1.Tell us a bit about yourself – something that we will not find in the official author’s bio?
You’ll find some of this in the author bio, but I’ll elaborate further. I’ve been writing my whole life off and on but never really took it seriously until after a fateful day in 2015 when I had the pleasure of meeting my favorite author, Chuck Palahniuk, at one of his book signings. He was such a nice man and took time to speak for at least 5 minutes with each and every fan that stood in line. Meeting my personal hero was enough to push me to take my writing seriously. So, I did things the right way. I signed up for a few writing courses, signed up for several critique groups and read every craft book I could get my hands on. More importantly, I began writing.
I’m originally from Pennsylvania but moved to Charlotte, North Carolina with my husband after veterinary school. We have two kids and two dogs that keep me busy and tend to distract me from my writing at times. But they’re also good tools to make my writing more personal. My dog Loki heavily influenced my first novel.
I write horror and dark fiction. People find this a little shocking when they first meet me. Then they get to know me and my sense of humor and it all makes sense. Horror has always been a part of my life. I was born in October and I get my love of horror films from my Dad. I remember sneaking downstairs and watching films with him when I was too young to be watching them. My poor mother had to deal with the nightmares later. But I always went back for more.
My “day job” has really helped me focus my writing. I originally used writing as a break from veterinary medicine, a sort of therapy session you could say. Now writing has become more of a habit, something that I crave as much as my other passions. Pretty much all of my stories either have some sort of medical or animal element to them. As a veterinarian, I have a special interest/focus in dentistry and oral surgery as well as soft tissue surgery. One of my early stories is a story about a mad dentist. It was fun to use descriptive terms about extracting teeth to really amp up the horror.
- Do you remember what was your first story (article, essay, or poem) about and when did you write it?
My first actual story for fun, was a haunted house horror story. I remember hand writing it in a notebook. I think I was in third grade at the time. But the story became too light – my main character had discovered a litter of puppies somehow. The story kind of died and never went anywhere even though I had written several thousand words. My first true failure. But thankfully, I’m a very stubborn individual and kept writing.
I was told that one of my stories I wrote in my 9th grade English class was submitted to a literary magazine and was published. However, for the life of me I can’t recall what the story was about and I do not have a copy of the publication.
My first published story, “Dr Google”, was written in the summer of 2016. I remember writing it as an outlet of frustration about how my clients were constantly looking for answers for their pets medical issues on Google. The story itself is about a girl who finds a bump on her skin and how her obsessive need to consult ‘Dr Google’ makes a mountain out of an ant hill. The story was so much fun to writing and I wrote it in one setting. It won 2nd place in the 2016 Channillo Short Story Contest. That alone was enough to convince me to keep writing by giving me enough confidence to say that, “hey, I might actually be good at this.”
- What is the title of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest book and first book is, HEALERS, published by Adelaide Books. HEALERS is a very complex story. What originally inspired it was I wanted a character story. I watched the movie, “He Never Died” which is a horror comedy. I don’t want to give too much away about the movie, so watch it if you are intrigued. I absolutely fell in love with the main character. He was an old soul, so snarky, and I thought, man that would be a fun character.
So, I took the character, or at least the attitude of the character and thought about everything I wanted to pack into my first book. Being a veterinarian, I had a plethora of ideas. One thing that I thought was important, but kind of dark, was the idea of suicide. Suicide is a major issue in veterinarian medicine that many people don’t know about. We actually have the highest suicide rate out of any medical profession and most professions in general. It’s not something we like to brag about but we at least want to get the word out. But I didn’t want to write a depressing story – I wanted to write a redemption story. I think one of the hardest things that veterinarians face is learning when to give themselves a break. I made my main character a human physician as I thought it would reach a larger audience. And like all dark stories, I wanted to add a large amount of humor to keep it light and make it a fun read. It’s written in first person which was so much fun. It also allowed me to jam pack in a lot of important issues and concerns without bogging the story down.
- How long did it take you to write your latest work and how fast do you write (how many words daily)?
HEALERS was a very different sort of story. Because it was written in first person, it was so easy to knock out 2-3K words in a short setting. However, I wanted to keep the story crisp and follow a tight storyline. In order to do that, I made a giant poster board. It had a timeline for the story and included a list of characters, themes and moods. It was so detailed that I actually planned out what I wanted included in each and every chapter – a single post-it note devoted to each chapter. So official, LOL. By the time I actually sat down to write the story, I wrote the whole first draft in about 3-4 months. This was all while working full time as a veterinarian. I did the first major edit pretty soon after writing the first draft. Then I let it sit for awhile, tried my hand at sending it to agents. Once it was picked up by Adelaide books, I did one final edit/rewrite and the rest is history.
- Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I don’t think I have any specific unusual habits. I write when I can, on my laptop. I can be productive first thing in the morning or late at night. I have to adapt because I have so much going on in my life with work and raising two young kids.
I almost always write to music – but I think a lot of authors do this. But very specificially, I write with headphones. Usually, I’ll pick a playlist of songs that I’ve listened to so many times that I hope they don’t distract me too much. Now, if I am looking to write a specific scene, I will absolutely set the mood. The strip club scenes in HEALERS were written mostly while listening to club music like DJ Tiesto. With my current novel, I’ve been listening to a lot of 90s and 2000s rock and alternative (more on that story later).
For editing, I did print out my entire novel and hand write all my rewrites and edits. This allowed me to get a different perspective of the words. I had spent so long staring at the screen (I do all my writing on a laptop) that I would miss small typos. The final rewrite for HEALERS was done while I was on maternity leave during COVID. My daughter, 2 at the time, loved stealing my pen and making her own edits. That involved a lot scribbles and crossing out lines of dialogue. What can I say, she’s a tough critic.
