On my other blog, I enjoy doing interviews and coming up with questions for the authors whose books I’ve reviewed. So, when it came time to write this introduction, I knew what I had to do: talk to myself.
Q: How did you decide to become a writer?
A: It never occurred to me not to write. I grew up in a word-loving environment. My parents owned—and often played—audio recordings of Shakespeare’s plays, and they frequently brought my sister and me to live theater as well. As a child, I wrote stories influenced by Nancy Drew and poems inspired by Dr. Seuss, and had a short story published in a teen magazine when I was twelve. I think I got paid twenty-five dollars for it.
Q: Do you write full time or do you have a day job?
A: I have two day jobs. I’m a college professor and a yoga teacher. Those jobs overlap, since I’m in Health and Exercise Science, and I teach yoga as part of my course load as well as off campus.
Q: One of the characters in your first book, The Calling, is a professor from New Mexico who practices yoga. Is Bernadette Pena based on you?
A: No, though I do have some things in common with her. When I was working at a college in the South a few years ago, I taught some courses on alternative medicine and non-Western healing traditions. For many of my students, it was their first opportunity to explore scholarly research on things like shamanism, Ayurveda, herbal medicine, energy healing, and other practices. One of those courses on made its way into The Calling. Its potential to disrupt assumptions about the nature of reality fit perfectly into the plot.
Q: Is your protagonist, Mae Martin, based on you?
A: Mae is modeled after a good friend I met through my work as a fitness director and yoga teacher in northeastern North Carolina. Aspects of The Calling were inspired by some of her life experiences. I admired her combination of practicality and spirituality, and her intense determination to be herself in a situation where few people supported her.
Q: Did you set out to write genre-blending mysteries? You’ve had favorable reviews in which reviewers seem to have a hard time finding the right genre label for your work.
A: When I decided to write mysteries without murder, I wasn’t thinking about stretching the genre so much as being true to the stories I wanted to tell. I’d tried writing a mystery with a dead body in it but half-way through, I realized I couldn’t keep putting Mae in that situation. It didn’t feel right for the character or for me. There are ways people hurt each other, short of killing, that lead to layers of secrets in families and friendships. Phenomena such as psychic ability fill life with mystery as well. As long as there’s something that the protagonist doesn’t understand and neither does the reader—and solving for that X in the equation is central to the plot—then the story is a mystery.
Q: You mentioned psychic ability as if it were a real thing. Do you think it is?
A: Yes. I could take up pages with my personal experiences, and at every college where I’ve taught, students have confided some remarkable psychic events. And then, I’ve lived in Santa Fe and in Truth or Consequences. In both places, not only are art, music, dancing, and eccentricity part of everyday life, so are psychics and alternative healers.
Q: Is that why you moved the series from the South to the Southwest?
A: That’s one reason. In the new location, Mae “fits in” better because she doesn’t have to try to fit in anymore. It’s hard to feel like a nonconformist in New Mexico. There’s not much to conform to. The other reason is to move the plots in new directions. Living in a place where her gift is more readily accepted, Mae encounters new kinds of mysteries, as people ask her for answers only a seer could find. The setting also lets me bring in some of the stranger aspects of “the woo-woo,” with a questionable health-nut psychic in Shaman’s Blues and everyone from a celebrity modern shaman to an artist who claims she channels angels to a medium who speaks with dead in the upcoming June 15th release, Soul Loss.
Q: Thanks. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
A: Just this: