O met Smoky through the Vanilla Heart lists. She's one of my fellow writers there and writes both fiction and non-fiction. I think she moves from one side of her brain much easier than I do.
1. What's your genre or do you write in more than one?
I’ve published both literary fiction and nonfiction books. My passion is fiction writing; I have two novels out, Redeeming Grace and The Cabin. I’ve written two books specifically for writers, Front-Word, Back-Word, Insight Out: Lessons on Writing the Novel Lurking Inside You From Start to Finish and Left-Brain, Right-Brain: 366 Writing Prompts and Exercises. The former is based on my years of teaching fiction writing workshops; the second is daily exercises to keep your muse challenged. My most recent book is Observations of an Earth Mage, a collection of photos, essays, and poems about my experiences in the great outdoors.
2. Did you choose your genre or did it choose you?
A little bit of both. I started my professional writing career as a freelance feature writer, but I’d always wanted to write a novel. Redeeming Grace started out being more of a romantic novel, but the characters had different ideas. It ended up being a literary examination of the way the Bible can be misconstrued, misinterpreted, to the detriment of women. I had no idea this was what I was going to write about when I set out to write the book! But I’m very proud of the way it turned out, and proud of the statement it makes. The Cabin is more of an historical time travel novel, but I don’t consider it fantasy, like most time travel novels.
3. Is there any genre you'd like to try? Or is there one you wouldn't?
Even though there is science fiction I enjoy reading, particularly the science fiction of my youth—I’m talking Ray Bradbury and Robert A. Heinlein, at the risk of dating myself—I have no desire to write in that genre. Today’s sci-fi readers want much more action, much more technology than the sci-fi writers of old, and I simply don’t enjoy reading modern sci-fi as much. I’m not a big action fan. I think I’ll stick to my literary novels and my earth-centered nonfiction writing. That’s what most of my fans prefer, anyway.
4. What fiction do you read for pleasure?
My current favorite is Jose Saramago, the Portuguese Nobel-Prize winning author. Death With Interruptions was absolutely the best book I ever read. I also enjoyed his The Gospel of Jesus Christ—quite a novel take on the Jesus story, no pun intended. I loved Helen of Troy by Margaret George, and Nefertiti by Michelle Moran. I adored The Forest Lover by Susan Vreeland, the fictional account of the life of Canadian artist Emily Carr. I guess you could say my literary taste is wildly varied.
5. Tell me a bit about yourself and how long you've been writing.
I was born and raised in the Midwest, and started out studying to be a clinical social worker. When I was thirty-two, I was struck by lightning and nearly killed. During my long recovery, I started writing professionally for my hometown newspaper. Freelancing afforded me the opportunity to work when I felt well enough, yet enabled me to not work when I was sick and hospitalized with lightning-related issues. I’ve been writing professionally now for about twenty years! I was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2003, for my short story, “The Last Flight Home.” I moved to California two years ago to help my daughter pursue her dream of becoming an actress, and a few months after my move, met my husband, Scott. Together we go on grand adventures throughout California, which I chronicle in my blog on Xanga (authorsmokytrudeau.xanga.com). Kimberlee Williams at Vanilla Heart Publishing suggested I compile my blogs and other nature writings into what became my latest book, Observations of an Earth Mage. After three nonfiction books, however, I’m ready to return to fiction writing, and am just now starting to write my third novel.
6. Which of your characters is your favorite?
That would have to be Cora from The Cabin. Cora is thrown into the modern era from pre-Civil War Virginia, losing her husband and two children in the process. But she adapts, and through that adaptation helps orchestrate a daring plot to save her daughter and the man her daughter loves from a terrible fate, changing her family’s history in the process. Cora is the woman I would like to be: brave, intelligent, and quirky.
