Interview with Barbara O’Neal

Welcome, Barbara! Thank you so much for taking the time to drop by and chat with us this month. We’re so excited you’re going to be the guest speaker at our annual meeting, but for those who can’t make it to RWA Nationals this year, it is great that you came by the blog on your way to NYC.

  1. Would you consider your current books to be Women’s Fiction, Romantic Women’s Fiction, or something else?

I always have a thread of romance in my books. I like it, and I strongly feel that most of us want a partner.

That said, my last few books have leaned hard into the Women’s Fiction realm, since the stories focus a lot on other parts of the main character’s life. In The Art of Inheriting Secrets, a woman grieving her mother has to figure out why her mother lied to her, and what she wants to do with her inheritance. She’s also falling in love, but the main story is the house and the mystery. In my upcoming When We Believed in Mermaids, the focus is on two sisters who shared a magical and terrible childhood, but there’s also a romantic thread.

  1. You’ve been writing for a long time (clearly you were first published when you were twelve) and you’ve changed genres at least once. Can you tell us why, and if you like one genre the best?

I love women’s fiction the best. When I first started writing books for myself, that was what my genre was—it’s just that there was no commercial market for that kind of book. You could write gothic mysteries or big historical romantic fiction or maybe cozy mysteries, but the WF market just didn’t exist. It started to gather momentum in the late 90s and that’s when I started getting serious about it.

Before that, I wrote WF smaller in my category romances. They’re still all about issues in woman’s lives. Even my historicals are about women trying to find a life of meaning in a world that isn’t structured to give her what she wants. The Lark O’Neal books are Young Women’s Fiction, again about a young woman trying to figure out what life she wants to live.

They’re all my books. I only change names for the sake of branding. It’s crazy, but a lot of women’s fiction readers wouldn’t be caught dead reading romance. I have the discussion a lot at book clubs.

  1. You have a new book coming out soon (the week of Nationals, in fact!). Can you tell us a little bit about it?

When We Believed in Mermaids is the story of two sisters who had a magical and terrible childhood on the beach near Santa Cruz. Josie, the troubled one, was blown up in a terrorist attack fifteen years ago, but one night, Kit, who is now an ER doctor, sees her dead sister on the news from a night club fire in Auckland. It’s so unmistakably her that Kit has to try to track her down. It’s told in two storylines, the past of their childhood as the children of a restaurant on the beach and in the present day as Kit tries to track down the mysterious woman on the news. It’s about love and sisters and there is, as always, a great love interest. I truly love Kit as much as any character I’ve ever created.

  1. What kinds of things do you do to keep the creative fires stoked?

Keeping the well full is one of my crusades. I strongly believe that a writer—an artist of any kind—has a responsibility to her muses to keep them supplied with inspiration. I’ve been writing a long time, so I’ve built a life that incorporates that element. I have a ton of hobbies that fill the well—gardening, watercolors and drawing, photography, cooking. I make sure to talk to my friends and get away from the computer once a week or so to go out into the world. Of course, we have to keep regular hours and set limits on leaving the house (I have rules about that, too. Mondays and Thursdays are stay-home days. I can go for a walk or go outside in my own garden, but I can’t leave in the car, not even to go to the grocery store.

  1. You probably get asked this all the time, but are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you have a specific writing routine?

I’m in-between, and I plot entirely from character. I have to know the characters very well before I can begin, and I plot from their flaws and hungers. I like to have a few strong turning point scenes and a solid idea of what the ending will be, and I wrote a long synopsis (15-25 pages) to tell myself the story. Once I get going, I like to plot out scenes about 15-20 at a time, and I at some point, I always turn to Robert McKee’s “the negation of the negation,” which is the way he phrases the dark moment of a book, reversing the story values of the work. It’s a little mind-bending at times, but I really love the way it takes me deeper, deeper, deeper.

  1. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring Women’s Fiction writer, what would it be?

Finish what you start and when you finish a book, start a new one. It’s the way to learn to craft inside out, and also figure out your voice.

Here’s a little about Barbara in case you haven’t had the chance to read her books. Barbara O’Neal is the author of twelve novels of women’s fiction, including The Art of Inheriting SecretsHow to Bake a Perfect Life, and The All You Can Dream Buffet. Her award-winning books have been published in more than a dozen countries, including France, England, Poland, Australia, Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Brazil. She lives in the beautiful city of Colorado Springs with her beloved, a British endurance athlete who vows he’ll never lose his accent.

The author of more than 70 novels, Barbara has won seven RITA awards in four categories (mainstream with romantic elements, contemporary romance, category romance, and historical romance). She was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012. | Facebook | Twitter | Website | Newsletter

Big News! Barbara’s our featured speaker at the RWF Chapter AGM and Social at Nationals this year! Register NOW at


Meet the Author on RWF


It’s the first day of autumn, and we have our hard-working President here for an interview.

RWF: Would you say you write women’s fiction or romantic women’s fiction?

JL: Romantic women’s fiction. I need my romance! See my article here for my personal definition of the genre.

RWF: Do you write in other genres?

JL: I’ve written a couple of short stories in other genres. Second Chance Dress has no genre that can I name, but you can get a copy of it for free when you sign up for my newsletter. 😉 The other one is a time travel (yes, me!) that I’m waiting on for rights reversion before I self-publish.


RWF: What is your last published title?

JL: Sight for Sore Eyes. Here’s the blurb.

How many stick and stones can one woman survive?

Emma Finn once dreamed of being a photographer, capturing exotic landscapes and poignant vistas. Then a series of tragedies tore her life apart. All she craves now is stability—reliable, boring, safe.

How many bumps and bruises can one man take?

Ophthalmologist Asher Stockdale left big city life when his ex-wife took his young son away. When he met Emma, he pictured her as the centre of his new life in Clarence Bay. So why is he encouraging her to resurrect her old dream and go gallivanting around the globe? Dare he ask her to stay?

How many roadblocks can one romance encounter and still cherish the love?

If Emma goes to India, will she be able to heal, or will she regret her choice?

Carpenter ants, a rescued Pirate, and a pair of scheming seniors help Emma and Asher to see what really lies before their eyes.

You can read an excerpt at


RWF: What would be your number one tip you’d give to someone who’d just finished their first manuscript?

