Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes, ever since I was young I've written stories. It wasn't until I was in my thirties that I seriously pursued publication. That meant first finishing one of the over 100 books I'd started!
Where do you get your ideas?
I get this questions more than any other, and it's the most difficult to answer. There's never simply one idea that goes into a book. Every story is a compilation of different ideas, different triggers. All stem from what if? What if the Seven Deadly Sins were actually incarnate demons? What if a killer is using a crime writers stories as blueprints for murder? What if a woman is the sole survivor of a serial killer who is still out there? What if a group of angry, troubled teenagers meet up online to right their perceived wrongs? What if there was an earthquake at San Quentin?
My prison break trilogy began when I was doing research, trying to come up with an idea. I was thinking about a prison break type story, but it had been overdone. I heard a news clip that the California Legislature was planning on transporting prisoners out of state. The same day I read or heard that the Legislature was looking into selling San Quentin State Prison which sits on over 600 acres of prime San Francisco Bay real estate. I was curious about the history of the prison, so did a Google search and a seismic report popped up on the first page. I clicked through and skimmed the report and wondered what would happen if there were an earthquake under San Quentin. What if a bunch of death row inmates escaped after an earthquake?
Original Sin began with a scene of a teenager running through the woods, chased by something she couldn't see but she knew it was dangerous. As I wrote the scene, I started thinking about a supernatural world, that maybe it wasn't something human chasing her. A few weeks later, I went back to the story and pictured a group of witches mostly young women with good intentions, and one very evil leader who accidentally unleashed a demon during a supposedly commonplace ritual. But when I wrote that scene, I realized that their motivation of unleashing the demon was far darker, and they all wanted something from it. I could picture my heroine someone who had once been possessed by a demon and was now tied inexplicably to the underworld.
But the story really didn't take shape until I started writing a story about Max Revere, a true crime writer, who was chasing his own personal demons. Max wasn't a very nice guy, but his drive to find answers, to help those who can't help themselves, made him a very interesting character. He walked onto the page fully formed, and I started writing a story of him writing true crime stories based on the seven deadly sins as he worked on finding his way back to his estranged wife.
Then it clicked. What if the Seven Deadly Sins were actually demons? What if they were released from Hell because the coven wanted something from them? The rest of the story came from there instead of one demon, the Seven Deadly Sins were released incarnate, fallen angels (spirits) instead of cursed souls (humans) and when they touch you, your conscience is stripped away and you act on your worst sin with deadly results.
Which is your favorite book or hero that you've written?
That's like asking me which of my five children is my favorite!
Why do you write such dark stories?
I suppose I don't think they are that dark. Writing about justice being served that the bad guy is stopped and the good guys win helps me cope with the tragedies in the world. There is so much violence, lies, manipulation, scams I write about them to make sense of them. At the same time, there are real-life heroes in law enforcement, in hospitals, in our neighbors, and sometimes even within ourselves. I like writing about the everyday, unsung heroes and why they do what they do, even more than writing about the villains and why they do the evil that they do. And finally, I want a happy ending because real-life doesn't always have them.
Who is your favorite author?
I have too many to name. THE STAND by Stephen King is one of the few books I've read cover-to-cover twice, and remains among my favorite books.
How did you find an agent?
The old-fashioned way. I wrote a book, sent out query letters, was soundly rejected. Wrote another book, sent out more query letters, had a few bites, then was soundly rejected. After two years, five books and over 100 rejections, I found an agent who sold my debut novel The Prey to Ballantine. I've been with her ever since. I have notes from my speech on finding an agent available here.
Did you pay to have your book published?
No. In commercial publishing, the money flows to the author. Publishers pay an advance against royalties, meaning that the author will earn a percentage on every book sold but that the publisher "advances" a portion of the money upfront. For example, if you have a two-book contract for $25,000, you would need to "earn out" $25,000 in royalties after the book is published before you start earning additional royalties.
Agents receive commission based on selling your book to a royalty-paying publisher. Most agents receive the standard rate of 15% for domestic sales and 20% for foreign sales. You do not pay the agent until they make the sale and you receive a check from the publisher.
Where can I find a list of your books and how they connect?
An index of my books and characters is available here, and book summaries and excerpts can be found here.
How do I reach you?
Email me, friend me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or sign up for my newsletter which goes out every 2-3 months.
Contact me if you have a question you think should be included in my Q&A. I'll add new topics periodically.