Please tell our readers about your upcoming release: Traitor in the Realm is a story about four teens, two worlds, and one perilous summer. Teen artist, Kallan MacKinnon, becomes trapped with her family in a medieval kingdom that is under attack. She and her foster brother, Matthew Webbe, tangle with magical beings and prehistoric creatures in their attempt to reach the gateway back to Earth before it closes forever. Their friendship is tested when they meet Carys and Cadoc Dunstan, magically gifted twins from the new world. The Earth teens must determine if it is worth risking their lives to save a foreign realm from a homegrown threat and how much they are willing to sacrifice in exchange for safe passage home.

Kallan and Matthew encounter a world quite different from our own, yet similar in many ways. The story is an adventure tale that revolves around friendship and the meaning of family and home. In addition, individuals react to their place in society and the expectations others place on them. Kallan and Matthew each discover hidden talents and must decide when and if they want to use them, despite the inconvenience and risks involved.

Do you write in more than one genre? Yes. I write poetry, contemporary stories, and fantasy tales. I also write nonfiction articles about a local symphony for community newspapers.

What brought you to writing? I worked as a research meteorologist and a science and math teacher before I began writing fiction. I’ve always been an avid reader and love learning new words and facts. I’m also fascinated by the ability of books to transport me into other worlds. After a lifetime of being steeped in books, story ideas eventually began to come to me, and I decided to write them down and share them with others.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I mostly write in my home office. Before the pandemic closed everything down, I also worked in coffee shops and at the library. I don’t play music while I’m writing. At home, it’s easy to avoid distractions. In public places, I am pretty good at shutting out what’s going on around me. As a child, I would often get engrossed in a book to the point that others had to raise their voice or get right in front of me to attract my attention. That skill of getting immersed in the current task helps me with writing as well.

Tell us about your writing process: Once a story idea comes to me, I jot down important points about it, then do research if necessary. When I write the first draft, I tend to write the story out without a lot of editing. However, with the novel, I found myself editing chapters before the first draft was completed. On the second and subsequent drafts, I may do a lot of revision. I look for characters’ motivations and consistency in actions, and I add in more sensory information to round out the story. I let a scene play out in my mind as I write it and imagine the sounds, scents, and tastes the characters might be aware of, as well as the visual elements.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Coming up with new story ideas. Once I have an idea or a character occurs to me and won’t leave me alone, the process begins, and I can write the first draft.

What are you currently working on? The second novel in the Next World Over Series.

Has an association membership helped you or your writing? I have been a member of the Tri-Valley Branch of the California Writers Club for about nine years. Tri-Valley Writers’ presentations, workshops, conferences, and critique groups have all helped me with various aspects of the craft and making the switch from writing nonfiction to fiction.

Who’s currently your favorite author? Elizabeth Strout, for her storytelling, characters, and lovely, long descriptive sentences.

How do you come up with character names? I like to look at the meaning of names and choose names that relate to characters’ personalities and characteristics of locations. For Traitor in the Realm, I used mostly Celtic names.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? Sometimes, aspects of my characters’ personalities or motivations arise that I wouldn’t be aware of if I didn’t, in a sense, let them speak for themselves as I write. Occasionally, new characters pop up on their own. Dolph, one of the characters in Traitor in the Realm, simply appeared in my mind as I was writing a scene. He turned out to be a fun character with a quirky personality.

Do you base any of your characters on real people? No, not consciously. Some character traits may come from people I’ve met, but generally, those are features of many people, not one individual.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I make a broad outline first, but I leave myself open to new directions and new characters as I write. Stephen James refers to the “pantser” process as organic writing. I prefer that term also, and I like to allow for that process to play out.

What kind of research do you do? For Traitor in the Realm, I used a variety of reference books and the internet to research prehistoric animals, Neanderthals, and aspects of the middle ages that I wanted to include in the story. For woodland scenes, I drew on childhood memories and trips over the years to upstate New York, as well as visits to parks in California. I toured several castles on vacation in Scotland and England a few years ago, which helped me visualize the royal castle in the story.

What is the best book you ever read? It’s hard to choose only one, but Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens, is one of the best.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? More books in the Next World Over series. Also, I’d like to publish a book of poems and haiku and a collection of short stories.

Do you have any advice for new writers? Keep at it. Read books about writing and do practice exercises. Get support from others through a writing club and/or a critique group. Give yourself time to absorb critique partners’ comments. Your initial reaction may change upon reflection. One person pointing out a weakness may simply reflect that person’s bias, but if three or more people give you the same message, there is probably something amiss that you need to address.








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