JL: Celebrate the amazing thing you’ve accomplished! Treat yourself to something special. Then let yourself, and the story, rest for three weeks before you start editing. That way you’ll both be fresh and ready to go. For the first pass, just read; resist the urge to edit. Note where you catch yourself smiling or are confused, angry, or tearful. The places of confusion get your attention first.


RWF: Do you have a running theme?

JL: Reconciliation. I didn’t start out with that in mind; a friend pointed it out. I find the revelations and growth required for honest reconciliation to be an endless source of conflict and resolution.


RWF: Where do you find inspiration?

JL: In the bottom of a pail of dirty water. 😉 When I’m engaged in mindless chores like washing floors, I reflect on events (large, small, recent, and past) in my life and that’s my greatest source of inspiration. My first story grew out of the sentence, ‘A woman goes home to help her sick mother’. I was cleaning my mom’s house while she was receiving chemo treatments.


RWF: Do you have a job outside your writing?

JL: I’m self-employed as a book formatter and Microsoft Word educator. You can see more at The job came out of the technical skills I acquired as a self-published writer.


RWF: Are you a plotter, panster, or combination of both?

Definitely a plotter—I Y Excel to weave plot lines and keep a series bible.


RWF: What’s a surprising or little-known fact about you?

JL: I’m taking piano lessons. My parents were immigrants with five children and not a lot of money. Once I had the time and resources, I realized a life-long dream to make music.

Thank you, Joan, for taking time out of your busy schedule to come share a bit about yourself and your writing.


Joan is a renaissance woman. She is skilled in many arts—sewing, knitting crochet, cross-stitch, painting, and piano. Oh, and writing contemporary romantic women’s fiction. The skill favored by her husband and son is cooking. She spends her winters in Toronto attending plays, ballets, Pilates and Yoga classes. Whew! Her summers are spent on the shores of Georgian Bay relaxing with a book and a glass of wine on the deck.

When does she write? In every moment left over!


Interview with Anne Parent


For our interview today, we welcome Anne Parent.

Good morning, Anne.

RWF: Would you say you write women’s fiction or romantic women’s fiction?

AP: Women’s fiction with romantic elements and contemporary romantic fiction.

RWF: Do you write in other genres?

AP: Not currently, but I hope to write an early 20th century historical. In addition, I have an idea for a late 19th century romance.

RWF: Want to tell us what you’re working on?

AP: I’m working on the story of a divorced professional woman who is willing to do anything to have a child of her own, including making a deal with a man for his sperm. She has to face the complications of her first pregnancy, which ended in miscarriage and guilt. This leads her to break the agreement with the man who provided the sperm, creating chaos in both of their lives.

RWF: What are your favorite books to read?

AP: I read a wide variety of books: women’s fiction, contemporary romance, craft books, mysteries, and classics.

RWF: When writing do you read in genre your writing in or something else?

AP: I prefer to read in other genres while I’m plotting, but I read in my genre once I’m well into the book to see how other authors have dealt with specific situations. I read craft books for inspiration and to learn new techniques all through my writing process.

RWF: Do you have a running theme for your books?

AP: I always include a social issue to add depth to my books.

RWF: Do you read non-fiction? What kinds?

AP: I read a wide variety of craft books, as well as books on subjects that interest me: gardening, knitting, travel, and photography. I was an essayist prior to writing fiction, so I enjoy reading well-written essays.

RWF: Which do you feel you learn more from – an online class, local workshop, or writer’s craft book?

AP: This actually depends on what I’m looking for. When I first began this journey, I took online classes for everything. Now, I limit my online classes. I’m willing to pay more for a class that pushes me, such as Mary Buckham’s power plotting webinar. I love conferences, but this year I’m devoting my time to finishing this book. I’m a sucker for craft books. I have a library to rival the bookstores. They are my go to inspiration, as well as problem solving resource. I have bookmarks (my book darts) and notes throughout many of them. People have asked if I’d read all of the books in my library. My answer: bits and pieces of all of them, and cover to cover for quite a few of them.

RWF: Where do you find inspiration?

AP: For my current book, the inspiration came from my daughter, who discovered a health condition which caused her miscarriage. Thanks to insightful doctors, she now has two beautiful children. My book is my way of giving back. Other inspiration comes from things I read which interest me, as well as daily living. I had a college professor who told me inspiration is all around us and writers are observers of life. This was the best writing advice I ever received.

RWF: Do you have a job outside your writing?

AP: I am fortunate to be able to give my time to my writing. I had to retire early due to an illness, which was actually a gift to my muse.

RWF: How do you fit writing into your life?

AP: For the past two years, I let my writing become secondary to building a house and moving in. Prior to that I was actively involved in my local RWA chapter, which allowed me to use it as an excuse not to write. However, I now have a commitment to my writing I’ve never had before. I use a Franklin planner and record my writing time, as well as distraction time. When I see my writing time is slipping, I set it as my priority. This is helping me stay on track.

RWF: How do you fit editing into your writing life and the one you actually live in?

AP: Ah, editing! I love making my writing stronger, but I have to have complete silence with no distractions when I edit. When my office door is closed, my husband knows not to enter unless it’s an emergency. I can write with distractions around me because I’m putting the story together, but editing requires my full attention.

RWF: Are you a plotter, pantser, or combination of both?

AP: I’m both plotter and panster; however, on the continuum between the two, I definitely lean in the direction of plotter. I like to know the key points I’m writing toward. I’m willing to let my characters lead me in some instances, but it usually ends up down a path with a dead end. Thus, the struggle with my current WIP. I let the panster take over and I’m now re-writing the last third of this book.

RWF: Do you plan your writing time? Or do you go with the flow of family to-do’s and work out your writing in between?

AP: I tried going with the flow when I lived in Wisconsin because I helped my daughter a lot. Since my husband’s retirement to Tennessee, I’ve found I’m much more productive planning my time. Distractions still arise, but I can limit them more here. I have trouble saying no to family. Although I try to keep my mornings free Monday through Friday, things still creep into my time if I’m not diligent.

RWF: Are the stories you write based more on the woman’s journey or more on the romance?

AP: I like to have a strong romantic element, but I focus my writing on the woman’s journey.

RWF: Do you prefer to write at home or go somewhere to write?

AP: I prefer to sit at my desk and write; however, if I’m stuck I may go to a park or coffee house to clear my head. Sometimes it helps, but not always. I’m fortunate to live on six wooded acres which allow me to find various spots to set my muse free, so I take my laptop and walk until I find a place of inspiration.

