsavory part of the city. She kept a “cuss jar” for her clientele. Funds
collected from the foul language paid for the annual Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas party at the
bar, while the leftover money went to Children’s Hospital in Seattle.
I started writing down Grandma’s stories as a young teen although I knew nothing about the techniques
or mechanics of what would become my passion. Most listeners, my parents, my aunts, uncles, cousins
squirmed at her turn of a phrase. I always admired Grandma’s use of language. When I graduated from
high school, I was determined to be a writer. My creative writing teacher had told me I had talent and
suggested college. I came from a poor, single-parent household, and higher education wasn’t possible.
No one in our extended family had ever attended college. The girls got married and the boys went to
Grandma’s love of language was the legacy she passed on to me. As she told me more than once,
“Your words have power. Use it wisely. Don’t shout when a whisper will do.” So, when I chose a pen
name for my romances, I opted for part of hers as a tribute. Josie Malone. When people ask what I do, I
say, “I’m a writer. Telling stories is a family tradition. I just write down mine.”
How long does it take you to write a book?
It depends on the book. Usually, six months to a year and sometimes longer. When it’s right, it’s right.
Again, being published makes this a bit different for me. When it’s ready, I send my work to my
publishers. I have teen beta readers who tell me when my characters don’t sound real, and I trust their
judgment. If they think a “kid wouldn’t do that” – then I fix the book, so the heroine or hero seems
authentic. Pretty much, my editors and publishers are the first people to see my polished books. When I
get my “first,” “second” and “third” round edits, I consider what my editors say – they want the same
thing I do – to have the best book possible. I fix the book. With 21 books (between my paranormal
romance Josie novels and my YA series) I find that each book gets better. It doesn’t mean I don’t make
mistakes. During the editing of Family Skeletons, I discovered with some tactful help from my editor
and critique group that I’d neglected to have a “blackest moment” in the story. Oops, guess I’m not
perfect after all!
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
“Moving on doesn’t mean forgetting,” is the theme of Family Skeletons and I learned that when I was reading
various chapters to my critique group. Because of the pandemic we had to meet on Zoom and I hadn’t
thought of that motif. However, it perfectly captured the story, so I had to include it.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Time management. I’m always busy and it’s exhausting and frustrating trying to find time to write after
taking care of the family, the farm, and the critters.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I try to write the best stories I can and hope that readers will enjoy the books, but I have to be true to
the characters, their lives and their missions.
What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
At what point do you think someone should call themselves a writer?
What do the words “writer’s block” mean to you?
When I attended Washington State University several years ago, I wanted to find a critique group in Pullman, WA. I did
and learned a great deal from the other writers who met once a week at the Skippers restaurant in
nearby Moscow, ID. We traded our latest chapters. Then we were expected to read our work from the
previous week aloud, getting not only written critiques but verbal ones as well.
The name of the group was Writer’s Bloc, and the expectation of regular submissions to critique along
with the assignments due for my English and History courses since I was doing a “double major”
meant there wasn’t time for me to opt out. I had to write every day either for class or for critique. As
more experienced members told me, it’d be easier to listen to their advice if I brought in the “raw” or
“rough drafts.” After all, I’d be revising and polishing that work anyway.
It was a smart choice and one I follow to this day. However, instead of carrying in the hard copies fresh
from my typewriter, I email my rough draft chapters to my critique partners and beta readers long
before my editor and publisher see them. Since I write western paranormal and paranormal military
romance, I have people who read those.
My critique group also read my teen novels and the kids at the family riding stable are my beta readers
who get the rough drafts of my teen books too. I’m constantly multi-tasking between all the different
“hats” I wear. I work on the family farm, a 113-acre riding stable. Prior to Covid-19 I used to substitute
teach in four different school districts – a lesson I learned while doing temporary office work – if I
signed with one agency, I was dependent on what work they had available. By signing with four
agencies, I worked every day. I work as an editor for two different publishers in addition to my writing
so I probably won’t be returning to school any time soon, but I have plenty to do on the farm.
Are there therapeutic benefits to modeling a character after someone you know?
What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?
How would you describe your book’s ideal reader?
How much research did you need to do for your book?
Tell us more about your book/s?