- Is writing the only form of artistic expression that you utilize, or is there more to your creativity than just writing?
For now, yes, writing is about it. I painted at one point but that was just for fun. I do love photography but I don’t do anything professional. I sang a lot when I was in high school. I still sing when I’m on my own or trying to get the kids to sleep. So I would say that writing is really the only artistic expression that I share with others.
I think, in a way, practicing veterinary medicine can be artistic. At least there’s an artistic knack to surgery.
- Authors and books that have influenced your writings?
So many authors. Chuck Palahniuk, hands down, number one. A couple of the writers in his writing group as well – Chelsea Cain and Monica Drake. Christopher Moore has definitely influenced all the humor in my writing.
Richard Thomas too – I took a few writing classes with him and I’m sure a little of his style wore off on me.
James Patterson and Dan Brown are masters of pace and I feel they helped me with tension.
I have also read a lot of Neil Gaiman, Stephen Graham Jones, Paul Tremblay, and Joe Hill.
Being a horror writer, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that some of the “Big Wheels” in the genre haven’t influenced me as well – Stephen King, Clive Barker, Shirley Jackson.
- What are you working on right now? Anything new cooking in the wordsmith’s kitchen?
I’m working on my 2nd novel. It’s a postapocalyptic vampire novel told in third person. It’s more of a traditional horror piece as compared to HEALERS. A little cliché, but the specific plot is very unique. I’m about 2/3rd through the first draft. I was on pace to be done with the first draft but I ran into a bit of a snag – work and life got in the way. But I’m back on track and thought of some great ideas to help give my characters more depth. I’d love to give you more details, but you’ll just have to read it when it’s done. I’m also toying with an idea for a third book. So many people have told me to write a veterinary book and I’m very hesitant. But that may change in the future.
I also have a short story soon to be published in an anthology by Nightmare Press. Hopefully that should be out later this year or early next year.
- Did you ever think about the profile of your readers? What do you think – who reads and who should read your books?
I don’t specifically think about the profile of my readers except to keep it within the genre. Most of my stories are dark – horror, neo-noir, or transgressive. So, I would say that with those genres comes an audience of mature adult. In that same sense, I try to at least vary my stories so that most adults will enjoy them – maybe even those who typically don’t read the genre. In the end though, I’m really writing for myself. If others enjoy it, then that is just a plus. This was never about being famous or making money, it was about having something to say and finding a way to express it. Now if I end up with a little extra spending cash, I’ll just use that to take more writing classes. Everyone dreams of their story being converted into a movie or Netflix series – but that hardly ever happens.
- Do you have any advice for new writers/authors?
Read everything. In order to become a better writer, you need to read more and read different media. I read a lot of comics and graphic novels because when I first started writing, my dialogue was terrible. Want to know which writers are the best at dialogue – comic writers. A lot of my favorite authors have written comics as well – Chuck Palahniuk, Chelsea Caine, and Benjamin Percy. You can learn so much from reading everything. Dig into diverse authors too – people from different nationalities and backgrounds.
Take classes and read craft books. There’s a reason the ‘GREATS” are so successful. They have been doing it for a LONG TIME. Learn from them.
- What is the best advice (about writing) you have ever heard?
Write the kind of story that you want to read. And keep writing.
Utilize all your favorite author’s styles until you are able to find your own unique voice. Then you are ready to go.
Start with short stories. Novels are big, and they take time. Short stories are great ways to experiment. If you write something and discover it didn’t work, it’s less heartbreaking to throw away a 3000 word story than a 60,000+word novel.
- How many books do you read annually and what are you reading now? What is your favorite literary genre?
Well, I think it all depends on what else is going on in my life. I read a lot. Some of that is veterinary journals and articles – almost exclusively related or oral surgery and dentistry. But I read a ton of fiction as well. I often read 2-3 books at a time. I am currently reading DUNE by Frank Herbert and WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING by Max Booth III. I’ve also been on a graphic novel kick and recently read, WATCHMEN and MAUS. I also think I have read THE ANIMALS OF FARMER JONES no less than 4 times a day (I’ve mentioned before I have young kids).
I read everything I can get my hands on. My favorites are horror, thriller, and the transgressive. But I have been known to tackle an epic fantasy and
- What do you deem the most relevant about your writing? What is the most important to be remembered by readers?
I think it depends on the story I’m writing at the time. For HEALERS, the message was learning that even though the world can get incredibly dark at times, there is always a sense of hope. I think there’s a lot of that in horror. The reader is led on an ultimate journey of wondering whether or not the main character is going to survive or make it out of whatever horrid circumstance they are in at the time. Do all my stories end with a happy ending? Of course not. But there is always a sense of hope.
- What is your opinion about the publishing industry today and about the ways authors can best fit into the new trends?
I would say just be adaptable. Thankfully people are reading books right now. Get it published whichever way works for you. I tried to go big first – sought after an agent so I could maybe snag one of the big publishers. But you know, there are a ton of great Indie presses out there producing even better books. Once your book is out, market it! After all, it’s yours – your proud of it. Let the others see it.
Feel free to add any other questions that you think are relevant to your author’s profile and answer them. Thank you.
Please include with your answers three or four pictures:
- While sitting on the sofa or chair – like during the interview session
- While reading one of your books
- While sitting (at the desk) and writing
- In the outdoor setting – with your pet or next to your favorite tree (or plant)
Interview will be published in one of the issues of the Adelaide Literary Magazine and included in your author’s page on our website. Thank you.