RWF: Do you participate in NaNoWriMo?

AP: I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo in the past, but I’m a slow and deliberate writer. I find it pushes me to put words, not clarity on the page. It has been counterproductive to me and my writing style.

RWF: Do you first come up with a setting or character for your story idea?

AP: This is a difficult question for me. Setting plays an important role in my writing and becomes a character to some degree. I usually start with a question and let the setting and character lead me to see if there is substance to it.

Thank you, Anne, for sharing a little bit of your writing world with us.

Anne Parent  married her soul mate and they raised three glorious children. She now has six phenomenal grandchildren. She comes from a background of vital women, including a beloved grandmother, the last of the true Southern ladies. She has always stayed in touch with her Southern roots through her best friend Wanda, who happens to be the daughter of her mother’s best friend and the sister of her brother’s best friend.

She began her journey into higher education at the age of 18 at the University of South Carolina (nursing, math, and journalism) before finally deciding she needed life lessons in order to decide on a career. She pursued engineering at Greenville Technical College, before figuring out this wasn’t the direction either, and studied at Butler University (couldn’t decide between English and journalism). She took some time to build more life lessons in raising children before deciding on her final path, a degree in English from Indiana University – Indianapolis with a minor in American Studies, at the age of 45. A true late bloomer!

Anne now lives in Tennessee where she writes romantic women’s fiction set in Southern towns, both imaginary and real. She adds a contemporary social issue to her books as part of the woman’s journey. Her hope is that her characters will take her readers away from reality and they will come away feeling ready to tackle whatever they find holding them back in their own lives.

You can find Anne; FB : Anne Parent and Anne Parent Author; Twitter:




Interview with Betty Bolté

Betty Bolte interview pic

Today we have author, Betty Bolté, sharing some of her thoughts.

RWF: Would you say you write women’s fiction or romantic women’s fiction?

BB: I’m writing a series of historical fiction about famous American women that have romantic elements since each of the ladies was married, which I think should qualify as romantic women’s fiction.

RWF: Do you write in other genres?

BB: I also write American historical romance and paranormal romance (think witches and ghosts…). I’ve also written and published in nonfiction books and in magazine/newspaper articles.

RWF: What is your last published title?

BB: In May, I released The Touchstone of Raven Hollow (Secrets of Roseville Book 3), a paranormal romance set in the forests of southcentral Tennessee. You can read an excerpt of it and my other books on my website at

RWF: What do you think helped you get from unpublished to published?

BB: Hard work, persistence, and a bit of luck. I determined in the 90s that I wanted to be an editor of a children’s magazine, but I needed a degree to be considered. So I went to Indiana University and got a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. Then decided I wanted to write, not edit a magazine! I worked at freelancing articles for magazines, newspapers, and did tech editing from home. All the while, I wrote my stories and worked on improving the craft of writing fiction, which is a very different animal from writing nonfiction! I joined RWA and went to chapter meetings to learn about the industry and craft. Bought craft books, attended conferences and workshops, etc. In 2006, I decided I wanted a master of arts in English with a concentration in literature to further study and analyze story, which I received in 2008. Slowly but surely over the course of 20 years, I learned how to write fiction that others want to read. In fact, my first romance to be bought by a small press was the result of a tweet pitch I did in January 2014. As of 2017, I’ve published 9 romance novels and will release my 10th, a novella, in Dec 2017.

RWF: What would be your number one tip you’d give to someone who’d just finished their first manuscript?

BB: Congratulations! Don’t be in a rush to publish. Take the time to make sure the story is really ready by having beta readers provide feedback. If you’re going the indie route be sure to hire a professional fiction editor to assess and help you refine the story. Your reputation as an author is determined by your storytelling and writing skills. Be sure to put your best foot forward!

RWF: What advice would you give an author who has just published her first book?

BB: Don’t panic. Take one day at a time, one task at a time. Then get busy writing the next book to the best of your ability.

RWF: What are your favorite books to read?

BB: I enjoy women’s fiction, historical romances, light paranormal romance, some contemporary romance, historical fiction, mysteries, and some of the classics.

RWF: When writing do you read in the genre your writing in or something else?

BB: I’m an eclectic reader so am reading a variety all the time. I tend to read more nonfiction when I’m writing my historicals for research into the time and place of the story.

RWF: What type of non-fiction?

BB: I read a lot of historical biographies, analysis of conflicts or lifestyles during the conflict, and documents about people and places related to my historical fiction. I find books in historical site gift shops, in the library, and online, sometimes dating back to the 1700s. I’ve also found it fascinating to read about medicine and cooking in the 18th century. I’m in the process of adapting some 18th-century recipes to modern cooking techniques and tastes and sharing the results on my blog at It’s been quite a challenge but fascinating, and gives me fresh insight into how cooks managed to put together a meal with limited resources.

RWF: Do you have a job outside your writing?

BB: I’m fortunate to be able to write full-time now. I used to run a freelance writing/editing business, and previous to that a word processing business, from home during the 1990s through about 2002. From 2004-2012, though, I worked full-time as a tech writer/editor for a major corporation and wrote on the weekends as I had time around my family obligations. I’m not mentally functional before 6 am nor after 10 pm, so I don’t have the option of writing before or after work like some authors I know. Thankfully, now my time is my own.

RWF: Do you plan your writing time? Or do you go with the flow of family to-do’s and work out your writing in between?

BB: I write Monday through Friday, 8 am to noon, unless there’s a very good reason for me having to be elsewhere or handle some other task. Like this past spring when my hubby and I moved from our farm in Tennessee to a house in Alabama. Writing didn’t happen for almost a solid month while we dealt with packing, movers, shedding clutter, and unpacking, and a myriad of tasks and issues in between. Now I have an office again for the first time in 20 years where I have an actual desk to work at. Talk about being in heaven!

RWF: Do you participate in NaNoWriMo?

BB: I have never had an interest in pressuring myself into writing a book. For one thing, since I write mainly historicals, I want to have the time to understand my characters and their world. The interaction between who they are and the limitations on them from their environment and societal expectations as well as the facts of day-to-day life play a major part in determining the action and setting of the story. For example, questions need to be answered before I can write a scene about how my character traveled from point A to point B – on foot, horseback, carriage, boat? The kinds of situations each mode of transportation would present varies drastically. Rushing through a draft would mean upping the likelihood of major revisions later, so I’d rather not go down that path.

RWF: Do you first come up with a setting or character for your story idea?

BB: It depends on the story. For my A More Perfect Union historical romance series I defined the first three women first – Emily, Amy, and Samantha, and then added Evelyn and Elizabeth’s stories later. Their situation and viewpoint was a direct result of reading an essay written in the 1780s about how women should not have the same education as men or they’d become masculinized or perhaps even injure their brains! I wanted to bring to life their reality during the American Revolution and how the women of that time actually sowed the seeds of the women’s rights movement in America. For the historical women’s fiction, the ladies actual history dictates the story details. My paranormals in my Secrets of Roseville series tend to blend both the characters and the setting as the basis for the entire story, so I can’t really divide them. They work together to guide the story, in other words. Each story presents its own challenges and appropriate approaches. I just have to be willing to be flexible. Most of my stories are written in third person, but the ladies’ stories are all in first person, which is a new adventure for me!

Thank you, Betty, for sharing a little bit about yourself and your writing world.


Betty Bolté writes both historical and contemporary stories featuring strong, loving women and brave, compassionate men. No matter whether the stories are set in the past or the present, she loves to include a touch of the paranormal. In addition to her romantic fiction, she’s the author of several nonfiction books and earned a Master of Arts in English in 2008. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Historical Novel Society, the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and the Authors Guild. Get to know her at


Interview with Virginia McCullough

Virginia McCullough pic interview

Today we have with us author, Virginia McCullough.

RWF: Would you say you write women’s fiction or romantic women’s fiction?

VM: Originally, I called my work family drama/love stories, and then as the term women’s fiction became the term of art, I realized that my books fit the current definition of romantic women’s fiction.

RWF: Do you write in other genres?

VM: I also write romance, and just had a Harlequin Heartwarming release, GIRL IN THE SPOTLIGHT, book 1 of my Two Moon Bay series. I plan to submit another proposal for a second series. I’d like to try my hand at historical novels as well—we’ll see.

RWF: Are you traditionally published, self-published, or both?

VM: My fiction career is now hybrid, like my nonfiction career has been for many years. I like the idea of publishing both traditionally and independently.  I think indie publishing is a great development for writers because it removes the power of the “gatekeepers.” Like everything else, publishing has changed enormously since I first started writing. Although indie pubbing has its problems, the technology of publishing has been a great equalizer.

RWF: What do you think helped you get from unpublished to published?

VM: Having an agent helped me. I know that’s not always true for series romance, but that’s how it worked out for me. With my indie novels it was a case of “if not now, when?” I’m not getting any younger! Looking at the question in a broader way, I’d say love of the writing process itself is critical to establishing a long writing career.

RWF: Do you read non-fiction? What kinds?

VM: Since my career has been fueled by writing nonfiction (mostly as a ghostwriter and coauthor), I’m drawn to nonfiction…history, current issues, memoir, biography.

RWF: What are your favorite books to read?

VM: I read a lot of women’s fiction, and I find myself drawn to novels with multiple women characters who are sisters or friends—those beach reads we all seem to like. I also like the WWI and WWII eras and other 20th century period fiction. And family sagas.

RWF: When you write, do you read in the same genre you’re writing in or something different?

VM: I pretty much read the same types of books all the time. Whatever strikes my fancy at the moment.

RWF: Do you first come up with a setting or character for your story idea?

VM: It’s happened both ways for me. I like water settings—islands, waterfronts on lakes, rivers, oceans, so all the ideas that come to me seem to fit into one of those lovely environments.

RWF: Do you have a running theme?

VM: Well, my brand is hope, healing, and second chances. That covers a lot of ground. The books always involve a family, sometimes friends, and some of the time what I call the “special child,” meaning the child whose birth changes everything forever—of course, that’s universal, but I like to explore it. In a few of my books, the child drives the story, whether a primary character or not. In AMBER LIGHT, for example, a pregnancy results from date rape and the narrator’s life is profoundly changed. What does she do and how does she manage? In GIRL IN THE SPOTLIGHT, the child relinquished for adoption ends up driving the story many years later. In ISLAND HEALING, a 13-year-old ends up being the catalyst for healing on many levels in two families. In all the books, the characters have a wound to heal and in the process they gain their second chance, not just for a romantic relationship, but for happiness in life.

RWF: Where do you find inspiration?

VM: From all of you! And from every person who ventures into the creative life. Other people’s writing-life stories inspire me to keep trying to get better.

RWF: Which do you feel you learn more from – an online class, local workshop, or writer’s craft book?

VM: I’ve learned so much from all three methods I can’t say one is better than the other. I think one of the great pleasures of RWA National is choosing the workshops! And I sign up for online classes, too, but many decades ago, I started my writing career based on what I learned from craft books and writers magazines.

RWF: Do you prefer to write at home or go somewhere to write?

VM: I work at home most of the time, but I sometimes hide out at the library or a café for a change of pace, and often to jumpstart a project by jotting notes and just free-form writing about the situation or setting. I believe a change of scene can work wonders for the creative brain—it can wake it up.

RWF: How do you fit writing into your life?

VM: It’s always a balancing act, writing and editing my work versus and editing and coaching for clients. It’s really about scheduling. But my kids are grown, so my time is my own. I know this isn’t a popular position among romance and RWF authors, but I really like living alone. I enjoy—even crave—solitude. But I’m not isolated. I love my close circle of friends—many of whom are my colleagues in the Wisconsin chapter of RWA. Other friends are located across the country in the various places I’ve lived. I love to travel, and I’ve always been active in various social issues and causes, too, so I have to protect writing time.

RWF: Do you have a job outside your writing?

VM: I’ve had my nonfiction ghosting/editing business virtually all of my adult life. Coaching came more recently. I had to make it a priority to carve out time to learn how to write fiction. It never would have happened otherwise and it took a fairly long time to learn basic craft. Today, I do less ghostwriting, and more ghost-editing and coaching. So, like all small business owners, which is what writers really are, I’ve always worked on a schedule. I like to work days—I’m not sharp at night.

RWF: Are you a plotter, panster, or combination of both?

VM: A combination, I think. I like to know where I’m going in a general way, and I often make a lot of notes about characters and conflicts, but I’m not good at detailed outlining. I like surprising developments.

RWF: Are the stories you write based more on the woman’s journey or more on the romance?

VM: I tend to think of the woman’s journey and the romance is a part of that. (I may enjoy living alone, but I like some romance, too.) Even with traditional romance, I think about it as a journey of two characters.

RWF: What would be your number one tip you’d give to someone who’d just finished their first manuscript?

VM: When you think a manuscript is finally done, read it aloud and you’ll catch all kinds of small things, especially repetition and awkward phrasing and dropped words. I also believe in entering contests to get feedback and to get work in front of agent/editor judges.

RWF: What advice would you give an author who has just published her first book?

VM:  I still need so much advice I’m not sure I’m qualified to give it out. But I know I can’t do everything myself—VAs and Author Assistants are one of the new cottage industries for writers—along with formatters, cover designers, and so forth.

RWF ~ Thank you Virginia for sharing some of your thoughts on writing.

Virginia McCullough considers herself incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to write the stories of her heart, including GIRL IN THE SPOTLIGHT, the first book in her Two Moon Bay series for Harlequin Heartwarming. (Book 2, SOMETHING TO TREASURE, is scheduled for release in January 2018). A three-time Golden Heart finalist, her award-winning romance and women’s fiction titles include THE JACKS OF HER HEART, AMBER LIGHT, GRETA’S GRACE, THE CHAPELS ON THE HILL, and ISLAND HEALING.

Born and raised in Chicago, Virginia has lived in six states and U.S.V.I, and currently calls Green Bay, Wisconsin home. She started writing nonfiction, first articles and then books as a ghostwriter and coauthor. She’s written well over 100 books for physicians, lawyers, business owners, professional speakers, and others who have information to share or a story to tell. Her coauthored healthcare books include THE OXYGEN REVOLUTION, written with Paul Harch, MD, a pioneer in hyperbaric medicine.

Virginia’s books feature characters who could be your neighbors and friends. They come in all ages and struggle with everyday life issues. The mother of two grown children, you’ll find Virginia with her nose a book, walking on local trails or her neighborhood streets, or she may be packing her bag to take off for her next adventure. And she’s always working on another story about hope, healing, and second chances.


Interview with Tina Newcomb

Tina Newcomb pic

Today we meet Tina Newcomb.

RWF:  Would you say you write women’s fiction or romantic women’s fiction?

TN:  I write sweet contemporary romance/mainstream with romantic elements (I know that’s a mouthful, but it’s the closest description I can come up with). I am working on a women’s fiction novel that I hope to pitch at RWA in 2018.

RWF: Want to tell us what you’re working on?

TN: I’m working on a series set in a fictional town of Eden Falls, Washington. I’ve finished five books and hope to complete at least one more by the end of 2018. I plan to self-publish this series (one book a month) starting in July of this year.

RWF: What are your favorite books to read?

TN: When I have time to I read, I turn to women’s fiction. Just a few of my favorite authors are Karen White, Barbara Delinsky, Sarah Addison Allen, Barbara Claypole White, and Barbara O’Neal.

RWF: Do you have a running theme for your books?

TN: Each book in my Eden Falls series is loosely based on different occupations. Book one is about a flower shop owner who uses the Victorian language of flowers to build her bouquets. This art is mentioned in each book.

Eden Falls has small town charm where smiles are frequent and a helping hand is always near.

RWF: Which do you feel you learn more from – an online class, local workshop, or writer’s craft book?

TN: I think I learn more from local classes or those I attend at the RWA Conference. I don’t have enough discipline to follow through with the online classes—I would rather be writing. I have a whole library of craft books that have never been opened.

RWF: Where do you find inspiration?

TN: I find my inspiration while traveling. I usually start with a setting and add characters. My husband and I take a two-week driving vacation every year and I always come home with a rough outline for a book. The series I’m working on came after a trip through Washington State. My women’s fiction will be based on an island we visited while in Maine.

RWF: How do you fit writing into your life?

TN: I write six days a week. Even if I can only edit a page or two, I make time to sit at my computer and write.

RWF:  Are you a plotter, pantser, or combination of both?

TN: I’m a pantser. I know the beginning of my book, I usually have an idea for my black moment, and I know how it will end, but the middle is a total mystery until I get there. I’ve tried to outline and plot several times, and I’ve tried several different methods, but I end up frustrated.

RWF: Do you plan your writing time? Or do you go with the flow of family to-do’s and work out your writing in between?

TN: I watch my grandson during the day, so I have to work around visits to the library, or the museum, bike rides and trips to the park. I wake up early and try to write an hour before he comes. I also try to get in an hour or so after his mom picks him up in the afternoons.

RWF: Are the stories you write based more on the woman’s journey or more on the romance?

TN: I believe my stories are based on my character’s journey whether male or female. I sprinkle romance in and I always have an HEA.

RWF: Do you prefer to write at home or go somewhere to write?

TN: I write in my office, on my bed, or in the family room.

RWF: Do you participate in NaNoWriMo?

TN: I love NaNoWriMo! I’ve participated twice and completed both projects I started. Having only thirty days, really pushes me and keeps me focused. I do have to plan a rough outline (eyelid twitches) for NaNo.

RWF: Do you first come up with a setting or character for your story idea?

TN: Setting always comes first.

Thank you, Tina for sharing your writing time with us.

About Me

I was born and raised in Utah on the foothills of the spectacular Wasatch Front, where life as a kid was magical. Summers were spent hiking or swimming in the neighborhood pool, winters were for sledding down mountain hills. I acquired my love of reading from my parents. My mother was a librarian and stacks of books were always close at hand. I wrote my first (more than three page) story in fourth grade. Tobie, my heroine, bravely solved The Mystery Behind the Iron Door. I took writing classes in college and stories began to develop.

I moved to Memphis, Tennessee as a young mother and lived there long enough to learn “Bless your heart” is almost always followed by an insult, fried chicken is a staple, and any measurable snow will, most likely, close the schools for days. I do miss the dogwoods in spring and the smell of barbecue permeating the air at Memphis in May.

My pen and paper were put away as adult life and motherhood took precedence. Three kids later, I wrote my first novel, but had no idea what to do with it. It ended up in a box on a shelf. Numerous years later I came across the manuscript in a closet. I pulled it out, dusted it off and started all over again.

I now live in beautiful Colorado with my (amateur) chef husband. Six of our eight kids and one of three grandkids live nearby.

Fun Facts:

  • I have the most loving, generous, PATIENT husband in the world.
  • I’m grateful for my kids.
  • I adore my grandchildren.
  • My mother introduced me to The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart.
  • My father introduced me to non-fiction.
  • My favorite author is LaVyrle Spencer.
  • Crazy as it sounds, I love to clean.
  • My favorite ice cream is pralines and cream.
  • I don’t have a favorite color or a favorite flower.
  • My least favorite flower is a sunflower. (I know, I’m damaged).
  • I love Bear Lake, Utah, raspberry shakes and Miami, Florida strawberry shakes.
  • Country is my music of choice.
  • My favorite season is spring (closely followed by fall).
  • Chinese or Mexican food? Don’t make me choose.



Interview with A.M. Wells

Brenda Willis, AM Wells

Today we have the pleasure of hearing from author, Brenda Willis, writing as A.M. Wells.

RWF: Would you say you write women’s fiction or romantic women’s fiction?

AM: Women’s fiction with some romantic elements.

RWF: Do you write in other genres?

AM: Yes. My first published work was a short erotic novella for Red Rose Publishing. I’ve also self-published my short story romances.

RWF: What do you think helped you get from unpublished to published?

AM: Not what, but who. Dyanne Davis. She was the first person to tell me I had a voice, that I was a writer and I should write. She encouraged me to submit my work and to keep on submitting to publishers and agents.

RWF: What would be your number one tip you’d give to someone who’d just finished their first manuscript?

AM: First, celebrate. You did good. Next, put it away for at least thirty days. Start on your next great manuscript. After thirty days, come to that manuscript, print it out, and just read it through.  Once you’ve done all that, now begin the second draft/edits.

RWF: What advice would you give an author who has just published her first book?

AM: Congratulations. Enjoy the moment. Tell me about your next book.

RWF: What are your favorite books to read?

AM: Women’s Fiction, Fiction, Graphics Novels, Romance, Sci-fi.

RWF: When writing do you read in genre your writing in or something else?

AM: Something else. I just finished reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Love it! I’m also enjoying Kresley Cole’s IMMORTALS AFTER DARK series.

RWF: Do you read non-fiction? What kinds?

AM: When I was teenager and into my twenties, BC (before children) I would read a lot of biographies/memoirs. These days, my non-fiction reading consisted of books on craft. Stephen King, On Writing; Cathy Yardley, Rock Your Plot, and Write Every Day; and GMC by Debra Dixon.

RWF: Which do you feel you learn more from – an online class, local workshop, or writer’s craft book?

AM: Online class, because I can go at my own pace.

RWF: Are you a plotter, pantser, or combination of both?

AM: Shameless pantser.

RWF: Are your stories based more on the woman’s journey or more on the romance?

AM: The woman’s journey.

RWF: Where do you find inspiration?

AM—Movies, 1930’s and 40’s. Music. TV Commercials. The News. Listening to friends, family, co-workers relate stories. Taking a walk. Life.

RWF: Do you first come up with a setting or character for your story idea?

AM: The character.

RWF: Do you have a running theme for your books?

AM: Motherhood. Grief. Second chances. Humor.

RWF: Do you participate in NaNoWriMo?

AM: Yes.

RWF: Do you have a job outside your writing?

AM: Yes. I work as an IT Support Specialist.

RWF: How do you fit writing into your life?

AM: I’m up at 4:15am every morning and I write for at least thirty minutes before I head off to day job. I also have a notebook with me, to jot down ideas or plot points.

RWF: How do you fit editing into your writing life and the one you actually live in?

AM: I printout then reread what I’ve written and work on edits in the evenings.

RWF: Do you plan your writing time?

AM: No

RWF: Do you go with the flow of family to-do’s and work out your writing in between?

AM: I just go with flow.

RWF: Do you prefer to write at home or go somewhere to write?

AM: At home.

RWF: Do you have a new book out?

AM: No. But I am hoping to self-published more of my short stories soon.

RWF: What was your last published title?

AM: Christmas Hearts.

RWF: Want to tell us about your book?

AM: It’s a short sweet office holiday romance story.

RWF: Would you to tell us what you’re working on?

AM: My current WIP is about a woman, who after seven years of non-wedded bliss, decides to leave her serial cheating husband. The story is her journey of rediscovering herself, while finding though she can love again, true happiness come within one self.

RWF: Are you traditionally published, self-published, or both?

AM: Self-published

Brenda, thank you for sharing your time and a bit of your writing journey with us.

About Brenda

Brenda Willis writing as A.M. Wells writes contemporary women’s fiction with romantic elements.

Brenda lives in Athens Georgia and is employed as an IT Support Specialist. In addition to writing, she is an avid reader and artist.

You can find on the web at




Interview with Leigh Duncan

Leigh Duncan2 RWA

For this week’s interview we are happy to have Leigh Duncan. 

RWF: Would you say you write women’s fiction or romantic women’s fiction?

LD: Romantic  women’s fiction, definitely.  I love, love, love providing my readers an emotionally satisfying ending and the HEA (happy ever after) they’re looking for.

RWF: Do you write in other genres?

LD: I’m focusing on Women’s fiction and Contemporary Romance for now, but I do have a Paranormal story or two that I’m saving for later.

RWF: Do you have a new book out?

LD: I’m super excited about the launch of my brand new series, The Orange Blossom series, this summer.  These stories revolve around a small, fictional town and the women who call Orange Blossom, Florida their home.  In Butterfly Kisses (now available for pre-order), Justine Gale returns to Orange Blossom after a ten-year absence.  She’s desperate to sell the citrus grove she inherited from her uncle in order to provide medical care for her seriously ill daughter.  But (there’s always a but, isn’t there?) her efforts are stymied by her first love…who adamantly opposes selling the land that supplies the lifeblood of Orange Blossom.

RWF: What is your last published title?

LD: Pattern of Deceit, a romantic women’s fiction suspense, released in October 2016, and The Growing Season, a contemporary family saga, released last June as a three-part serial.  Part 1: A Time to Uproot, is perma-free at all the major e-vendors.

RWF: Are you traditionally published, self-published, or both?

LD: At this point in my career, I’m focused on indie publishing.

RWF: What do you think helped you get from unpublished to published?

LD: Learning the craft.  The first time I entered my work in a contest, the judge marked “POV” all over my manuscript.  I had no idea what she was talking about!  It took hard work and determination to improve my skill set.

