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Latest Book: A Marine's Conflict
Where did the inspiration for the book come from?
I was writing book 3 in the series, A Marine Discovery, and Elle, my beta reader and now co-writer asked if a side character was gay. Within a few hours I'd brainstormed it, found it added a really fun element to the story, and realized it would be interesting to write that story as well. Since I knew I didn't have time, but had to write both books due to their overlapping timelines, I asked Elle to co-write the book with me. The rest is history.
Why was the story so important to you?
I served and was discharged from the Marine Corps under don't ask, don't tell. Most people, veterans included, have no clue what it was like to serve under that pressure. I write these books to inform while entertaining readers. As an added bonus, I find the process of writing these stories incredibly healing. Book 5 will wrap up the series and touch the most on my own experiences. It will be challenging but it's important for this information to be out there in the world.
Tell us about the characters
The first three books cover 20 years of Cam Warren's life. In book 1 we see her as a 40 year old recovering from the death of her partner of 15 years. Book 2 goes back to her as a young Marine, falling in love and finding a way to be together despite the restrictions forced on them. Book 3 moves forward a few years where she has to cope with her girlfriend's deployment and realizing she's autistic.
Book 4 is different because it's a spinoff focusing on Marine Gunny Mags Newsome who is already well into her career. She's learned how to compartmentalize and minimize attachments to women so there is no risk to her career. Then she meets Lane, a captivating British ex-pat who's so much her opposite and just who she needs to realize that she doesn't have to sacrifice her personal life any longer.
It takes her a while to get there. She resists her growing feelings, even when they are glaringly obvious because to give in would make life even harder. But deployment changes everything and she's no longer willing to put the Marine Corps first, not if it means losing Lane. So I'd say her journey is pretty drastic as well.
As a writer...
What is the best feedback you have ever had from a reader?
The best emails I get are where a reader says that Cam helped them realize they might be autistic, or their loved one is. In a similar vein, I have emails where people can relate to Ash in Rising from Ash and are finally able to recognize that they are on the asexuality spectrum, or their partner is. I write these books to make a difference, not just entertain. Though I do hope they are entertaining.
What can you tell us about your work in progress?
I was accepted into a screenwriting program specifically for veterans which kicked off in mid July. So right now I'm simultaneously working on the outline for my first movie which features a transgender teen snowboarder trying to break into competitive snowboarding. There's a lesbian romance within the movie and I desperately hope you all get to see this movie. I adore these characters. I'm also working on a novel which answers a request from several readers to give Cam and Sharon a happier ending. My solution is to reincarnate them. Cam is now Cade, a guitarist and songwriter trying to become a rockstar. Sharon is now Reyna, an idealistic activist who is fighting to overturn the ban on transgender military service. Their chemistry and banter is so much fun to write. But despite being meant for each other, it isn't smooth sailing. Neither of these will be available to read/watch for a while, but they'll be worth the wait.
For new readers what book should they read first?
It depends. If they like music, read Dal Segno. Even though it deals with love after loss, it's not overly heavy and she's healing throughout the book. If they want to get a feel for the rest of the Marine's Heart series they can pick up A Marine's Conflict and then go back and read the previous books. And if they're interested in a lot of nerdy fun and the exploration of true intimacy, check out Rising from Ash.
What is your biggest fear as a writer?
That I'll never be as good as the writers I look up to. That's why I'm submitting the next book to Ylva, so I can work with their editors, including Jae, directly.
Of all the characters you’ve ever written who was your favourite?
Cam is an aspect of myself. Certainly her own person but I put a lot of my experiences with autism and personality traits into her. And as much as I love Laura as a character, Sharon will always be the character closest to my heart. She's the perfect balance for Cam, and by extension myself. Her lightness makes her a blast to write.
As a person...
What would be your spirit animal?
Spirit animals are a part of my spiritual practice. My primary animal is an arctic wolf, but I've often had bears visit in my dreams.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
I don't know, but I can give my best advice for writers. Follow your intuition. If you get bored on a first draft, your readers will be bored. Back up and shake things up. But always, always, let character development guide your way.
Where/what is your happy place?
Pretty much anywhere in the mountains with a stream running through it. There's a reason we live in Colorado.
What did you want to be before you grew up?
I've always had a ton of interests. In high school I was deciding between music and science, specifically so I could work at NASA. I chose science, took a detour to the Marine Corps, and eventually got my masters in physics which led me to working at NASA for two years. One thing I never imagined was being an author. But here I am!
What superhero power would you want to possess?
Invisibility so I could do character research without looking like a creep. Note, not for anything in the bedroom, but just how people interact in different situations.