How did you do research for your book?
With each book I began with an outline of the chapters so I had a sense of what I wanted to cover, and then I made a list of the possible subjects that would require research and worked my way through them using the internet to access websites created by scientific organizations, military, government, history, etc. On some topics, I consulted individuals I knew or had access to and asked them questions or gave them segments to review to offer critiques of how information was incorporated. For the pieces that were entirely speculative—where something doesn’t exist yet—I gathered as much existing information as possible and projected where it could lead, and then looked for research that suggests the projections are plausible.
Which was the hardest character to write?
In the case of The Way Out, the narrative voice was the hardest to decide. At the time of writing, we didn’t know whether Hunter would emerge as the hero of the series because there was such a full cast, so I didn’t want to use his voice for the narration. However, I also didn’t want to use an omniscient observer narrative approach because there were so many surprises and plot twists that I didn’t want a narrator who knew what was coming. It was important for the narrator to be learning about all of this right along with the reader as it unfolded. That is how we ended up with the interview style for that book.
There are many books out there about dystopian futures. What makes yours different?
I think what makes this series different from others is that not only did we try to make all of the science fiction plausible based on existing science—making it more speculative fiction than what you think of as science fiction—but so much of it is playing out in real life in many ways. We see headlines on a weekly basis that support what we discuss in the novels.
What advice would you give budding writers?
Keep writing . . . without an agenda. If you set your sights on having a bestseller or it leading to a movie, you will be disappointed with the outcome and sell yourself and what you’ve created short. Write for the love of writing—because you have something in you that wants to get out and see the light of day. When you do that, your writing will flow better and feel more authentic and inspiring, and then you stand a better chance of reaching some of those benchmarks.
If you could put yourself as a character in your book, who would you be?
I think there is a little bit of me in all of the characters. Every writer creates characters from a space within them, either tapping into their own traits or what they admire/abhor in others. Whether you are creating a hero who resembles the person you aspire to be or the villain who embodies the parts of you that aren’t as flattering, it all comes from you. Traditionally, there are twelve archetypes that are commonly incorporated into a story. Those exist because they are the fundamental parts of all of us; some are just more dominant in one person than in another. They are used because they are true.
Do you have another profession besides writing?
I’m retired, so now I have the time to write.
How long have you been writing?
From childhood. It has always been my go-to form of expression. Only a few years. The Way Out was my first book, but I have thought about the story for years.
Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you overcome it?
Yes. It depends on what type of block I’m experiencing. In my writing seminar I explain the difference between a functional block and a creative block. Sometimes you can’t figure out how to tell a certain part of a story. When we were working on Two Roads to Paradise, I was having trouble deciding how to get in all of the things we needed to cover about the division in the country and still make it an enjoyable read. I brainstormed with someone and came up with Hunter’s road trip by boat. It made it possible to introduce various aspects of the different zones in a way that made sense, and it solved some other logistical issues as well.
What is your next project?
We are working on the release of a Prequel called A Crash Course with Destiny on the Kindle Vella platform, Book 3 – Next Stop: Utopia is underway, and we will be recording the audiobook for Two Roads to Paradise and A Crash Course with Destiny in July.
Do you snack while writing? Favorite snack?
Not usually. It’s hard to eat while typing and keep the keyboard clean.
Where do you write?
Anywhere that feels comfortable for the headspace I’m in. Sometimes it’s at my desk. Sometimes it’s in a big comfy chair or on my bed. Occasionally, it’s outside in nature.
Although the Be Careful What You Wish For series was mostly written in Florida when I wintered there, I now write at my lake cabin in northern Minnesota. I drove a lot and I think about my stories when I drove alone on long trips.
Do you write every day?
No, I write when I feel inspiration flowing. There are times that I will sit down and give myself a little nudge to get going, but if I feel blocked, I don’t force it. That works against me. I go do something else and let the energy clear.
What is your writing schedule?
Some people find a schedule helpful. In fact, each writer should find what works for them. For me, I lay out a rough idea of what I’d like to accomplish in a given week. I set goals rather than schedules. That allows more flexibility for the creative process.
In today’s tech savvy world, most writers use a computer or laptop. Have you ever written parts of your book on paper?
Gordy wrote all of his part on paper. I make all of my notes on paper and then do the actual writing on my laptop.
I don’t have a computer. Everything I wrote I did longhand on paper. Some of it was in outline form.
If you could go back in time, where would you go?