RWF: What would be your number one tip you’d give to someone who’d just finished their first manuscript?

LD: Don’t be afraid to re-write.  If an editor suggests a change, take a big breath and do it!  I believe it was Cherry Adair who said, “Of course you can change it!  It’s fiction!”

RWF: What are your favorite books to read?

LD: I love reading the kinds of books I write—stories where strong women face and surmount overwhelming odds to reach their HEA.

RWF: How do you fit writing into your life?

LD: Five years ago, when I was on a serious deadline and distractions at home were keeping me from buckling down, two writer friends and I started meeting at our local library several times a week. We’d get there when the library opened, snag one of the small study rooms (our library wouldn’t let us reserve them), open our laptops, turn off our cell phones and write until everyone had put down 1,000 fresh words.  Then, we’d break for lunch and come back for a second session in the afternoon.  That system worked so well that, after we added a fourth member (and outgrew our study room), we moved to our dining room tables, where we still “camp out” two or three times a week for Writers Camp.  In the first year, the four of us wrote one million words and published 14 books. Five years later, Writers Camp is still going strong…and I’ve written and published another twelve books.

RWF: Thank you, Leigh, for sharing some of your writing journey.


Leigh Duncan is the award-winning author of more than two dozen novels, novellas and short stories. Her first full-length book, The Officer’s Girl, was released by Harlequin American Romance in 2010. Leigh went on to write seven more books for Harlequin, including the highly acclaimed Glades County Cowboys series, before she began writing the more complex, heart-warming and emotional stories that have resonated with her readers. An Amazon best-selling author and a National Readers’ Choice Award winner, Leigh lives on Central Florida’s East Coast where she writes women’s fiction and contemporary romance with a dash of Southern sass. Contact Leigh through her website (, Facebook (LeighDuncanBooks) or on Twitter (@leighrduncan).



Interview with Vicki Batman

Vicki Batman2

Today we are talking with Vicki Batman. Glad to have you here.

*We’re curious, how long have you been writing?

Vicki—I’ve been writing twelve years.

*What kind of stories do you write?

Vicki—I primarily write romantic comedy short stories, but I also write mysteries. Romantic comedy came to me naturally. I honed that genre in short stories and developed it further in romantic comedy mysteries.

*So, you don’t write romantic women’s fiction or women’s fiction?

Vicki—No. I’ve always read women’s fiction, but my writing journey hasn’t taken me to a specific project as yet. I tell my friend we need to collaborate on one, like a funny one with ladies in a hot tub and no ovaries.

*Are you traditionally published, self-published, or both?

Vicki—I’m both. My mysteries are published by The Wild Rose Press. I have had short stories published in magazines, by other publishers, as well as have published indie projects or been a part of indie anthology projects.

*Would you call yourself a plotter, pantser, or combination of both?

Vicki—My writing friend calls herself a Plotster. PLOTter + pantSTER = PLOTSTER. I think of plotting this way: I know stories have a beginning, middle, black moment, then an ending with stuff in the middle. I plotster toward that goal.

*Do you first come up with a setting or character for your story idea?

Vicki—I’ve been known to sit down with a topic and say, “I’m going to write a story about _____.” I did this with several holiday stories. Often, I hear a bit of dialogue in my head and the story takes off. It’s nice when that flow goes on and on and on and on. My youngest once said, “I have a theory about love.” My head went bing! I held up my finger to stop him for just a moment to write down the line and then returned my attention to him. I did write the story. He’s embarrassed over this. LOL.

*What would be your number one tip you’d give to someone who’d just finished their first manuscript?

Vicki—Read WRITE TIGHT. Twelve years ago, the first critique my book received was to read that book. Me and my work improved so much afterwards.

*Which do you feel you learn more from – an online class, local workshop, or writer’s craft book?

Vicki—I’ve learned from all of the above. I am not an auditory learner; so, for workshops, I have to take plenty of notes. And sometimes, I’ll scribble in what I call my secret code-shorthand.

*Do you prefer to write at home or go somewhere to write?

Vicki—I did write only at home as I used a desk top computer, but that changed when I bought a new laptop and am writing in lots of places. I’m still using an external mouse (#1 and #2 sons think I’m silly) because I’m faster with it over the laptop features. Maybe one day…

*What are your favorite books to read?

Vicki—I love mysteries, historical, and contemporary romance, women’s fiction; however, I do read different things, especially for book club. I was so picky when younger because I didn’t want to waste my time on something I didn’t like. Now, I’ll finish what I believe is a bad book because I learn from it too. I’m not much into sci-fi or paranormal.

*Are the stories you write based more on the woman’s journey or more on the romance?

Vicki—My stories are more heroine-centric with a hero. I write more romance.

*What do you think helped you get from unpublished to published?

VickiPERSISTENCE. Persistence in improving my craft. Persistence in believing in me. Persistence in finding the right publisher.

*Do you have a new book out?

Vicki—My romantic comedy short story, “Raving Beauty,” featured in the Just You and Me boxed set, will be published on June 1, 2017. A reluctant beauty contestant falls for the doctor treating her, only to discover the one she really loves has been right in front her the whole time. I’ll confess here: I was in a couple of small beauty pageants.

*Thank you for sharing with us a portion of your writing life. Where can we find you in cyber space?

Vicki—You can find me at:






Author Central:



Award-winning and Amazon best-selling author, Vicki Batman, has sold many romantic comedy works to the True magazines, several publishers, and most recently, two romantic comedy mysteries to The Wild Rose Press. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and several writing groups. An avid Jazzerciser. Handbag lover. Mahjong player. Yoga practitioner. Movie fan. Book devourer. Chocoaholic. Best Mom ever. And adores Handsome Hubby. Most days begin with her hands set to the keyboard and thinking “What if??”


Interview with Sue Ward Drake

Susan Dunn for blog
photo by Marti Corn

Come join us, learn about the wonderful writers who are a part of Romantic Women’s Fiction a chapter of RWA.

Our first interview is with Susan Dunn, writing as Sue Ward Drake.

Sue, we’re so glad you’ve volunteered, and we’re excited to share what you’ve got to say.

* Would you say you write women’s fiction or romantic women’s fiction?

Sue* Since I usually include some sort of mystery or intrigue and always a hero and heroine, I’d say my stories veer toward the romantic women’s fiction end of the spectrum. My protagonists are always a man and woman who are romantically involved—or will be.