7. Are there villains in your books and how were they created?
Luther in Redeeming Grace, could be considered a villain. He is Grace’s father, and after the death of his wife and two of his children, he slowly goes mad. He becomes verbally abusive to Grace and physically abusive to Grace’s little sister Miriam, spouting Bible verses as justification for his actions. Luther is definitely evil, although Grace still has compassion for him. She remembers the kind and loving father he was before tragedy hit the family. And that, to me, is what makes an antagonist believable: they have to have redeeming qualities. There are good qualities in the most evil of people; Hannibal Lechter of The Silence of the Lambs, for example, murdered people and then ate them, yet he loved good art, good music good literature. Putting a glimmer of good, no matter how small, in your villains is always a good idea.
8. What are you working on now?
I’ve just started a brand-new project with the working title, The Madam of Bodie. I don’t want to say too much about it right now, because it is just in its infancy.
9. What's your latest release and how did the idea arrive?
Well, I already told you about my latest book release, Observations of an Earth Mage. I have a short story called “Breakfast at the Laundromat” in Vanilla Heart Publishing’s new Passionate Hearts anthology. I love this story and its characters. I got the idea at the laundromat. We live in a teeny tiny cottage with no place for a washer and dryer, so my husband and I have to take our clothes out to wash. We really enjoy people watching while we are there, and the story evolved from there.
10. Tell me about your latest book and how it came about. Enclose the opening of the book around 400 words.
I don't usually write—or read—romance novels. Somehow, they always seemed slightly silly to cynical me. People finding their soul mates—as if soul mates really existed! Really, give me a break ...
But then ... I met my soul mate. And suddenly, romantic stories don't seem so silly to me. Oh, I'm not talking bodice rippers—I still have no use for those. But stories with a strong element of romance, or the possibility of romance, now appeal to me greatly.
Then my publisher requested that I submit a short story to their upcoming Passionate Hearts anthology, and surprise! I find I actually even like to write romantic stories!
Here's an excerpt from "Breakfast at the Laundromat."
“Damn!” She thrust her coffee into his hand, jumped up, and dashed to the end of the row of washers, where soap suds were oozing from the top and puddling on the floor like little cumulus clouds that had somehow gotten lost and wandered into the laundry. The machine was banging loudly and wobbling so badly he thought it would sashay right out the door. She lifted the lid; the wobbling and banging stopped. He could hear her muttering something as she reached in and started pulling out what looked like an enormous purple chenille snake from the washer. She’d pulled at least six feet of the purple viper out of the machine before he realized it was a bedspread that had gotten twisted and tangled around the agitator. He set her coffee on the folding table next to the Thermos, crammed the last bite of coconut donut in his mouth, and went to offer assistance.
“This is why I’m doing my wash here instead of at home,” he said, reaching into the machine and tugging loose a pulled strand of chenille that was wedged under the agitator. “Big chunks of material like bedspreads are too heavy to wash; I broke the agitator on my washer doing living room drapes. You have to send stuff like this to the cleaners when they get dirty.”
“Oh, pish-posh,” she said, untwisting the tangled spread, shaking globs of soapy bubbles loose from its folds. “I wash mine here at least every couple of months. You just have to rebalance the load in the machine every so often while it’s washing.”
She crammed the bedspread back into the machine and shut the lid. After a moment, it started spinning again, this time with a minimal amount of banging and wobbling on the machine’s part.
He picked his way among the clouds of suds that had escaped from the washer and returned to his chair. He assumed she was right behind him, but when he turned he saw her bending over the piles of suds and scooping them up in her arms as if they were piles of autumn leaves. Using her backside to push open the door to the parking lot, she stepped out of the laundry and let the suds fly in the breeze. She slipped back inside, once again marched over to the washer, again scooped up a pile of suds, and again sent them sailing outside. By her fourth trip to the parking lot all that was left of the suds clouds on the laundromat floor was a tiny ribbon of water inching its way toward the floor drain, and the clouds themselves whirled through the air above a shiny new Lexus convertible and a rusty green pickup truck in the parking lot. She whirled and danced among the suds clouds until they drifted off toward the street.