This is a fun question for me to answer as I am a history buff. I rarely read novels. I mostly read history books. My top 12 events in world history that I would like to experience/participate in and/or live through are (not in any particular order): events leading up to and after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ; Lewis, Clark, and Sacagawea’s journey across the US and back; the Titanic voyage; Alexander the Great’s campaign; Columbus’s trip to the New World; Genghis Kahn Conquests; Marco Polo’s trip; Ibn Battatah’s trip; Magellan’s trip around the world; Moses’ leading the Jews out of slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land; Napoleon’s expedition from France to Moscow and back; To be in the thick of the group of the Founding Fathers of the US during the writing of America’s Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights.
What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?
Pursue a life in creative arts. There are no guarantees, except that you will be criticized. But, if you are willing to lean into it and take the risk anyway, the reward is an incredible feeling of fulfillment.
I love to hike, camp, and climb mountains. I don’t do it anymore, But I restored many 1960s Lincoln Continentals. I took them all over the lower 48 states. I’m sure I have personally driven over 1,000,000 miles.
One of the most thrilling and, honestly, troubling aspects of writing this particular series is how much of what we are writing is appearing in news headlines. The TV Show Law & Order has the tagline, “ripped from the headlines,” but in our case we just see confirmation of what we’ve speculated showing up there. We don’t, in any way, see ourselves as prognosticators. We aren’t predicting the future so much as projecting what the future will hold if we don’t learn from the past.
From the GMO experiments going awry to political divisions, from space travel to billionaire-funded space travel, and so much more, we keep seeing our story elements playing out in real life. Rarely a week goes by that we don’t see some report that correlates with some part of the stories we are telling. The reason for that is what we are describing is real life. It might be an exaggerated form of it, but as the old saying goes, “art imitates life;” it just does it with more flourish. The pandemic in The Way Out was not a response to the recent global pandemic. We started writing that story in 2018, and it was at the core of the story Gordy had been shaping in his mind for decades before that. It has remained relevant because pandemics are not a new phenomenon. It just goes to show you that history does keep repeating itself. But it can be our teacher if we let it.
The research for the entire series has been an incredible learning experience. When we began the process of writing about space travel, it was mind-blowing to see how the foundational principles are there—in large part, thanks to Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity—they just haven’t worked out the logistics yet. Getting into the science of genetics and modification of genes, we found that more experimentation than is comforting already exists. We didn’t have to speculate on how far we humans might push the envelope; that’s already happening. We also learned that there are two types of black holes, which you don’t usually hear about in the movies and TV shows. Granted, it’s a fairly recent discovery, but something you’d think would be rather newsworthy.
No matter the field—history, science, politics, etc.—we have stumbled upon, either in our research or in news articles that fortuitously show up at the right time, information that solves different story element problems we were facing. We’ve had several exciting discoveries along the way that helped us get over a hurdle in a plot point or character’s dynamic. An example of this from Two Roads to Paradise is the premise of Hunter taking a journey to meet Lydia. Figuring out a way to get him there that fit the restrictions we had established in that world was a challenge. Then we were reminded of the Great American Loop—a series of rivers, canals, lakes, and ocean coast line that are linked, providing a complete circuit of the eastern portion of the US. It allowed us to take Hunter through various territories off the radar and created a way to survey the new lay of the land. We just love it when those things happen. Our muses are definitely looking out for us and paving the way for a great story.
Being a writer—as in a professional writer who has published some work—seems like a glamorous, elusive way of life to anyone who doesn’t understand that if you find that you express yourself best in written form, you are a writer. And you don’t have to be published, by a big publisher or on your own, to be able to call yourself that. I wrote for decades, even published other people’s books that had a lot of my writing in them, before I let myself say, “I am a writer.” It always felt audacious and risky to claim that. I guess maybe it was a bit of imposter syndrome. But, the moment I allowed that, the moment I became brave enough to really see myself that way, was the moment my writing went to an entirely different level and my career began to flourish.
I believe being a writer means you think in words more than images. That’s not to say you don’t see images in your mind, but that you are more focused on what words can best describe what you see. How can you conjure that same image for another person by describing it when they can’t actually see it? The same is true with feelings, emotions, and sensations. What combination of words can accurately and most effectively convey what is intangible and inside of you? The beauty of language is that it has that power. A Polish independent bookstore created an ad campaign a number of years ago with the slogan, “Words Create Worlds.” No truer words have ever been strung together, in my opinion.