After writing a historical mystery, I wrote a women’s fiction story. My all-time fav women’s fiction is WINTER SOLSTICE by Rosamund Pilcher. My own story centers on a daughter and her mother who must reconcile their past actions and forgive each other. This story went on to final in several contests and win the Fab Five contest that year. At the time, only 4 years ago, very little women’s fiction was being bought, and I was never able to get any agents interested. The beginning was suspenseful and perhaps not in keeping with the women’s fiction genre. Though I’m keeping that on the back burner for a possible rewrite, I concentrated on other sub-genres of romance: romantic suspense and contemporary.

* Do you have a running theme in your books?

Sue* For some reason, all my lead characters must overcome some sort of guilt, usually self-inflicted. They believe in being given a chance and being treated fairly, something I have always fought for in my own life. But I have no idea where the ‘guilt’ business comes from.

* Do you write in other genres?

Sue* I’ve written and pitched a contemporary romance, or rather a romantic comedy and am working on another one from time to time. I like my characters to be well-rounded so the hero and heroine often have internal struggles other than finding the “one.”

* Tell us a little about your process.

Sue* It’s currently changing. I’ve always loved having a pattern or structure to help me find direction. Back in the 1980s and 1990s I used the Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey as a model. Now I use the 3-Act-8-Sequence model used by most screenwriters. Some years ago, Alexandra Sokoloff taught a class called SCREENWRITING TRICKS FOR WRITERS for one of the RWA chapters. By the way, it’s a great way to figure stuff out. She analyzes movies, so you can SEE what’s going on. She has now made this title available at online retailers.

I used to plan out the story, more or less, in a long Word document but found myself spending too much time tweaking this Word document and not writing. I got frustrated and kept jumping ahead to other scenes, so now I just start.

I find writing the first few chapters gets me involved and excited about my characters but I force myself to get to the story question by the end of the third or fourth chapter, depending on how long I want the story to run. At this point I figure out my characters and their goals. I found that superimposing what I think their problems are in the beginning with character charts, etc. led to a lot of re-writing—not that I don’t rewrite a LOT now. I usually have no problem figuring out a character’s Wound, a term Michael Hauge uses. And I like some of Blake Snyder’s advice in his SAVE THE CAT! Books on points to hit in the story and structure.

As you can see I have some favorite resources (Michael Hauge, Blake Snyder, James Scott Bell). Some “writing” books just don’t click with me. Every writer has to find his own.

For me the main component of the story—the thing that fuels my enthusiasm—is what makes the protagonist(s) tick. What do they want and why?

I often find myself riffing off a situation from real life or from a news item. For example, I read in the paper about some young guy, obviously half out of his mind, who jumped into the Mississippi River and drowned. Was he showing off? Taking a dare? How did his action and death impact his friends?

I’ve always made up stories about people who are on the periphery of my existence. These are people I don’t know, so there’s a mystery or behavior I want to explain. One time at work, a fellow programmer slammed down the phone after talking to the unhelpful and irate supplier of the software we used, and I said: ‘Maybe his wife just asked him for a divorce this morning.’

I’ve started using a voice journal for my characters, an idea I’ve borrowed from James Scott Bell, where you sit the character down and she’s talking to you as if she were sitting on the other side of a table at a coffee shop. I use this technique throughout the story to help figure out the scene goals or reactions.

Usually, I don’t discover the theme until I’ve finished the first draft. Then I look at the story and think: Oh, that is what I’m writing about. Once I figure this out, I have a better idea of how to finesse the revisions to point to these themes.

As for settings, I use places I’m familiar with, places I’ve traveled to, places I like reading/researching about either in the U.S. or abroad.

* Do you have a new book out?

Sue* Yes! I’m excited to say I recently updated and self-published HEAR NO EVIL, a romantic suspense previously published traditionally.

I’d been sitting on the reverted rights for HEAR NO EVIL for a few years, too much of a wimp to do anything more. Because I have been asked to help present several workshops at RWA 2017 in Orlando on disabled characters, I decided to update the story and self-publish so I can reference my work during the workshops.

The category line which originally published HEAR NO EVIL stressed real world problems and was my second attempt at portraying a hearing-impaired heroine. I had actually been writing seven years before I sold, and this story was my third submission to New York. I was still working at a university in computer programming at that time, and I used to write scenes at lunchtime to plug into the manuscript at night.

* Want to tell us about your book?

Sue* Of course, thanks for asking. Here’s a short blurb:

For Molly Light, painting is her path out of a silent, solitary world. When her talent is awarded with a once-in-a-lifetime trip to paint under the blue skies of the Mediterranean, she must accompany the handsome, enigmatic stranger who’s awarded her the prize. Though his every touch arouses her most secret desires, Molly suspects he’s not the man he pretends to be.

Bent on revenge for the brutal torture he’d once endured, guilt-ridden loner Stefanos Metadorakis believes Molly is sharing top-secret military plans with the enemy. His instructions are to accompany her to Greece, watch her every move and mood—not fall in lust with her. But he’s inexplicably drawn to this beautiful, damaged woman, and before long their passions explode.

As distrust mixes with desire, dangerous forces are closing in, their sights set on Molly. With their lives in the balance, can the lovers forget past hurts and trust each other enough to foil an international conspiracy?

* Do you have anything else you want to add?

Sue* Yes. Thank you for inviting me to participate in the new blog for the Romantic Women’s Fiction chapter of RWA. I always love talking about the writing process, and I hope any romantic suspense readers out there will take a look at HEAR NO EVIL.

* Sue, thank you for sharing some of your writing process and telling us about your book.


Sue Ward Drake grew up in an old house full of dark windows, with a passion for writing, travel and international spy thrillers. Her early literary efforts include submitting a short story to a national magazine at the age of eight and writing an advice column for her high school newspaper.  After a year of study in Spain and a stint living in a farmhouse on a Greek island, a location she used in her first traditionally-published romance, HEAR NO EVIL, she returned to New Orleans where her gradually worsening hearing led to a career as a computer analyst for a bank and a local university.

A survivor of the devastating hurricane Katrina, she currently resides in Nevada with her husband of thirty-eight years. When not writing, she enjoys hiking, swimming, and of course, seeking out new places to explore. You can visit Sue on Twitter and find out more about her writing and her books at